European work survey: collaboration  

"The European world of work” by IPSOS for Steelcase International 

British managers by far the best team players! European managers in favour of an improved work environment, in line with their needs for teaming, in-between and meeting spaces!

Schiltigheim, France, 10th April 2007 - Steelcase International, the EMEA division of Steelcase Inc., the global leader in the office furniture industry, disclosed today the results of the first survey related to the “European work”. Conducted in February by IPSOS Public Affairs, the study examined several issues such as the dimensions of work, the environmental perceived value of work as well as the sitting comfort at the workplace.

As a result of a panel survey of more than 2500 European managers from France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom, the study revealed that European managers work alone or in pairs twice more often than in an extended team (with 65% of them working (very) often alone and 62% (very) often in pairs). They also work nearly as often with another person, than alone.

When asked what is the most important activity or work process to achieve maximum performance in their job, project activity seems to be key - especially for French and Spanish executives - as it represents 25% of the work time. European managers are definitely multi-taskers as they deal, on average, with 6.3 different projects per month. The ones dealing with the largest amount of projects are trade and marketing managers. The majority of the European managers work often in a small team and only a fifth of them work often with an extended team.

British managers (with 60%) spend more time than others working in team whereas Italian managers (with 72%) are the ones working alone the most. Spanish managers, with 48%, are the one meeting the most in small groups (from 3 to 6).

Individual work still the norm
Another trend resulting from the survey is that European managers still have a personal perception of their work, as 34% of them spend their time on their individual work and think they achieve maximum business performance concentrating on their individual work.

“Working on an individual basis has always been part of the myth and habits of European managers” declared Christian Daul, REMEA Marketing Director, Steelcase International. “However, such a work pattern is - in most companies – directly induced by space planning as assigned work space is still the most common form of work spatial organization”. 85% of the respondents have indeed indicated working often in an assigned workspace while 29% of them wish to have more opportunities to share information or experiences with colleagues (78% consider it is either important or top priority)!

When it comes to the workplace, the age of managers seems to play a crucial role as 19% of the youngest ones consider the change of workspace (more private or more shared) as a top priority to the detriment of having more opportunities to share information or experiences with colleagues. This means that companies willing to attract or retain young talents for the future have to adapt and improve their workplace.

However, the power of the space planning process seems to remain underestimated by European managers since only 13% of them (regardless to their age) want to change their workspace. Italian (with 19%) and Spanish (with 17%) populations are the most open to change whereas German (with only 5%) position themselves as the most reluctant.

Finally, within the new technologies era, face to face meeting still has a bright future since 97% of European managers claim to meet face to face more often than using conference calls or video conferences.

Need for better space planning
Perfectly illustrated by Italian managers (who have the highest level of work alone together with the highest need for sharing with their colleagues), the main finding of this first part of the survey consists in the wish of European managers to have a work environment that better supports their needs for teaming, in between and meeting spaces.

  • Teaming spaces are crucial since managers work (very) often in pairs or small groups, they need to have more flexibility in their workplace. In this respect, an open space solution such as Forward can be the appropriate solution in order to enhance and facilitate team and informal communications. Usage of laptops (47%) and WiFi networks (26%) also increases worker’s flexibility. The survey indicates that both equipments are not yet common but that they are getting more and more used.
  • Meeting spaces remain very important. European managers rarely work within large groups (7 and more), only 22% of them take part (very) often to large groups meetings. Companies need to increase the number of meeting spaces (mostly informal) and create more small ones equipped with appropriate IT infrastructure (network connexion, projection devices…).
  • In-between spaces are also very important since 29% of European executives would like to have more sharing opportunities with their colleagues. Companies need to make the most of in-between spaces (e.g. transient zones, corridors, receptions, breakout areas, photocopy corners…) and turn these into focal points where people and ideas come together in an informal way, where impromptu meetings happen or where people can wait productively. These are the main principles behind a solution such as B Free Lounge.