U.S. workers’ evolving office environments present new needs and opportunities for relevant products, particularly as the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey found that employees continue to resist the one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to the workplace. Staples’ survey found notable backlash to the open workspace trend, with 52 percent of employees saying an open office layout creates distractions, and 40 percent reporting their office space is too open. Staples, Inc. participates in the promotional products industry as distributor Staples Promotional Products (PPAI 108945).

Staples’ research found that employees are looking for a choice when it comes to where they work and the environments that inspire them to be most productive. Respondents see a major upside to more choice—90 percent believe more flexible work arrangements and schedules will increase morale. In what could be construed as a warning to employers, the research notes that flexibility and employee retention go hand in hand: 67 percent of employees would consider leaving their job if their work arrangements became less flexible.

One of the most effective ways to introduce flexibility could be a dedicated work-from-home policy—64 percent of workers say they work remotely at least some of the time yet only 34 percent of employers have either a formal or informal policy in place. Employers also do not have the technology in place to support employees working remotely, with a minority offering collaboration tools that allow workers to stay connected, such as cloud-based file management (offered by just 36 percent) and instant messaging (34 percent).

“Employees no longer embrace the traditional nine-to-five and instead seek an environment that accommodates the fact that their needs may change day-to-day,” says Chris DeMeo, vice president, Staples Brand Group. “The smartest employers are acknowledging this reality and offering their workers more autonomy when it comes to where, when and how they work. It may be a leap of faith for offices used to the old ways of doing things, but it’s one that could yield dividends in terms of recruitment, retention and productivity.”

Susan Kill, vice president of furniture at Staples, adds “Office policies alone are not enough to satisfy employees’ desire for flexibility. Workplace design has a huge impact on employee happiness and morale. You could chase the latest trends—like open versus closed offices—but if workers aren’t provided the flexibility to choose the setting that inspires them most, you’re unlikely to maximize their productivity and perhaps even their longevity with the company.”

The survey found that along with flexibility, employees look for a healthy place to work. In fact, 41 percent of respondents said they would take a 10 percent pay cut for a job that cares more about their health and wellness, and 78 percent believe their employers have a responsibility to help them stay mentally and physically well. However, they only give their employers a “C” grade when asked to assess their focus on health and wellness—only 42 percent of employers offer some sort of wellness program and 22 percent of workers say their offices have a dedicated wellness room that can be used for things like breastfeeding and employees who need to take medication.

“We’re learning more and more every day about the connections between work and our overall wellbeing,” says DeMeo. “We know that stress, extended periods of sitting and the prevalence of unhealthy snacks in the office can all have serious physical consequences, and the mental impact of long, busy work days can’t be overstated. But employers don’t have to accept this as ‘the way things are.’ They have so many options for improving their employees’ health and wellness and bolstering productivity, ranging from gym reimbursement programs and fresh fruit in the breakroom, to ergonomic furniture and standing desks, to even dedicated ‘mental health days’ for employees feeling worn down.”