Seven Year Assessment of Workplace Effectiveness

It’s quite a bold statement to make “more than a quarter of office space is not fit for purpose” but according to a new report by Leesman entitled ‘The Next 250k’, who look at how workplaces support employee and organisational performance, 27% of employees say their workplace has a negative impact on their workplace productivity and 15% are unsure. Leesman carried out a seven-year assessment of workplace effectiveness, evaluating results from 276,422 employees across 2,160 workplaces in 67 countries looking at five key factors influencing workplace performance. The report is “an analysis of a dataset of a size never before amassed, using a single product, based on a simple proposition: is your workplace working?”

Tim Oldman, Leesman’s CEO said: “We still see far too many workplaces that are simply not fit for purpose and that represents a huge missed opportunity for business leaders. We hope that the key central findings can help more organisations create better, more productive environments.”

Dr Peggie Rothe, Development Director and Head of Insights and Research, who led the research added: “Great organisations build a business framework that enable their employees to do their best work. And the workplace is integral in this equation. Offices are assets – tools in talent management strategies, gears in product innovation, instruments in brand development and workplace performance. The central findings of this study should concentrate attentions on how workplace strategies can support business competitiveness, not by cost mitigation but through increasing employee engagement.”

The Reports Findings on Workplace Effectiveness

The Leesman report highlights some key areas in which organisations need to focus to improve workplace productivity in order to improve workplace effectiveness, those areas are:

Individual vs. Collaborative Working

The report says:

“The greatest difference in support comes in work activities such as ‘Thinking/creative thinking’, ‘Reading’ and ‘Individual focused work, desk based’ all of which are focused activities. Employees’ perception of a workplace that supports personal productivity is impacted more by its ability to support individual work than collaborative work. It would appear that some organisations may be investing a disproportionate amount of focus on supporting creativity and collaboration, at the expense of the spaces needed to commit these collaborative thoughts in an individual, concentrative way to paper. It could also be that for many employees in more concentrative analytic roles, the impact of key infrastructure elements and planning have been overlooked.”

It appears that the move towards more open plan office space to encourage more collaborative working may be impacting workplace effectiveness and those office staff that require privacy and quiet in order to do their jobs.

The move to open plan isn’t for everyone and isn’t suitable for every business. Although collaborative working can bring many benefits it can be at the expense of those staff that need to work individually.

Are we saying that open plan should be ignored? No, in fact the report shows that employees in the highest-performing offices are often in open-plan environments so open plan office space plays a very important role in the workplace today. Rather we’re saying it’s about finding the right balance between individual and collaborative work space to get the best of both worlds and when office design meets all needs workplace effectiveness should automatically increase.

Businesses should recognise the benefits of open plan settings on key activities like ‘working alongside, collaborating and learning from others’, ‘impromptu meetings’ and ‘social interaction’ while ensuring there is adequate private office space away from the noise of the open plan environment for activities that require complete concentration and where the work being carried out requires privacy. By providing office space for both types of work you can create a high performing, productive workplace where staff can perform at their best.

Noise Is a Challenge

The report says:

“Our research shows that ‘Noise levels’ is still one of the most common challenges even in new workplaces, with an average satisfaction of 34% and nearly half of the workplaces not even reaching 30% satisfaction. And while new workplaces tend to deliver on ‘Accessibility of colleagues’, with an average satisfaction of 74% across the post-surveyed buildings and most workplaces above 60% satisfaction, we see bigger extremes on ‘Variety of different types of workspace’ with satisfaction scores ranging from less than 10% to above 95%.”

Clearly noise can be an issue when it comes to enabling staff to be productive. In a very noisy environment it can be harder to concentrate. We’ve all been in situations where the level of ambient noise can be extremely distracting and added to that when working in a “collaborative” workspace there can be numerous interruptions as people raise their voices to be heard, shout out to each other, have impromptu meetings or ask for advice or help to solve a project problem the team are working on.

However there are solutions. Take a look at our article on office acoustics which details further research that backs up the findings of the Leesman report and suggests three possible ways of combating a noisy office. Significant differences can be made to office acoustics through ceilings, walls and floors.

The right suspended ceiling can absorb noise, reduce reverberation, and prevent sound from travelling to adjacent areas. The use of acoustic screens, dividers or partition walls can act as barriers to absorb or prevent noise from passing through walls and carpeted floors can reduce ‘foot-fall’ noise. Together they can help keep office space noise to a minimum.

Being Mobile

The report says:

“The data consistently supported industry claims that activity based working (ABW) provides far greater flexibility in where and how an employee chooses to work – and in so doing, increases staff collaboration, productivity, pride and effectiveness. But it also uncovered a series of substantial failings and challenges that should act as important warning signals to any organisation considering embarking on an ABW project. Across a sample of 11,366 employees from 40 activity based workplaces, just 29% selected a mobility profile that could be described as exhibiting activity based behaviours. It also questioned whether some organisations have imposed an ABW environment and promoted the matching practices on teams where the majority of employees have a lower activity complexity profile where the benefits of adoption are minimal, if not counter-productive. In these environments, employees are retaining traditional work habits and are then, in effect, working in conflict with the environment around them.”

ABW is often misunderstood. It’s often confused with hot-desking/desk-sharing solutions and ways to save office space. Rather ABW should only be employed to provide employees with settings specifically designed to support different activities that are undertaken in a workplace including work where intense focus is required to collaborative work to impromptu meetings.

In moving to more flexible working space solutions which encourage staff to move around, stay mobile and therefore be more flexible in where and how they work businesses need to think about the activities their employees undertake and how office space can be used to meet their specific needs. Mobility and flexibility for their own sake may cause the opposite effect a business is looking for and result in less productive office staff. Where activity based working is important then the flexibility to have appropriate space to carry out an activity based task will clearly be an advantage.

Contact JBH Refurbishments on 0333 207 0339 or via our contact form to find out how we can bring our 25+ years expertise in office refurbishment to bear in the planning and designing of your office space to its maximum advantage for your business and employees and to ensure maximum workplace effectiveness.

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