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by Derek Loosvelt | August 26, 2019


There's often a disconnect between what employees want and what employers think employees want. And a recent study of 1,600 employees about what they want in a workplace underlines this disconnect. The study—conducted by Future Workplace and View, and written about in the Harvard Business Review by Future Workplace Partner Jeane Meister—found that employees care little about Google-like perks such as food trucks, bowling alleys, and craft-beer happy hours, and care a lot about the basics of human survival such as air, light, and water.

Here are the top nine things that employees care about most when it comes to their workplaces (along with the percentage of survey respondents that named this thing).

1. Air quality (58%)

2. Comfortable light (50%)

3. Water quality (41%)

4. Comfortable temperatures (34%)

5. Connection to nature (30%)

6. Comfortable acoustics (30%)

7. Healthy food options (26%)

8. Fitness facilities (16%)

9. Tech-based health tools (13%)

According to the survey's results, three out of four employees say the air quality in their offices is substandard. That's a very a high number of people (75 percent!) across the country working in offices with bad air. Further, 50 percent of those surveyed say the poor air quality makes them sleepy, and 33 percent report irritation to their throat or eyes due to their poor at-work air. Future Workplace/View also point out in their report on their survey that good air quality can increase employee productivity by up to 11 percent.

As for natural light, which is well known to be positively correlated with health, 40 percent of those surveyed said they should be able to have a view of the outdoors. And 33 percent note that a comfortable level of light is key to their well-being.

With respect to temperature, 66 percent of employees say their offices are not ideal for working. Meanwhile, 33 percent say their offices are always either too hot or too cold.

Sound is also a big issue for employees. With many companies still housing their employees in open office plans despite studies that say those plans hurt productivity, employees are having a hard time concentrating. The Future Workplace/View study found that 50 percent of professionals say they get distracted by coworkers' conversations, and more than 33 percent say that cell phones ringing, A/C and heating units, and keyboard sounds are very distracting.

Other findings of the study include that employees are increasingly wanting the ability to personalize their workspaces. That is, they want the ability, via various apps, to control the temperature, light, and sound at their desks. This might sound demanding, or downright impossible, but Meister points out in her HBR piece that this is already happening, to some extent, at big companies such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and Cisco.

The study's takeaway for working professionals, of all levels, is simple: You should most certainly feel like it's more than fair to ask (even demand) that you work in a space that has clean, quality air and water; provides you with a view of the outdoors and with a level of light that helps rather than hurts your productivity; and allows you to work without loud neighbors and other noisy distractions.

The takeaway for employers is also simple: If you're not already offering these basics to your staff, you better start soon. Your bottom lines, not to mention the health and wellness of your employees, depend on it.