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Coordinate 2015: Dissolution of the Traditional Workplace Part II

You Deserve a Break Today. Not.

Part Two of The Coordinate 2015: Dissolution of the Traditional Workplace, based on research from the Center for Workplace Innovation at Mancini Duffy

by Fran Ferrone and Priyanka Agrawala

When asked how long McDonald’s slogan, “You deserve a break today” would last, Keith Reinhard, the slogan’s creator, said, “You should stop running this campaign when people no longer deserve a break.” Forty-three years later, and it has come to pass. McDonald’s abandoned the campaign in 2013.

In a continuation of our hypothesis of the dissolution of the traditional workplace, people may deserve a break but are just not getting one. Our Coordinate 2015 findings show that while  Baby Boomers  just consider it part of the job, Generations X and Y are not so satisfied with the status quo. When asked about the importance of being able to manage one’s own time at work, Generation X and Y respondents showed considerable dissatisfaction with the demands that work placed upon them, citing inability to take breaks during the workday, a desire for a bit of downtime between projects, and the freedom to choose which days to work. (See Figure 1.)

For most of these respondents, it appears that the expectation from employers is still pretty much not only 9 to 5 but 24/7.  But if companies were to take this under consideration along with findings cited in Part One of this study—that much of the work performed during the day is work that could be done anywhere and anytime—a lot of expensive real estate could be shed or in some part, redeployed to create spaces to which people really want to come.

For Gen X and Y, Poor Performance on Desired Flexible Time

Figure 1

What’s more disturbing (but not surprising) is that employees are not entirely getting the actual breaks from the workplace to which they are entitled. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for career website Glassdoor found that of the 2,300 American workers surveyed, only 51% of the paid vacation time and paid time off for which the workers were eligible was used. Our Coordinate 2015 findings take that even further, indicating that when people do take a break, more than half the workforce holds tight to their smartphones, checking and responding to email and taking phone calls, all or most of the time they are away. (1) (See Figure 2)

What We’re Doing on Vacation

Figure 2

What about incorporating more sources of inspiration and relaxation into our office landscape?

With little or no ability to disconnect from work while on vacation, sick, or even during lunch, we need to start thinking about incorporating more non-work-related sources of inspiration and relaxation into our office landscape. Ironically, when employees were asked from what sources they derive inspiration for work, our Coordinate respondents largely cited work-related characteristics such as access to colleagues and clients, and challenging work. However, many of the sources of inspiration cited are elements that could indeed be incorporated into the design of a highly engaging (and engaged) workplace. Here are a few examples:

Personal Recognition

Coordinate respondents placed this high on the list of inspirational sources. We’ve seen great examples of this – both high and low tech – as easy way to promote not only individual employees but your brand.

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Views & Nature

Like the old saying “A change is a rest,” access to views and nature are elements that divert without distracting – a great way to restore focus and foster creativity.

Art & Color

The same things that make art and color matters of individual taste can make them unifying factors. Not only can they be conversation starters, but elements that say something about your team, your company, your culture.

Outdoor Space

Rare in many office settings, but – with most people already working on vacation – who says business has to stay in the office? Change it up a little and take a walking meeting or a conference in a park.

Gaming Areas

Not everyone can afford the cost (or space) of video rooms and rock-climbing walls but incorporating more modest versions of gaming into the workplace is a great way to build relationships that lead to effective collaboration and teamwork.

Meditation Spaces

Quiet Rooms 2.0 – not just for introverts, but for anyone needing space to put their feet up and regenerate with impunity. According to a 2009 Ohio State University study “meditation in the workplace can lower a company’s health-care costs by reducing chronic stress, a major risk factor for illness.” (2)

Exercise Areas

Insurance giant, Aon, says employers can expect a $3 to $6 return for every $1 spent on wellness programs. At the same time, “time to exercise” ranked highest importance/lowest performing by Coordinate respondents asked about work claiming time for personal priorities.

Lounges & Libraries

“The people that I liked and had not met went to the big cafes …and no one noticed them and they could be alone in them and be together.” (Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast.) Spaces like these are the perfect convergence of stimulation and contemplation.

It’s Not a Case of Either/Or, but Both/And

In Part One of this study, we highlighted that for most respondents, 76% of work performed on a typical day is work that could be performed anywhere. That means if we want workers to come to the office, we must imagine new ways of providing time to work and a place to work. People want flexibility and choice. It’s no longer a case of either/or but both/and.  If we don’t solve this, real estate costs won’t matter. We can build it, but they will not come.

Finally, when asked about workplace priorities, The Coordinate respondents cited two seemingly disparate yet essential characteristics— “stimulating atmosphere” and “ability to concentrate”—as the two biggest gaps in workplace performance. What’s appealing about the aforementioned spaces is that in their ability to nurture and invigorate employees and at the same time, offer employees choice, they provide real estate a bit of wiggle room, and thereby address both priorities. As densification of the office continues—and it will (CoreNet Global reports that the average square footage allocated per employee has dropped from 225 to 176 in just five years)—push has come to shove.  In the past, this has mostly meant that something has to give. But going forward, why couldn’t we look at “stimulating atmosphere” and “ability to concentrate” like Yin and Yang; essential to each other and at the same time constantly transforming.


(1)  Quentin Fottrell, “Americans only take half of their paid vacation.” MarketWatch, October 31, 2014. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-only-take-half-of-their-paid-vacation-2014-04-03 (The percentage of employees who work on vacation is even higher when some or any work performed is taken into account vs. The Coordinate’s accounting of “all or most of the time.”)

(2) Scott Thompson, “The Advantages of a Meditative Space in the Workplace.” Chron, 2015. http://work.chron.com/advantages-meditative-space-workplace-1085.html

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Fran Ferrone

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Fran Ferrone, Director, Center for Workplace Innovation, Mancini Duffy, leads the research and workplace strategy practices, and writes a monthly column for the National Real Estate Investor on a variety of timely workplace topics.

Phone: 215-208-6790
Email: fferrone@manciniduffy.com               Mancini Duffy

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Priyanka Agrawala

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Priyanka Agrawala, PMP, LEED AP, Associate, Workplace Strategist, Center for Workplace Innovation, Mancini Duffy, balances visioning with micro planning, detailed modeling and data computation to help clients make well-informed decisions.

Phone: 646-495-7217
Email: pagrawala@manciniduffy.com               Mancini Duffy

Mancini Duffy, a 100-year-old architecture and interiors firm based in New York City, provides planning, design and strategy services to clients across multiple industries and geographies. The firm’s Center for Workplace Innovation (CWI) conducts research through its Coordinate Survey on a wide range of workplace related topics to support the design process and help companies make well-informed decisions. Part One of The Coordinate: The Dissolution of the Traditional Workplace, was published by The McMorrow Reports in February 2015.