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Location still reigns supreme but workplace health and wellness are playing an increasing role in employee productivity, office satisfaction, and even choosing an employer. That’s according to a recent report by The Nielsen Company, based in Thailand. The survey results mark a major shift in the working population, with some surprising results and some stark confirmations that will be shaping the strategies of commercial building owners for years to come.

The Bangkok-focused survey was conducted in November 2018, in collaboration with The PARQ by TCC Assets and managed by Frasers Property Holdings. It involved 200 male and 200 female respondents aged 25 to 45, all working in offices for either Thai or international companies. The purpose of the study was to better understand employee’s work-life balance and their relationship with their workspace, as well as exploring how the workplace influences job selection and satisfaction.

The workplace is undergoing a comprehensive transformation globally and these kinds of studies are shaping the decisions of employers, commercial real estate developers, and facility managers alike. Bangkok is a busy, multicultural, commercial city, like many others around the world, the lesson’s learned there, and in other progressive cities, sheds light on the future of the work itself.

Location Still Rules

A convincing 92% of respondents marked workplace location as important or extremely important to their job satisfaction. The average commute time of the workers surveyed was one hour, and most had to combine at least two forms of transport – 91% of respondents said the proximity of the workplace to public transport was “very important.” Interestingly, younger workers are placing more importance on convenience and proximity than ever before. Looks like we’ll need a transport or virtual reality revolution before we see location step down from the throne.

Smart Safety, Security & Energy

Smart buildings, in different shapes and forms, were a must for respondents of all age groups and both genders. The most important smart building system, according to the survey, is security and access control with 62% of respondents ranking it as the highest priority. Building energy management came in second with 50%, proving that environmental responsibility is a major concern when people come to choosing an employer. Smart parking made up the top three with 47%, showing that it’s not all about proximity to public transport.

Demographics divided respondents for several questions. Women preferred hands-free automated toilet systems for better hygiene, for example, while men placed a higher priority on electric vehicle charging stations. Younger respondents are twice as likely as their older colleagues to demand customer service mobile apps at the office, confirming generational technology assumptions. Concerns over the environmental sustainability at the workplace were also seen, with a high preference for recycling and water management systems, across age and gender lines.

Productivity and Workplace Satisfaction

Questions about productivity and satisfaction were dominated by answers about health and wellness. 64% of respondents ranked “good indoor air quality” as the most important factor for productivity, as if they knew that poor oxygen levels directly impact alertness. Access to natural light and views ranked second with 45%, followed by the presence of plants and green spaces with 40%, and access to fitness and relaxation facilities on site with 39%. Health and wellness are clearly becoming important to employees and society as a whole.

“By understanding the evolving expectations of office workers, the growing awareness of convenience and quality of life, executives can improve their ability to attract and retain talent by creating a work space that integrates wellness, smart technology and natural spaces,” says Viraj Juntani, executive director of Consumer Insights, Nielsen Thailand. “The uncovering of important measures in modern Bangkok office (features, location, and facilities) and the ability to leverage the understanding of those measures is one of the keys towards increasing employee satisfaction.”

The Kings of Convenience

Looking at the results overall, the trait that employees want most from their buildings is convenience. That means a location that’s easy to get to, services onsite or nearby, and access to healthy lifestyle elements, such as food and fitness facilities. People care about work and health, and while they seem to accept that their office building may be far from their home, they demand that the other services they need be located at or near their workplace.

The presence of a food court, convenience store, a gym or after work dining options on site were chosen as the top 4 value-adding services of a workplace. Asked if the availability of healthy food at their office would help them eat more mindfully, a significant 92% either definitely or strongly agree. Office workers also strongly agree that fitness facilities in their office building and being nearby a public park, 93% said it would encourage them to exercise more frequently. Employers now know that healthy workers mean more productivity, so we may see many of these features increasing in the coming years.

The goal of commercial building owners and managers is to attract the best enterprise tenants and keep them. The goal of those enterprises is to maximize profitability, which requires them to hire the best talent, retain them, and make them productive. So the demands of the humble employee will shape the strategy for our buildings of the future, and it sounds like they are going to be healthy, green, and easy to get to.