Changing Trends in Office Design Were Underway Long Before COVID-19

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Workplace data from the Gensler Research Institute, compiled in late 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, offered a reckoning on the way offices and workplaces are viewed and disproved common narratives surrounding the open office debate. The data, in fact, uncovered the right way to invest in work-focused amenities, including coworking, that result in higher employee engagement, business performance, and profit.

“One of the most important decisions companies need to make is how open they should make their office,” said Gensler Co-CEO Diane Hoskins. “For the first time, we have data to help inform this decision as well as other decisions about the type of workplace strategy offered by employers. This data will help companies devise more effective real estate strategies that will improve employee productivity, deliver cost savings, and make an organization more attractive in recruiting top talent.”

The 2019 Gensler U.S. Workplace Survey represented input from more than 6000 office workers nationwide, across a variety of industries and demographics, to provide insight into not only what makes an effective workplace, but the investments companies can make to improve employees’ workplace experience and performance.

In today’s diverse workforce, employers are challenged by competing expectations of five generations of workers. In the war to attract and retain top talent, the research found that employees want and expect a great experience at work – spaces with mostly open environments combined with the right amenities and on-demand private space are the ones that deliver this best. The five top-performing amenities with the greatest impact include innovation hubs, maker spaces, quiet/tech-free zones, outdoor workspaces, and focus rooms.

Additionally, the data confirms that access to coworking directly correlates with effectiveness and experience when offered as another choice of where to work, but not a replacement for the main office.

For employers looking to create a great workplace experience to entice and retain top talent, there are three things companies can implement to optimize employees’ performance in the workplace, according to the data:

  • Design open environments to include private space, too. Open environments with on-demand private space are the most effective and offer the best experience.
  • Create amenities that are about optimizing work, not escaping it. High performers work everywhere - both inside and outside the workplace. Amenities are central to a successful workplace, but some offer significantly more value than others.
  • Use coworking as a part of, not a replacement for, a great workplace experience. When large companies offer employees the option to use a coworking space it is associated with a better work experience and higher performance, but it loses its luster if used more than one day a week.

The 2019 Gensler U.S. Workplace Survey was an iteration of ongoing research surrounding the workplace and represented the first integration of insights into experience drawn from the 2017 Gensler Experience Index. For more information and data on the workplace experience, visit