Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Businesses that want to hire and retain the best employees should think more about their real estate.

A new study from the University of Iowa finds that employees who work in a well-located office are willing to work harder and show more commitment to their jobs. Researcher Tom Gruca, professor of marketing at the Tippie College of Business, says workers see a good office location as a signal that their employer values them enough to invest in a good workplace.

In return, employees are apt to show more commitment and engagement with their jobs and to the success of their employer, helping the business to function better.

“Most of the people we surveyed valued office space in a vibrant setting convenient to amenities like dining, shopping, green space, and a lounge or café where they can work. Something in an exciting part of town,” says Gruca.

Gruca surveyed 1,206 full-time office workers, asking them questions about their space’s physical environment, such as its location and amenities. He also asked about their general satisfaction of  aspects of their office like temperature, air quality, lighting, layout, furnishings, and cleanliness. Finally, he asked about perceived support from employers and employees’ enthusiasm for their job.

The results showed a clear link between satisfaction with their office environment and location and positive organizational citizenship behaviors. Gruca says workers saw their office location as a sign of support from employers, and they in turn were more willing to help co-workers, offer more ideas, and perform duties beyond their job description.

While the survey was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gruca says the results are relevant to the ongoing discussion of workers returning to the office or continuing to work from home. He says the physical space and location of their office likely plays a significant role in the “great resignation” phenomenon, of workers quitting their jobs rather than returning to an office they don’t like. Employers that made a commitment to providing comfortable office space before the pandemic are likely having an easier time getting their employees to return.

“When people reflect on going back to the office, they think about what their office was like,” he says. “They ask, did I like it? Do I like where it’s located? If the answer is no, if people felt they had a better experience working from home and don’t want to go back to the office, then many of them are deciding not to come back at all.”

He says employees that commit to quality office space could see dividends by locating in a more desirable location, or by modifying their current space by adding amenities like green space, a walkway outside the building, or a cafe where employees can work and socialize.

“These investments may improve the satisfaction and retention of current employees and be attractive to potential applicants,” he says.

Gruca’s study, “Relationship of immediate workspace and environmental workplace with organizational and citizenship behaviors,” was published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology. The study received financial assistance from the International Interior Design Association and the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association.


CONTACT: Tom Snee, tom-snee@uiowa.edu, 319-384-0010 (o), 319-541-8434 (c)