Capital One’s 2018 Work Environment Survey Results 

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Chair Of The Month

Elise Shapiro
Elise Shapiro
Elise Shapiro is a contributing editor. Little did she know that her first job, in the facilities department at Ralston Purina, while obtaining her M. Arch at Washington University, in St. Louis would foreshadow where her career would lead. She has always been a strong advocate for providing the best possible spaces for people to work – where aesthetics meet function and drive business success.

Capital One has committed to taking workplace design to a new level, utilizing data and research to ensure that their employees can thrive in their daily work experience.

Capital One’s new headquarters building in Tysons Virginia. Photo by Richard Bergey

When Capital One’s Workplace Solutions Team released its first survey in 2017, it created quite a stir and was featured across all news platforms focused on workplace design, including Work Design Magazine. As the concept of work and where we work is rapidly evolving, we were interested in seeing how the research from the first survey changed when the second survey was released in July 2018. We reconnected with Capital One’s Workplace Solutions team, the group that is dedicated to building dynamic and scalable workplaces, implementing sustainability initiatives and on-site experiences, including health and wellness benefits.

After reading through the survey, we started off our conversation with the following question:

What does today’s talent need, want, and expect from their work environment? 

Our questions were directed to Vice President, Workplace Solutions at Capital One, Stefanie Spurlin, who was able to give us some great background on how their research is informing their ongoing workplace design decisions.

The 2018 Capital One Workplace Environment Survey asked 3,500 full-time office professionals, 18 and over, to share their thoughts about the impact of workplace design and employee experience on their satisfaction, creativity, and productivity at work.

The responses were comprised of 1,000 nationwide + 2,500 combined designated markets (500 per market) for a total of 3,500 replies.

Do you think widening the market (the combined results) made an overall difference in the information or feedback?

  • Collecting national data in addition to the five key markets we started within the first year of the survey gave us a broader look at the national workforce and helped validate trends we saw in the first year of data. That said, it also helped us realize that a lot of the things people are looking for from employers and their workplaces are universal. There were slight increases in specific year-over-year comparisons which helped us identify critical trends when you consider the added layer of national data. For example:
  • In 2018, 40 percent of respondents said it’s very important that their workspace is flexible, up six percent from 2017
  • 88 percent find flexible workplace design to be important, up three percent from 2017.
In the Capital One’s Plano, Texas facility, there are a variety of workspaces for collaborative work, with a choice of seating and meeting space options. Photo by Pascale Photography

Are there any measurable statistics you can cite concerning recruitment and retention based on the workplace changes you have implemented? If so, what do you think are the primary drivers of those changes?

One of our goals for the overall workplace strategy and approach is to support the recruitment and retention of talent for our company.  The survey highlighted that people are willing to prioritize workplace design over other critical factors like commute time when looking for their next job, so having a data-driven design strategy is an integral part of ensuring we are providing the right balance of elements which allow us to attract and retain that top talent.

  • Two in three employees (66 percent) say that workplace design is as important, or more critical, than workplace location.
  • Executive level employees feel even more strongly. More than 3 in 4 (76 percent) say workplace design is as, or more, important than workplace location, compared to just 63 percent of non-executives.
Pushing the envelope for creative design solutions has been a critical element of Capital One’s workplace strategy – Tysons, VA office, photo by Adam Auel

Can you project a bit deeper into your findings? For example, are there any similarities in what your (let’s say) boomer demographic highlights as the most positive aspects of the workplace to what your millennial or newer Gen Z workers say?

In 2018, one of the exciting themes that we saw when analyzing the data was the connections that people make between flexibility in their workplace and their productivity and creativity.

  • 80 percent of employees say they are more productive when they change locations while working.
  • 83 percent of professionals agree that flexible workplace design leads to better ideas. That number jumped to 87 percent among Millennial respondents.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 employees agree (79 percent) that companies cannot encourage innovation unless their workplace environment is innovative. Among executive level employees, that rises to 87 percent.

While there are some generational differences in preferences for workplace experience, they are generally minor, and the overall trend is that people of all ages care about – and want their employers to care about – workplace design and experience.

  • Most employees (85 percent) think flexible workplace design is very important. Millennials feel even more strongly, with 42 percent saying workplace design is very important (when given the options of very important, somewhat important, or not necessary), compared to just 34 percent of Gen Xers and 32 percent of Boomers.
While the statistics show that there are some generational differences of opinion about workplace design, in general, both employees and employers recognize that workplace design is a critical factor in evaluating employee engagement and satisfaction. Photo of Capital One’s new headquarters in Tysons, VA by Connie Zhou

Can you elaborate on those findings? What are the main commonalities?

