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News release

CHICAGO

Survey Reveals Open Workspace Environments Gain Favor as Companies See Improved Employee Engagement and Reductions in Ethics Violations

Sixty-four percent of companies utilizing open work plans had no visible ethical violations, according to new Ethisphere/Jones Lang LaSalle survey


CHICAGO, IL Aug. 16, 2011 — Companies that employ open office layouts and work-from-home strategies are achieving not only increases in space utilization, employee engagement, and retention, but decreases in employee misconduct, according to a new Survey on the Influence of Workplace Design & Practices on the Ethical Environment jointly conducted by Ethisphere Institute and Jones Lang LaSalle.

The survey results reveal open workplace strategies are increasingly gaining favor among corporations seeking to simultaneously improve corporate culture, morale, and productivity while reducing the costs and environmental impacts associated with an oversized real estate footprint.
Ethisphere Institute, a leading international think-tank dedicated to the advancement of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability, and Jones Lang LaSalle, a leading global commercial real estate services firm, surveyed more than 200 organizations across a variety of industries to gauge the impact different workplace strategies have on various factors, including corporate culture, employee misconduct, and productivity.

“In today’s rapidly changing business climate with its diverse workforce, constantly evolving technological innovations, and intense competition, corporations need to think strategically about the type of environment that best supports its employees and allows them to do their best work in a way that maintains the integrity and ethical culture of the organization,” said Alex Brigham, Executive Director at Ethisphere Institute.

Responses came from corporate executives representing a diverse pool of organizations with regard to industry, workforce size and annual revenues. Though most were Americas-based (90 percent), some were headquartered in other regions, including APAC (2 percent) and EMEA (8 percent). Key findings of the survey include:
  • The vast majority of those surveyed (81 percent) believe that open office plans, which cause staff to be more visible to one another, generally promote improved ethical behavior when compared to having individual offices.
  • The statistics indicate that implementing open workspace environments appears to be making an impact, as the majority of respondents (64 percent) have not had any visible ethical violations within the past two years.
  • Sixty-eight percent of responding companies allow their employees to work from home on a regular basis. Of those, 89 percent reported having no ethics violations during the past two years among their work-from-home employees.

Open Workspace Environments Gain Favor Among Companies

Open workspace environments are quickly becoming the new norm as the majority of companies surveyed (60 percent) maintain a workspace comprised mainly of open offices, rather than a closed office environment. Of these, 79 percent provide open office space for nearly four out of every five of their employees. Even more compelling statistics can be found among survey respondents in the technology sector, who all reported primarily using open workspace environments.

“The move towards a more collaborative office design featuring open workspaces, team rooms, and common areas has gained even more traction within the last few years as companies look to reduce costs through increased space utilization without compromising productivity,” said Patricia Roberts, Executive Vice President, Strategic Consulting at Jones Lang LaSalle. “In fact, the survey found that more than one-third of companies transitioned from closed offices to open plans just within the last five years.”

“We live in an open office environment in order to maintain open communications and shared learning among our staff,” said one respondent representing a professional services firm. “Culturally, our company would die as a business if we had a closed office environment.”

Open Workspaces Reduce Employee Misconduct
The survey also revealed that open workspaces may reduce employee misconduct violations. Sixty-four percent of companies that utilize open workspaces have not had any visible ethics violations within the past two years. Most cite that the “see and be seen” quality of open plans increase the likelihood that policies and procedures are followed.
Eighty-one percent of the survey respondents said they believe that open office plans, which allow staff to be more visible to one another, generally promote improved behaviors when compared to space plans with individual offices. A reduction in offensive language, increased politeness, sensitivity and consideration, a more open exchange of information, and enhanced transparency were all cited as benefits of open workspaces.

“The experience in our own firm has been that open workspaces promote an ethical and collaborative culture where transparency is of the utmost importance, and we believe we have reduced the costs to our organization from ethical lapses and litigation as a result,” said Mark Ohringer, Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel at Jones Lang LaSalle.  “Senior management can greatly improve staff morale and eliminate the detrimental ‘us versus them’ attitude if they also sit in the open environment, which becomes a constant and visible reminder that everyone’s collective responsibility is to the shareholders and the greater good of the entire organization,” Ohringer added.

Work-from-home Strategies Can Potentially Reduce Ethics Violations
The majority of companies surveyed (68 percent) allow their employees to work from home on a regular basis. When asked whether employees who work from home regularly had committed an ethics violation during the past two years, 89 percent of respondents said ‘no’.

“Work from home strategies can remove the temptation of misconduct given the employee is generally more removed from common misconduct opportunities,” said Roberts. “Employees also tend to appreciate the freedom a flexible workplace provides and seem less apt to risk losing the option to work from home, even on occasion.”

Interestingly, the survey revealed that the larger the organization, the more likely it is to allow employees to work from home on a regular basis with 92 percent of companies with more than 50,000 employees having remote work options versus 59 percent of companies with fewer than 1,000 employees.
 

Creating a Successful Open Work Environment
When implementing an open work environment, respondents confirmed, it is essential to tread carefully. One executive surveyed mentioned that creating such a layout without first fostering a corporate culture based on transparency and trust may give the impression that management is keeping an eye on the activities of its workforce. A company needs to conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine the best open workplace strategy for its long-term growth and create a robust internal campaign to gain leadership and employee buy-in.

To view the report in its entirety, click here.

To hear Jones Lang LaSalle’s Patricia Roberts’ insights into the correlation between open office environments and company ethics, click here.  To hear Jones Lang LaSalle’s Mark Ohringer discuss how true bottom line benefit comes from creating an ethical culture, click here.

About Ethisphere
The research-based Ethisphere Institute is a leading international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability. Ethisphere Magazine, which publishes the globally recognized World’s Most Ethical Companies Ranking™, is the quarterly publication of the Institute. Ethisphere provides the only third-party verifications of compliance programs and ethical cultures that include: Ethics Inside Certification, Compliance Leader Verification and Anti-Corruption Program Verification. The Institute’s premier membership group, the Business Ethics Leadership Alliance, is a business ethics forum that includes more than 100 leading corporations, universities and institutions who collectively leverage their experience, expertise and innovative ways to address emerging compliance challenges. More information on the Ethisphere Institute, including ranking projects and membership, can be found at http://www.ethisphere.com.
 
About Jones Lang LaSalle
Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL) is a financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate. The firm offers integrated services delivered by expert teams worldwide to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying or investing in real estate. With 2010 global revenue of more than $2.9 billion, Jones Lang LaSalle serves clients in 60 countries from more than 1,000 locations worldwide, including 185 corporate offices.  The firm is an industry leader in property and corporate facility management services, with a portfolio of approximately 1.8 billion square feet worldwide. LaSalle Investment Management, the company’s investment management business, is one of the world’s largest and most diverse in real estate with more than $43 billion of assets under management. For further information, please visit our website, www.joneslanglasalle.com.