The debate over open-layout workplaces rages on: Some people find open offices conducive to community and collaboration, others deem them disastrously distracting. But the debate is actually moot: Office design doesn't matter as much as flexibility in today's workforce, and the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey shows more evidence of flex's growing importance.
After surveying 1,004 office workers and 2000 office and facilities managers in the United States and Canada, the researchers found results very similar to those of Werk's own research.
For example, 90 percent of respondents in the Staples survey said that implementing flexibility would increase employee morale, and 77 percent said flexibility could lower operating costs. Meanwhile, 67 percent would consider leaving their job if their work arrangements became less flexible, and 43 percent view the ability to work remotely to be a "must-have."
The research also showed the need for a range of flexibility options, as 64 percent of respondents said they work remotely at least some of the time, but only 34 percent said their workplaces have a formal or informal work-from-home policy.
The persuasive statistics don't stop there. In addition, 63 percent of respondents said they wouldn't accept a job if they didn't know the workplace was actively inclusive of women, minorities, and people with disabilities—all demographic groups for which flexibility reduces obstacles.
And yes, flex can even make the open-layout debate moot. For the 52 percent of respondents who said open offices create distractions, the Remote and DeskPlus flex types allow them to find their own haven of focus and productivity all or at least part of the time.
Susan Kill, Staples' vice president of furniture, says in a press release that flex affords workers the freedom to find the workplace design that works best for them: "Workplace design has a huge impact on employee happiness and morale. You could chase the latest trends—like open versus closed offices—but if workers aren't provided the flexibility to choose the setting that inspires them most, you're unlikely to maximize their productivity and perhaps even their longevity with the company."
And Chris DeMeo, vice president of Staples Brand Group, observes that flexibility lets organizations stay agile amid an ever-evolving workforce. "Employees no longer embrace the traditional 9-to-5, and instead seek an environment that accommodates the fact that their needs may change day-to-day," he said. "The smartest employers are acknowledging this reality and offering their workers more autonomy when it comes to where, when and how they work. It may be a leap of faith for offices used to the old ways of doing things, but it's one that could yield dividends in terms of recruitment, retention and productivity."