Workplace transitions bring benefits, but staff not keen to change

23 March 2017 5 min. read

Digitalisation, changing expectations from employers around work relationships as well as increasing focus on work-life balance, mean that changes are likely to kick in in the way the traditional office environment is structured. While businesses are keen to embrace the benefits of change, employees however tend to be relative content with current work environments.

To better understand trends and developments in the work environment, BearingPoint ran a study on the topic, comprising of a survey of professionals, desk-based research and dozens of interviews with both employers and employees.

Cost reduction of new ways of working

The way in which people work is becomingly increasingly digitalised, focused on projects as well as collaborative efforts across a range of segments within an organisation. The effect of the changes in the way in which officer life is structured can be considerable, particularly if employees can access key information required to complete their work from a distance, automation is making aspects of jobs obsolete, while when at work, co-creation and collaboration are being increasingly focused.

The changing nature of the work environment as digitalisation takes place in a number of businesses means that the organisation of where work needs to take place can be structured differently. Companies can benefit from changes to work structures, with the total cost of a workspace per employee standing at around €14,360 and a more mixed approach generating €12,010.

The change in situation for the lower cost outcome would see employees work one day from a home office, 1 day from a co-working space and three days in the office itself.

Respondents are generally satisfied with their working environment

Getting a transformation of employment environment right can see a generally positive effect among those affected, in terms of improvements to their work-life balance. The firm’s finding that of those surveyed, 58% reported a positive effect on their work life balance, 25% reported a negative effect and 17% said it had no effect.

Benefits of an upgraded environment on work - life balance

The report notes however that employees are in general, not keen to change their office environment. The office location is the area in which change is the most disagreeable, at 71% of respondents at least disagreeing, while for communication software, respondents are particularly unagreeable, with 17% saying they strongly disagree and 60% saying that disagree. Changing IT equipment is however the area with the highest level of those whom strongly disagree with changes, at 24%, while 57% of respondents disagree.

The areas in which respondents are the least disagreeable include the use of collaborative software, cited by 43% of respondents of at least being agreeable to its use, followed by an office outfit, also cited by 43% of respondents as at least agreeable.

Business benefits of a working environment transformation

While uncertainty to the benefit of changing work environment exists among employees, employers stand to gain. The research shows that transforming the work environment can enhance corporate identity towards clients, with 38% of respondents strongly agreeing and 28% agreeing; another area in which considerable value can be created is in improvement to collaborative work, with 48% of respondents agreeing and 28% strongly agreeing. The biggest area of benefit however is in the area of being more efficient, achieving more, saving time, an area in which 52% of respondents agree and 23% do so strongly.

Employees are not keen to change their office environments

The research notes that transformation with wider stakeholder engagement, may be difficult. As it stands most employees are at least somewhat satisfied with their work environments, at 20% satisfied with their digital work environment and 14% satisfied with their physical work environment, while 52% are somewhat satisfied with their digital environment and 54% are somewhat satisfied with their physical work environment.

The authors conclude, “In the future, we will see hot-desk culture replaced by more socially-oriented environments, populated by empowered staff who choose their own hours. All of this raises many questions, such as: can staff play tennis at 3pm, and would managers be comfortable with this? Answers may vary according to organisation, but management by results, not physical presence, becomes the most important criterion. Underpinning this is the need to understand employee productivity and well-being. To achieve this, companies must consider at the outset why such changes are necessary – which is to enable and empower those on the front lines of the business.”