Gensler Survey Indicates Experience-Based Spaces Could be the Future of the Workplace

Gensler, Meta, Redmond, Microsoft, 181 Fremont, Gensler Research Institute

By Catherine Sweeney 

As more and more companies continue to evaluate their office space needs, a new report from Gensler is showing how office assets can best be utilized as workers make their return. In a webinar held Wednesday, Gensler discussed the outcome of the report, which included information about how office spaces are being reconfigured and what continuing return-to-office policies could look like. 

The report, titled “U.S. Workplace Survey 2022,” surveyed 2,000 U.S. employees, and found that the reason that individuals mainly want to return to work largely has to do with work performance. More than half of workers said they would choose to work in the office for concentration-specific tasks, such as proofing and responding to emails. 

At the same time, however, the survey indicates that the workplace has, in the past, been fairly ineffective for non-collaborative work, or work that needs to be done alone. 

“Now, as we start looking at space effectiveness, we see that the office space is working well or better for working with others in person, learning and socializing. But we’ve seen it continue to decline for working alone and working with others virtually. These are the two areas we really need to focus on moving forward,” said Janet Pogue McLaurin, principal and global director of workplace research for Gensler. 

According to the report, about one-third of work for any given employee on average is done alone. This number is even larger for support and administrative workers, who spend 44 percent of their time doing non-collaborative work. 

To tackle this challenge, Gensler suggests that developers and landlords should be creating spaces that appeal to both independent and virtual work as well as to providing hands-on, collaborative spaces. 

“While the workplace is already effective in supporting collaborative activities, the biggest opportunity for impact is to focus on individual workspaces to improve the overall effectiveness and experience of the workplace,” the survey states. 

These workplaces are also likely to be in places that provide access to a number of amenities, according to Gensler, further providing incentives for workers to enjoy coming into work. These could include onsite building amenities or amenities related to the physical location of an office building, such as nearby coffee shops, grocery stores and walking areas. 

Overall, 83 percent of survey respondents said they were more likely to return to the office at least one extra day per month if it offered an ideal work experience. 

“First and foremost, you need to provide a functional space for people to get their work done, and then you start to add those elements that start to drive a great experience,” McLaurin said. “And together, those start to really impact enterprise outcomes, which ultimately enhances business performance.”

Despite the traditional office building continuing to upgrade for the needs of today’s workforce, office occupancy for most of the nation’s major cities has not passed 50 percent, the report shows. At the same time, major companies continue to redefine their office needs, cutting both jobs and office space. 

One company to make this shift in recent months is Microsoft. According to a fourth quarter earnings report from the Redmond-based firm, Microsoft intends to shed more office space this year. In addition, the company plans to reduce its workforce by approximately 10,000 jobs through the third quarter of 2023. 

Similarly in San Francisco, Meta placed its 432,000 square foot space at 181 Fremont onto the sublease market. A third quarter 2022 earnings report from Meta showed that the company plans to spend approximately $2 billion to consolidate space around the globe. In November, Meta also announced that it would be firing 11,000 employees.