- Roughly 37% of Texans work in private offices, only 9% in coworking offices
- For 47% of workers, privacy is what makes them the happiest at the office
- High noise levels and little natural light sink workplace morale
- Free food, drinks and parking are the most craved perks for Texas office workers
- Companies rely on their locations’ walkability to attract new talent
The Lone Star State has seen massive increase of its working-age population, and is home to an exuberant tech scene. What does all this fast-paced change look like for Texas office workers? Are companies upping their game by offering more perks in order to attract and to keep employees happy? Following our previous U.S.-wide office surveys and our recent case study into Gen Zers in the workplace, we now focus our research on one of the most dynamic states in the nation.
We’ve asked workers from Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio about their ideal office layout, what makes them happiest or unhappiest in the workspace, which amenities are most popular, which perks are most often used by companies to recruit new employees and what tradeoffs would Texas office workers agree to in exchange for better amenities, along with personal details about their age, gender, duration of employment, industry they work in and location. Keep reading to see what they said and for more details regarding our methodology.
Texans Know Their Place – It’s in a Private Office!
In his 2014 book “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace,” Ron Friedman depicts the troubled relationship of American workers with some of the most popular office layouts over the years. “Cubicles are depressing. Private offices are isolating. Open spaces are distracting,” he argues as he takes the reader through the history of post-World War II office design.
In an era when 70% of offices in the US sport an open plan layout, with some employers looking to further cut costs by introducing hotdesking practices, Texans can count themselves lucky. An estimated 37% of our respondents work in private offices, only 18% must put up with the many distractions of an open office, while 26% are working out of a cubicle. When asked about their ideal workplace layout, 56% pointed to private offices, with home offices trailing behind in second place with 16% of the vote. Hip coworking places seem to have captured the imagination of an estimated 9% of workers, a near overlap with the 8.6% who said they were currently working at offices with this layout.
The push to introduce hotdesking in companies with open offices that also allow for remote working might make many employees more inclined to work from home. Although among our respondents only 10% said they currently work from home, a study on Gen Zers in the workplace suggests that 38% of them would gladly pick this option. There is a clear change in preferences between millennials and Gen Zers regarding their office setting. As indicated by another one of our surveys, millennials echo the preferences of previous generations for working from a private office, with those just entering the labor market being the first to massively favor working from home over any other setting, something employers would do well to keep in mind if they want to accommodate incoming talent.
Privacy and Accessorizing Make Texas Office Workers Happy About Their Workplace
Privacy and the ability to personalize one’s workspace are making Texans happy. Around 47% enjoy the privacy they get at their office, 43% love to unleash their creative talents to customize their workstations and 40% enjoy the fact that their workspace is bathed in natural light. And while they’re enjoying their window desk, 27% would also be delighted to have a pleasing outside view. Texans are known to be a friendly bunch, so the fact that 27% of respondents said their amiable coworkers made their day at the office should not come as a surprise.
Of course, companies have a measure of control over some of the things that make workers feel at ease during their workday. While creating a friendly office culture might be tricky, a company can control most of these characteristics. Indeed, the problems of noise levels and lack of privacy have recently been met with several innovative solutions.
Take, for instance, these transformable, woven structures developed by Self-Assembly Lab, a team of MIT researchers developing programmable material technologies and self-assembly. The lightweight mechanism can easily transform between a phone booth, a lounge area or a meeting room for up to eight people, and has been developed as a cost-effective alternative to the electromechanical systems now used for such highly flexible partitioning in open plan spaces.
Another alternative that can also make the office feel a lot homier is to use plants as green dividers in order to absorb noise and regulate the temperature and humidity levels, and also create a lush, garden-like look in the workplace. These adjustments benefit workers as well as overall operating expenses for the company, by reducing bills on energy consumption for air conditioning or heating.
Too Much Noise, Too Little Light – What Makes Workers Unhappy?
The things employees from Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio listed as making them unhappy are mirrored by their primary dislikes: 41% cite lack of privacy as having a role in their dissatisfaction regarding the workplace, and 40% think too much noise is the main culprit. Lack of adequate natural light makes 29% unhappy, and 27% complain about uninspiring outside views or no view at all from their desk.
The same concerns show up when asked about the most important things in the office, as 42% of respondents chose design and space layout, with similar importance given to noise control and privacy. Natural lighting and air quality are also high on the list of priorities, with ergonomic furniture and any additional lighting being secondary concerns.
