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Arctic air con and slow lifts top office workers’ biggest complaints

Slow elevator speeds and freezing conditions are among the major complaints of office workers in the region.

A joint study commissioned by the Middle East Council for Offices and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on office environments and produc­tivity, found that 67 per cent of respondents complained there is at least one factor in their workplace making them less productive, and three-quarters argued they would work better if there was more workplace flexibility.

Some 38 per cent of those surveyed complained about the amount of time they spend waiting for a lift and 37 per cent said the lack of environmental control (the temperature of air conditioning, solar glare or a lack of natural light) also affected their ability to work. More than 50 per cent complained they were seriously affected by interruptions and 40 per cent complained about noise.

The survey had more than 660 respondents from 10 countries, but just over half (53 per cent) were from the UAE.

Chris Seymour, the co-chairman of the Middle East Council for Offices and a director of the building consultancy Mott McDonald, said that one of the main complaints was that the standard of office buildings “still lags Europe and other parts of the western world".

He added, “We have to remember that we are still in quite a young country and a young region, so maybe we should not be surprised, but it is clear there are shortcomings."

The complaint about elevators is unique to the region, Mr Seymour said, and is partly the result of the fact that in Dubai, at least, many office buildings started life as residential projects and were converted after the global financial crisis.

Therefore, they have neither the capacity nor the speed to deliver large groups of people quickly enough at peak periods. “Staff not only waste time waiting for lifts – up to 10-15 minutes – then they arrive very frustrated. When they want to go for a break or for lunch they waste more time and get more frustrated."

The region has more single-person office spaces than other parts of the world, but also a very high proportion (87 per cent) of open-plan space. However, this is not being used effectively. Hot-desking remains rare, with more than 90 per cent of staff sitting at the same workstation every day.

“The preconception was that if you change from cellular to open plan, it was thought the optimum solution. But all you’ve done is save costs because you’ve pushed more people into less space. It isn’t efficient in terms of productivity. People are distracted by noise, by movement of co-workers and fundamentally it does not suit the introvert," said Mr Seymour.

Generation Y workers (those born after 1980), expressed a preference for activity-based workspaces, with separate areas assigned for quiet working, collaborative tasks, training and socialising. Mr Seymour said that this type of space has proven to be more efficient for workers of all ages.

Earlier this week, a study by Core UAE, an associate of Savills, on the environment for start-ups in Dubai, found that real estate costs “dominate the fund allocation pie for any growing company".

It also ­cited leases as an issue that can potentially restrict growth. Although lease terms are shorter than global norms, at just 12 months they offer scant protection against spiralling rents.

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