The British Council of Offices and CABE spell out the impact of good workplaces on a firm’s bottom line

Building designers, developers and business leaders should wake up to the revolution taking place in the office environment and its impact on business performance.

This is the main theme of a report entitled Impact of Office Design on Business Performance published this week by CABE and the British Council for Offices. Launching the report, Paul Morrell, partner in Davis Langdon and president of the BCO, said: “We had to upgrade the quality of factories in the 1960s. Now we have to upgrade the factories of the 21st century, and these are offices.”

The report identifies staff satisfaction as a key contributor to business performance. Research shows that workplace conditions are responsible for 24% of employees’ job satisfaction, and this equates to an increase in their performance of 5% when working individually and 11% when working in groups.

In addition, over a 25-year lease, construction costs amount to 6.5% of business costs. By contrast, the salaries of occupants account for 85%. So an increase of 2% to 5% in staff performance can cover the total cost of providing top quality accommodation.

The report, compiled by Frank Duffy of DEGW, Arup and Carnegie Mellon University in the USA, reveals that traditional office space is being transformed by the need to allow for IT and team working. As a result offices are becoming spaces for social and interactive engagement.

A performance increase of 2% can cover the cost of a top quality office

Firms that have recognised this transformation and redesigned their offices accordingly have benefited. One example cited in the report is Sun Microsystems, which used an office layout developed by BP for its headquarters in Sunbury, Surrey. This is estimated to have improved staff performance 13%, communication 15% and collaboration 18%.

The report identifies three approaches for improving performance. The most common is to make the buildings function more efficiently. The second is to make space more supportive to work patterns. And the third is to help the building express the aspirations of the business.

The report recommends developers to “dare to go beyond efficiency,” by adopting the second and third approaches. It also urges tenants and occupiers to “take greater responsibility for relating office design to business strategy.”

The BCO plans to draw up a method for evaluating office buildings. Morrell said the appraisal method could be a version of the Construction Industry Council’s design quality indicators.