By Meghan Hall
The commercial real estate sector has seen a fair number of surveys on evolving workplace design and employee desires within the workplace, but few companies have endeavored to measure the importance of employee happiness on business considerations. A recent survey conducted in 2019 by global boutique coworking firm Mindspace, in collaboration with OnePoll, found that employee happiness is an increasingly important business consideration. The Employee Happiness Survey interviewed 5,000 people in office settings across seven countries and found that on the whole, office workers are fairly happy, with worker happiness in the United States coming ahead of countries such as Poland, Germany and the United Kingdom.
“We strongly believe that people who are happy at work do a better job, and the Mindspace mission is to create workspaces that promote happiness so our members can thrive. In a sense, workplace happiness is our business, so understandably we would want to learn as much as we can about the state of workplace happiness in the markets we operate in,” explained Dan Zakai, co-founder and CEO of Mindspace. “For decades, the CRE industry has focused on the “buyer” and not the “user” but as the battle for talent becomes fiercer, landlords realize that the focus needs to move to the employees and to their happiness and satisfaction. The office is no longer just a 9-5, four-walls-and-a-desk, come-do-your-job-and-leave space anymore.”
The survey found that workers in the United States are the happiest, with 94 percent of interviewees stating they were very happy or mostly happy at work. That number was followed closely by those in the Netherlands, of whom 91 percent stated they were happy at work. Poland (83 percent), Germany (81 percent) and Israel (80 percent) followed closely behind. The United Kingdom fell to the bottom of the table, where 24 percent reported being not very happy or not happy at all in their place of work, compared with only 7 percent in the United States and 9 percent in the Netherlands.
“We were surprised and delighted to learn that American employees are the happiest globally. We believe that this is due to the widespread collaboration that seems to exist in their workspaces leading to many employees feeling valued and engaged,” continued Zakai. “…Overall, we were happy to see that most employees, worldwide, are happy and that there were only a small percentage of people that are not particularly happy in their workplace. The state of happiness in the workplace is solid, and we need to continue to push it forward.”
The study also found that men generally reported being happier at work than women, and that millennials were significantly happier than people in their forties and fifties. 45 percent of all managers and business owners reported being happy, compared with just 27 percent of employees. And perhaps most significantly, 73 percent of people who are self-employed are happy with their current work compared to just 25 percent of those working for a company.
The survey also found that there were several important factors that contributed to an employee’s happiness: a sense of purpose, wellness, a feeling of value, a collaborative environment, high employee engagement, workplace culture and flexibility.
“While there are many factors to employee happiness that are not in the control of landlords, there’s still a lot that can be done to enhance the experience and create an office space that promotes happiness,” said Zakai. “In our survey, we looked at physical elements like design, layout, lighting, decoration and greenery, as well as activities and activation, and their relationship with employee happiness and found correlations between several of these factors and the levels of happiness employees report.”
The survey found that 80 percent of people who are not happy at work say they do not feel valued, and that there is a significant gap, globally, between the United States and other countries, notes Mindspace. In the United States, more workers report feeling valued than in Europe. More United States workers also report being engaged. On a scale up to four, the average U.S. employee gave a score of 3.5 for engagement, compared with 2.7 in the United Kingdom. Overall, 99 percent of very happy people feel somewhat or very engaged with their work.
Building off of engagement, 75 percent of very happy people report having a strong sense of purpose at their jobs. Unhappy people also experience a more negative work culture than those who reported being happy; almost 40 percent of unhappy employees described their workplace as boring, compared with 12 percent of happy employees.
75 percent of people also note that working in a more collaborative environment would make them happier, and happy employees prefer working from an office rather than at home—an important note for employers as remote work becomes increasingly common. The survey points out that less than 9 percent of people prefer working from home across all countries.
“Additionally, the social aspect is clearly one of the biggest contributors to happiness (or unhappiness) and the sense of community and belonging is one of the reasons people like coming to the office,” Zakai notes. “We have found that creating a functioning, supportive community is more than simply providing a place for people to come together. It requires ongoing management, attention to the requirements of the community and its members, proactive introductions between members, and the creation of well-crafted activities and activation.”
Despite this, the vast majority of workers note they need more flexibility. 40 percent of those surveyed stated they can come late or leave the office early, and 50 percent of interviewees marked flexible work hours as one of the most important office perks. For those not engaged with their work, a third noted that it was because of bad work/life balance.
Mindspace points out that beyond corporate culture, landlords and companies can take basic steps to increase employee happiness. 30 percent of employees worldwide say that good air quality and lighting have the greatest impact on their mental well-being at work. Robust wellness programs can also have an impact: 40 percent of happy employees work in offices with free health check-ups or exercise classes.
How ever companies choose to implement these findings, Mindspace makes it clear that employee happiness is a serious business consideration and can greatly influence creativity and productivity.
“The results of our study are very clear on the connection between happiness and certain work attributes like a sense of purpose, feeling valued, flexibility, and social aspects like culture, connections, and collaboration,” said Zakai. “In our experience, it’s the freedom to pursue your dreams in a supportive, safe and healthy space that yields the best results.”