Why is the British office ambience so bad?

July 1, 2016 Geoffroy De Lestrange

Ipsos study reveals that over one third of UK workers do not enjoy their office ambience

Since the arrival of the open plan office in the 1950s, the office environment has been a contentious topic for workers – some loving the creative vibe and others struggling to concentrate. The latest statistics show that UK workers top the charts for being the most unsatisfied with their office environment when compared to other European countries. The study, completed by Ipsos, discovered that over one third of UK workers do not enjoy their office ambience. So, why is this so common in the UK? What produces such a negative office environment?

Perhaps such opinions have been shaped by the office structure itself. An article in HR Review explains how small factors such as the inability to adjust lighting and the lack of control over office temperatures can significantly impact an individual’s experience within the office. Although this is not necessarily untrue, when comparing statistics to other, happier countries, cultural attitudes appear to play a large role in shaping office experiences.

The office ambience is not limited to physical features; it must also incorporate the attitudes of the people in the workplace.

Unsurprisingly, there is a direct correlation between work flexibility and happiness. European countries including the Nordics (88%), Austria (84%) and Spain (81%) who have the most flexible working hours also have the highest recorded rates of happiness. In comparison, out of the 16 countries questioned on adopting flexible work practices, the UK was placed in the bottom four.

Flexibility within the work place enables employees to balance their work and personal life to ensure that an individual’s needs are maintained. All pretty obvious, but the problem is that there is still a culture barrier to flexible working.

Working from home is not as common or accepted in the UK as perhaps expected. The recent IDC survey of 1,352 HR professionals and line managers, sponsored by Cornerstone OnDemand, found that only 13% of employees chose to work from home when given the option. Furthermore, as high as 40% of line managers admitted they preferred their employees not to work from home.

So, not only are employers struggling to get their heads around flexible working, but employees themselves are too. 83% of employees who do work from home still spend the majority of their working days within the office. As much as 1 in 10 people even admitted that they do not like working from home.  The UK just isn't adapting to the flexible working concept as fast as others.

If employers want to have happy and engaged workers, these issues will have to be addressed. IDC’s study reveals that flexibility and trust in the office environment, such as the option to work from home, are key to keeping employees motivated and committed.

Basically, we must change the mind-set of our managers (and in some cases employees!) to understand that everyone has different needs which must be addressed in order to create a good working environment.

How? I hear you ask. There are several ways to approach such a problem.  We need to ensure that managers recognise the importance of up to date technology and IT systems for their teams to access necessary data and to better communicate with one another. It is more difficult for some employees to work from home, but even onsite jobs have administrative tasks that can be done remotely and flexible working does not necessarily mean working from home. But the most important is a simple case of training managers how to manage a flexible workforce. Until then, British cultural attitudes will continue to shape the poor ambience in our offices. 

About the Author

Geoffroy De Lestrange

Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand

Follow on Twitter Follow on Linkedin More Content by Geoffroy De Lestrange
Previous Article
Gamification: should you be treating your employees like kids?
Gamification: should you be treating your employees like kids?

Maintaining a serious – and often boring – work environment used to be commonplace until organisations real...

Next Article
Assessing Cloud Vendor Security? Here are the acronyms you need to know
Assessing Cloud Vendor Security? Here are the acronyms you need to know