Only one-third of workers in 17 of the world’s leading economies are highly engaged, with the United States ranking sixth behind frontrunners India, Mexico, and United Arab Emirates, according to The Steelcase Global Report: Engagement and the Global Workplace. The new report on the global work experience links high employee engagement with satisfaction with the work environment.
The findings are a result of data collected with global research firm Ipsos from 12,480 workers in 17 countries. They show employees who have greater control over their work experiences, including abundant access to private spaces, are some of the most highly engaged in the world.
The Workplace As Strategic Asset
Steelcase undertook the research to understand the diverse workplace experiences throughout the world, and to identify how the work environment can impact employee engagement. Results reveal that high workplace satisfaction is positively correlated with high employee engagement, meaning the physical workplace can be used as a strategic asset to improve engagement.
“As we analyzed this data, it was interesting to us how consistently the most engaged workers were those who had more control over their work experience, including the ability to concentrate easily and work in teams without being interrupted,” said Christine Congdon, director of research communications. “Workers who have the ability to choose where to work in the office based on the task they have to do are much more engaged in their work.”
Key insights into the American workplace:
- U.S. falls behind Mexico but fairs better than Europe: The findings reveal Mexico has some of the most engaged and satisfied employees in the world, while U.S. employees rank sixth in the study with 14 percent of workers highly engaged. Established economies France, Spain, and Belgium came in last.
- Open offices are less prevalent in the U.S. Despite the perception that the open office has taken over, only 21 percent of U.S. offices are entirely open plan. In fact, more workplaces are configured with entirely private offices than those comprising completely open-space configurations. The prevalence of all open-plan offices in the U.S. is below the global average (23 percent), and well below countries where real estate is more limited, such as the U.K. where 49 percent of offices are entirely open.
- Mobile tech adoption lags: American workplaces highly favor fixed technology and have the second highest reliance on landline phones of any country. Employers are also least likely to provide a mobile phone to their employees (26 percent). Considering landlines and desktops can quite literally tether employees to their desks, for some organizations this could play a role in restricting employee control and access to privacy.
Other key findings from the report include:
- Employee engagement positively correlates with workplace satisfaction. The data show that workers who are highly satisfied with various aspects of their workplace also demonstrate higher levels of engagement. Yet, only 13 percent of global workers are highly engaged and highly satisfied with their workplace. The inverse is true as well: 11 percent of employees are highly dissatisfied with their offices and are also highly disengaged.
- Engaged employees have more control over their experiences at work. A distinguishing characteristic of engaged employees is that they have a greater degree of control over where and how they work, including access to privacy when they need it. They are empowered, both by organizational decisions and the spaces made available to them within their workplace, to make choices about where and how they work. This means they can manage their need for privacy so they can concentrate easily and work with teams without disruptions.
- Fixed technology exceeds mobile 2:1. Despite the high global adoption of mobile devices for personal use, the vast majority of study participants report that their organizations provide twice as much fixed technology versus mobile options for work. Most workers report that they are equipped with landline telephones (86 percent) and desktop computers (80 percent). Far fewer employees have laptops (39 percent), mobile phones (40 percent) or tablet computers (13 percent) available to them at work.
- Traditional work styles persist. Across the globe, the most common workplace design features a combination of open spaces and private offices, but more than three quarters of global employees say they work in either individual or shared private offices. The greatest contrast in open environments and private or shared offices can be seen in Europe, where nearly half of all office layouts are entirely open in the United Kingdom (49 percent), but where 54 percent of German workplaces consist entirely of individual or shared private offices.
- Cultural context influences engagement levels. The most highly engaged employees hail from emerging economies where people have different expectations of their work environments than those in established economies. Workers from developing countries such as India and Mexico are some of the most highly satisfied and engaged, while people in France, Belgium, and Spain are among the least engaged. Analysis of the data identified a pattern indicating that the country where employees live, its culture and the resulting expectations have an impact on how highly engaged and satisfied they are with their workplace.
“For organizations on the path toward global integration, it’s important to challenge assumptions and look broadly at the diverse factors that influence employee engagement,” continued Congdon. “Well-designed workplaces can communicate a company’s strategy, brand and culture and encourage the employee behaviors leaders want in their organization – all fostering higher engagement levels.”
The Steelcase Global Report: Engagement and the Global Workplace is available online.