Does workplace quality matter?
High-performing workplaces attract talent and enable excellence.
If both employee preferences and business outcomes are best supported by working in a multiverse of locations, then it is clear that the existence of a variety of workplaces matters. But what about the quality of those spaces? According to research, quality matters a great deal, both at home and in the office.
As has already been noted above, Leesman has discovered that the remote experience is far superior for workers who have a space in their homes dedicated to working than it is for those who do not. We also recall that CTrip’s experiment depended on technological adequacy and lack of personal distractions at home offices. Other factors, such as natural light, air quality, noise level, and ergonomic comfort, matter as well. For example, in an April 2021 presentation of data from its WFH Ergonomic Assessment, office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller reported that over half of respondents are experiencing discomfort in the lower back, shoulders, or both. Only 15 percent say they have no physical discomfort working at home.31
But what about corporate offices? Is one office really different from another? To demonstrate exemplify just how important workplace quality can be, consider an example from Leesman of contrasting attitudes about remote and onsite work within a single large organization’s employees. Their analysis considered several different office locations using the Leesman Index (Lmi), a composite measure of workplace experience built from over 80 different metrics. One location had an Lmi of 79, which Leesman considers “outstanding” whilst another had a “suboptimal” Lmi of 55. Clearly, some offices are better than others.
At the outstanding workplace, over 90 percent of employees expressed the desire to work remotely only 1 day per week.
Crucially, the results revealed a striking difference between the two sites when it comes to employee attitudes to remote working. At the outstanding workplace, over 90 percent of employees expressed the desire to work remotely only 1 day per week. By contrast, at the suboptimal location, 72 percent of workers wanted to be remote at least 3 days per week. The implication is that the quality of the workplace itself is a crucial factor in how often employees would like to be there. Stated another way, a high-quality workplace actually attracts attendance.
Leesman’s analysis of outstanding workplaces uncovered another significant truth: Whatever else a workplace does, it must provide excellent support for individualized, focused work. Across the board, employees at locations with outstanding Lmi cited their positive experiences with focused work at these offices. This is a key point. Much of the conversation about the future workplace focuses on the need for collaboration. And it is true that offices are uniquely situated to support the social, belongingness, and achievement needs of workers. Yet the importance of a quiet, comfortable, consistent place for focused work cannot be overlooked, and indeed is fundamental to employee experiences and assessments of workplace quality.32