Despite alternative ways of working, Australians still sitting at their desks

JLL’s ‘Workplace Powered by Human Experience’ report finds Australian respondents spending 65% of their time at their desks

November 15, 2017

​Australian office workers in a global JLL study have reported spending 65% of their time at their desks. While Australia has spacious and open desks and workplace densities that are amongst the lowest in the region, choice of work settings is still limited.

The Australian report – Workplace Powered by Human Experience - An Australian perspective was compiled using responses from 500 employees based at companies in Australia, who were surveyed as part of the global research.  

Rajiv Nagrath - Executive Director and Chair for Corporate Solutions - Australia said"The report finds that Australia lags behind Asia Pacific in choice of workspaces.  

"Through this survey, we have identified the key workplace features that directly affect experience, including new types of spaces, alternative work philosophies and different managerial approaches.

"A key take-out is that Australian employers should think beyond just collaborative and communal space.  Employers should consider introducing a range of flexible workspaces within the office including space for concentration – concentration space was rated as a key priority for 49% of Australians surveyed.

"Beyond their primary workspace, we found relatively few areas or spaces for workers to switch between. The vast majority of their time (65%) was spent at their desk when in the office.  

"Employees should be able to choose from a range of temporary workspaces to complement, not replace, their main desk area.  This could be achieved within the office or elsewhere through co-working arrangements or 'third spaces' such as cafes and libraries," said Mr Nagrath.

Key findings of the Australian report include:

  • Relatively low appetite for workplace change: over two-thirds are unsure or completely unwilling to give up their current desk space, even for better workplace perks and amenities;
  • Approximately half of Australian respondents now work in an open-plan setting.  While there has been a clear shift towards open-plan in Australia, it is not as substantive as seen in other countries within Asia Pacific, such as Hong Kong and China;
  • Australian employees in open plan offices have some of the lowest workplace densities in the region.  Australian employees typically share their workspace with just 37 people – against 68 in Japan, 52 in India and the global average of 45 people;
  • Compared to the global average, most Australian workers are generally satisfied with their present workspace, with over 90% saying they can work 'completely' or 'somewhat' effectively. 48% of respondents agreed their workplace allows them to work 'completely' effectively;
  • The presence of dedicated concentration spaces is at the top of the wish list among Australian workers.  When asked about their priorities for the workplace, nearly half (49%) viewed space for concentration as not just important, but a priority;
  • Nearly half of Australian employees work from home occasionally (46%), but alternatives to the primary office are still not widely used. The use of alternatives to the primary office is still fairly low in Australia compared to many other parts of the world.

Mr Nagrath said"A key finding was that workplace engagement appears to be higher in offices where collaborative and communal office layouts are present. Interestingly, we did find that levels of workplace effectiveness to be substantially higher among employees who work in offices with innovative amenities – especially space for hobbies, childcare facilities and creative areas.

"Interestingly, 62% of Australian employees said a large corporate environment held the greatest appeal for them, which was similar to the global result of 62%.  Large companies are able to offer different work environments," said Mr Nagrath.

Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Corporate Research at JLL, added: "Human Experience is about how the work environment ultimately impacts company performance, not just its culture. Our study shows that work places and work spaces have a key role to play, both strategically and operationally, in fostering engagement, empowerment and fulfilment at work."

Mr Nagrath concluded, "The top response for Australian employees when asked what makes their experiences at work special or unique was 'happiness' at 78% of respondents, followed by recognition at 63%.  This highlights the importance of happiness as a driver of work experience.  And highlights the key message in our report - that workplace should be driven by human experience."