The primary tenants of our workplace strategy focusing on flexibility and choice bridge the gap across generations as everyone in the workplace want to be able to choose to work in the type of work setting that best suits their needs or work-style. There are some key design elements that continue to trend and are crucial across the different generations. Natural light continues to pop as the overwhelming favorite when it comes to design elements that respondents want to see in their workplaces. Other features that people rated highly are easily reconfigurable furniture and spaces, artwork and creative imagery, and collaborative spaces.

The Clarendon Lab features abundant natural light in the open, with many easily reconfigurable workplace settings. Photo by Garrett Rowland

What were the most significant differences of opinion among the different generations?  Sometimes I wonder if the generational divides are really what makes the difference. I am a boomer, and I love the more open, flexible spaces. Are things getting so much more homogenized that the generational perspectives don’t matter any longer?

One of the most significant differences across generations is the varying speeds of the change curve to shift from a more traditional office setting to a more flexible environment. At the end of the day though, across our associate population, the workplace and the tools in it have become table stakes and an expectation instead of a nice to have.

Most employees (85 percent) think flexible workplace design is very important. Millennials feel even more strongly, with 42 percent in agreement that workplace design is very important (when given the options of very important, somewhat important, or not necessary), compared to just 34 percent of Gen Xers and 32 percent of Boomers.

Options for taking phone calls or private conversations are vital to providing a flexible workplace – As demonstrated by these phone booths in Capital One’s Plano, Texas facility  Photo by Pascale Photography 

How do you measure increased productivity and collaboration? Are there any specific kinds of spaces that work exceptionally well?

The things that people need to be productive are highly individualized, so the key for us is offering flexibility and choice when it comes to workspaces. By creating the physical space to operate for all work-styles—from large collaborative teams to quiet individual thinking spaces and in between—we promote balance and empower associates to embrace their preferred method of work style, enabling productivity and innovation to create the best products and services for our customers.

Are you designing more for specific kinds of tasks (i.e., maker spaces, heads down, meetings of varying sizes) and what kinds of innovative technology are you using to support those spaces?

Our flexible workplace strategy is reflective across our different office spaces, but we also have incorporated some specialized areas such as maker spaces, and a variety of different types of settings within the different environments to foster flexibility and choice. The intent for all our spaces is for them to be designed to be simple, flexible, and easy-to-use to allow teams to do a blend of straightforward or complicated The concept of our broader workplace strategy was inspired by associates’ need for a collaborative environment that can morph depending on the real-time needs of the teams innovating in the space. We’re moving toward banking that is more real-time, digital-first, and that anticipates customer needs, so we must be able to move fast, build our software, and leverage data and analytics to build better customer experiences. Flexible design allows teams to facilitate the kind of thinking needed to achieve those goals.

We’re continually evaluating the tech needs across our offices and working to implement tech solutions that seamlessly meet our associates’ needs.

Integration of technology features across all workspace is critical to providing functional, flexible workspaces across Capital One’s portfolio – Photo of Capital One’s Claredon Lab by Garrett Rowland

With the emphasis on flexible spaces, what do you think are the most important features when designing those spaces and how do you decide on the mix of space types? Do you measure space utilization to confirm what spaces are performing best?

We believe some of the features that create moments that matter is ensuring we have the right balance between collaborative areas that foster community, areas to encourage natural collision points throughout the day along with individual, more private, focused spaces supporting more concentrated work.

Through understanding utilization through different data collection methods, it helps to inform our workplace strategists how to evolve the strategy to reflect the needs of a diverse workforce.

Places for respite are varied in size and design. This phone room is in Capital One’s new headquarters building in Tysons, VA. Photo by Richard Bergey

I see a lot of variation in the projects shown. Where do you think the design direction may be headed? The survey noted physical features – what does the team think are the most exciting physical features or products that may impact the next iteration of your workplace solutions?

As our workplace strategy continues to evolve, we anticipate seeing wellbeing, wholeness, user experience, and hospitality to continue to grow in importance over time.

Our conclusion from Stefanie’s responses is that Capital One has committed to taking workplace design to a new level, utilizing data and research to ensure that their employees can thrive in their daily work experience. The images show that they are using their well thought-out and designed facilities as a tool to enhance the employee experience which in turn, may yield a happier, more productive employee population. The Work Environment Survey seems to have provided a road map to giving their Workplace Solutions team options to incorporate the design elements that matter most to their employees to achieve their business goal.

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