New workplace study critical of focus on occupation density

New workplace study critical of focus on occupation density

Annette McGill

A new report says improved workplaces could improve business productivity by as much as 3.5% and deliver a £70m boost to UK productivity.  The report, entitled 'The Workplace Advantage', was issued by the Stoddart Review, a not-for-profit initiative bringing together business leaders and workplace professionals to look at workplace strategies.

The report looks at the links between well-designed workplaces and organisational performance. It highlights the alarming statistic that only 53% of UK office workers say their workplace enables them to be productive. 

The 45-page report reviews current workplace strategies and calls for new thinking about how workplaces are designed and used. It offers fascinating insights for charity facilities managers who want to adopt a more strategic approach in delivering fm in their organisations.  

Space density does not equal efficiency

One of the key findingsis that there has been an over-emphasis on space utilisation as a metric for efficiency. This has resulted in design and occupancy strategies that focus on density at the expense of performance and productivity. 

The report says that while some organisations are still at the stage of implementing open-plan solutions for cost reasons, others now realise that open-plan offices can also be “noisy, distracting, irritating and counterproductive”. 

It says progressive firms understand that higher productivity comes from better problem-solving and decision-making, as well as more effective employee and client interactions.  It says: “There is growing awareness that the route to productivity is no longer just about delivering more, but also about delivering in a smarter way, through facilitating more effective interactions that result in more creative solutions, and higher quality targets. “

The report recommends that while industry professionals continue to conflate the efficiency of space utilisation with the employee productivity, it is up to board members to ask challenging questions about how space strategies are meeting the needs of their employees. 

More findings and recommendations: 

  • There has been a major shift in the social importance of the workplace: away from displays of power and hierarchy, and towards affirming collaborative culture and a sense of community.  This new role is important in attracting talent.
  • While staff have regular appraisals, most organisations are failing to appraise the contribution of their workplaces to their organisational performance. Organisations should conduct annual reviews of workplace strategy.
  • Traditional reporting lines for facilities management, to the financial director and chief operating officer, often guarantee a traditional, cost-driven approach at the expense of wider organisational priorities.
  • There is potential for developing the role of “chief workplace officer”, and for them to report directly to the chief executive.
  • Taking a "people-first" approach is essential.


Worth reading

The Stoddart Review website is somewhat difficult to work through, but the full report is available to download in pdf format, and it is well worth reading.


The Stoddart Review initiative was named after the facilities management professional Chris Stoddart, who died in 2014. It is a cross-industry project which plans to issue regular reports. For the first report, the authors interviewed senior business leaders and opinion formers and received submissions from organisations and individuals working in organisational development, architecture, design, facilities management, engineering, business process outsourcing, real estate, academia and technology.

The founding partners in the Review are the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), Cushman & Wakefield, The Crown Estate and Polly Plunket-Checkemian and Joanna Lloyd-Davies.