“Wellness” and “happiness”—essential concepts that are now incorporated in almost every aspect of our lives, from the daily diet and routine, to home furnishing, transport options, and the work environment. As Forbes put it, workplace design should not fall behind the changing ways in which we approach work, and a mindfully designed work environment is increasingly important in attracting and retaining top talent. While some employers adopt the Chief Happiness Officer trend, others set out to physically transform the workspace.
We asked office users nationwide how they feel about their work environment, and we compared how employees from different U.S. regions rated their experience. Our survey included 1,879 respondents from all over the country, who answered our questions regarding their office layout, as well as how the office design and interactions affect their work and their state of mind. Although none of today’s office designs meet everyone’s ideal standards, most respondents declared themselves more or less content with the workspaces they currently occupy. Let’s take a look at the U.S. office vibe landscape—read on to find out which parts of the country are home to the most (and least) pleasing office environments, which professions have it better, as well as what initiatives are already out there, engaged in revolutionizing the modern workspace.
East Coast Is the Happier Coast; California Offices Rated as Least Pleasing
Have you ever wondered which U.S. coast has the best (or the worst) office spaces? A 2015 study conducted by Monster and Brandwatch examined a year’s worth of tweets to quantify how Americans feel about their jobs and concluded that the West Coast is the happier coast. But what about the office environment? Is the California coast sunny enough to warm office workers’ hearts, or does the old adage “the more, the merrier” ring true of the many smaller states that line the East Coast? We asked and, well, the answers were a little surprising.
Office workers on the East and Gulf coasts indeed turned out to be the better pleased, though, in all fairness, not by that much. The happiest office dwellers hail from Alabama and South Carolina. Employees working in New York and New Jersey were among the most displeased with their workspaces, rating their office experience somewhere in the “neither/nor” range, alongside respondents from Massachusetts and Georgia.
West Coast office spaces got an overall lower score and, as an additional surprise, The Golden State got the bottom marks. California office users who participated in our survey scored as the least happy with their workspaces, even when compared to the lowest East Coast state average ratings. Offices in Washington state are the most pleasing, while Oregonian respondents scored lower on the workplace happiness barometers. If anything, appreciation of one’s office space seems to decrease North to South along the Pacific Coast.
Office Users in Inland States Enjoy Their Workspace More
According to studies conducted by the Columbia University Earth Institute, as well as through programs such as the NOAP, the U.S., despite its abundance of land, is primarily a coastal nation, as over 80% of U.S. employment and GDP is concentrated in coastal states. One thing economic studies agree on is that geography matters. However, a view of the actual ocean may not be that relevant to time spent inside the office, so we looked at our respondents’ answers to gauge how much of a difference there is, if any, in the way coastal versus inland office users perceive their workspace layouts.
What we’ve learned so far is that the happier coast-dwellers work in Washington state, Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas offices. But what about inland? Our survey swings in favor of it—the overall rating given by office users in inland states was higher than those on the coasts. Tennessee, Ohio, Minnesota, and Arizona respondents rated as being the happiest with their work environment, while those who are somewhat less pleased with their office space work in Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana.
That Nagging Feeling? Maybe It’s Not Your Job, Maybe It’s Your Workspace
Our respondents are full-time employees working in a variety of industries, and their answers to our survey seem to indicate that some professions tend to operate out of offices that are drearier than others. Some jobs get a bad rap, but what if that turns out to be the result of a work environment that is not in tune with the individual needs of the people who work there?
Office users working in Government and Public Administration feel their office spaces are among the least satisfying nationwide, with respondents on the East Coast rating their experience as slightly above indifferent. Public servants working on the West Coast said they are outright unhappy with their professional environment. Other industries that raise a flag regarding incompatibility between workers and their workspace are Retail and Publishing. Considering that most retail occupations operate in a space that is configured almost exclusively to please the customer, this comes as no surprise. What we can note, however, is that West Coast retail workers expressed feeling significantly less comfortable in their professional environment than East Coast retailers. The few respondents who work in Publishing and said they were either happy or very happy with their work space incidentally also mentioned they work from home or in a private office, which significantly shrinks the chances of workspace-worker incompatibility. The bulk of coast-to-coast Publishing employees, however, expressed they are rather unhappy with their office environment.
Another aspect made clear by our respondents was that, no matter what the level of dissatisfaction, a job’s a job. Over 60% of the professionals who spoke their mind said they will certainly not quit their jobs just because they don’t like their office, and another 30% admitted that they may consider leaving, but probably won’t turn in their badge over it. Multiple aspects factor into gauging worker satisfaction—use the filters of the interactive chart available below to focus the data on your area and demographic of interest.
On the other end of the spectrum, office users who work in Construction, Education, IT, Finance, and Real Estate feel much better about their professional environment. Answers provided by Marketing and Sales professionals working in coastal states indicated they feel disengaged (indifferent-to-unhappy), while marketers operating inland scored happy-to-very-happy.
The one industry to trend differently than the others is IT and Data Processing, in that the happier ratings were given by professionals working on the West Coast—something to be expected, seeing as the region is home to several major tech hubs, with offices designed to inspire and nurture activities specific to this industry.
Another Work Space Revolution is Underway
Our extended Workspace Survey offers a run-through of multiple factors that matter to today’s office users—of course, how happy you feel about your work environment does not only stem from the design and layout of the physical space, but recent research indicates that improving upon it can yield significant upticks in employee engagement and productivity.
CBRE launched its global Workplace360 initiative, a leading-edge approach to workplace strategy, which is designed to promote flexibility, mobility and productivity through technology-enabled, 100% address-free and paperless offices. The company has implemented its revolutionary office design in over 70 locations worldwide, and, according to CBRE Workplace360 program manager Cicily Dostalek, employee satisfaction has gone up, as have daily attendance rates. When rolling out the 360 concept to Suburban Philadelphia, Dostalek also stated that “from productivity and wellness, to engagement and recruitment, the workplace directly contributes to business results. Better business performance begins with better workplace performance.”
Such initiatives are supported by organizations like the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), which launched its WELL Building StandardTM in 2014—six years in the making, this certification is based on medical research that explores the connection and relationship between our health and wellness, and the buildings where we spend so much of our time. IWBI has also established partnerships with companies such as the Los Angeles office of global executive search firm Stanton Chase, to educate the middle and upper management of their client companies on the critical importance of creating and maintaining a healthy workplace environment.
Our nationwide survey of 1,879 respondents asked how office users feel about their physical work environment. The survey was conducted online, from January 11 to February 5, 2018, on U.S.-based full-time employees of all ages, who work in various industries, including real estate, services, healthcare, education, government, finance and insurance, arts and entertainment, construction and manufacturing.