An estimated 48% of respondents thought that private discussions that are overheard by colleagues are the most disrupting thing at the office. Another 26% complained about the overall noise levels and 23% are bothered by the lack of privacy at their workplace. Roughly 15% feel that indoor air quality and ventilation leave a lot to be desired, and 18% feel like they don’t have control over their workspace.
Free Food, Drinks and Parking Are the Most Attractive Office Perks
When it comes to ranking some of the most popular office perks, 44% of Texans love free coffee, tea and snacks in the workplace, while 40% are enthused about good parking. One of our respondents noted that for people coming in to work in Austin, their daily commute has a lasting negative impact on their mood, suggesting that companies providing more flexible and remote working alternatives would be a great improvement on current conditions.
Should the on-site freebies be insufficient for the hungry employee, being close to restaurants, eateries and coffee shops is important to 38% of respondents, while 31% are interested in the area’s walkability in general. Only 14% of Texans said they find proximity to public transport to be a particularly attractive amenity and roughly 5% were excited about bike sharing systems and on-site bike racks. Despite recent investments to improve and expand infrastructure, services and walkability, most of the Lone Star State and indeed no less than 85% of Americans overall still use their car for their daily commute to work.
Respondents are also aware of office amenities and perks at nearby companies, with 42% mentioning the use of standing desks and 37% cite the presence of food trucks in their area. Ergonomic office supplies, like footrests and exercise balls caught the eye of 28% of respondents and 27% them knew about game rooms at other companies.
Companies Rely on Their Location’s Walkability to Attract New Talent
A total of 52% of surveyed workers said their employer highlighted some type of location or workplace amenity. Firms looking for fresh talent seem especially keen to emphasize the walkability of their office location, according to 40% of respondents, while 15% of them tempted prospective employees with game rooms. At 35% and 34%, respectively, proximity to restaurants and coffee shops, as well as snack and beverages available on-site are still some of the most popular perks offered to employees.
Despite the rising cost of childcare, only 17% of workers said they were offered such amenities by their employers. According to the National Study of Employers, 41% of U.S. companies provide access to information to help parents find daycares in their community, and 56% of them offer Dependent Care Assistance Plans (DCAPs) that help employees deduct childcare expenses from their pre-tax dollars. However, only 7% have either an on-site daycare or one near the workplace.
The urban sprawl of metropolitan areas in Texas is infamous, with Houston dubbed a “geographically absurd land mass”, similar in size to the entire island of Oahu and dwarfing distances in major coastal cities, like New York or San Francisco. Given the long daily commutes and the lack of a robust public transportation system means many people rely heavily on their cars. As a result, 39% of Texans listed private parking as another important amenity that employers advertise. Again, this was something respondents emphasized in their additional comments to our survey, citing it as the number one deal breaker when looking for a new job, barring a very generous salary that would make up for the employee’s time spent commuting.
49% of Texans Would Work for a Smaller Company if it Offered Better Office Perks
When asked about how they feel about their workspace 55% of Texans say they are happy, with 10% declaring themselves unhappy and 3% feeling very unhappy about their current arrangements. Grievances aside, most respondents indicated they wouldn’t quit their job over dissatisfaction with their office layout. Only 5% were determined to leave their current employer over working conditions, with 30% entertaining the idea. In contrast, 65% of respondents said they probably won’t or definitely won’t quit their job because of it.
What tradeoffs would workers accept for a more suitable workplace? Roughly 49% wouldn’t mind working for a smaller company, and 34% said they would endure a longer commute. Only 16% would accept less flexibility in their working arrangements and 14% would be willing to make do with a lower salary if it meant working in a more pleasant office.
We conducted a survey of 462 respondents across the four largest urban centers in Texas―Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio―asking the participants about their ideal office layout, what makes them happiest or unhappiest in the workspace, which amenities are most popular, which perks are most often used by companies to recruit new employees, and what tradeoffs would Texas office workers agree to in order to have better amenities. We further asked for personal details about their age, gender, location, duration of employment and industry they work in.
For creating the survey, we used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and the survey platform SurveyMonkey. The number of respondents needed for it to be relevant was calculated using SurveyMonkey’s sample size calculator. We used Census data for the population estimate, with a 5% margin of error and a 95% confidence level.