By Tamara Sheehan
Director of Business Management
SpaceIQ

Part of having good company culture is listening to employees. Giving them a voice means understanding their needs and wants, as well as what’s preventing them from being their most productive. Lending an ear and taking action to common employee complaints results in a win-win situation: Employees feel validated and employers reap the benefits of a happy workforce.

When listening to employee complaints, subtext matters just as much as what they’re actually saying. Look beyond the complaint itself and explore what’s causing it. Common employee complaints about the workplace are a symptom of bigger problems. Understanding those  problems and addressing them quickly will not only quell complaints, but fundamentally improve your workplace.

Take a look at a few of the most common employee complaints about the workplace and what they’re actually telling you about your office:

1. I don’t have enough personal workspace.

Not having the space to do their work is one of the top employee gripes. If they don’t have a space to settle in and put their nose to the grindstone, many workers won’t come close to matching their full  productivity potential. Instead, distractions and discomfort will zap their motivation and concentration. Employees need room.

This complaint may be the result of dysfunctional workplace design. Not giving employees enough space between desks or trying to cram too many people into too small of a space will create instant friction. Likewise, forcing shared workspaces in an environment structured around personal work contributions is a recipe for disaster. When practical, give employees the space to be their best.

2. There’s too much overlap in shared workspaces.

Space overlap is a huge problem for companies with shared facilities. Trying to use a conference room that’s already occupied disrupts work for both parties. Likewise, having to travel around the office to find an open desk wastes precious time. Having shared workspaces is a great way to utilize real estate, but needs proper oversight to prevent overlap and disagreements.

The solution is space management software or, at the very least, a communication platform that coordinates room bookings. Knowing if a space is occupied will save time and confusion. And the ability to book space ahead of time is great for productivity. Communication alleviates confusion.

3. I can’t concentrate because it’s too noisy or distracting.

Open offices are the culprit here. While an open office design is lauded for its ability to make the most of the space and bring teams together, the downside is the many distractions created by this design. Headphones only go so far to alleviate noise. And open workplaces allow instant access to anyone in sight. Interruptions create friction.

Privacy areas, such as phone booths, are a great solution. Quiet workspaces, private meeting rooms, and discrete hot desks are all great options for those days when total focus is required and interruptions can’t be tolerated. The open office concept can work, but employers need to help employees cope with excessive noise, distractions, and unfettered accessibility.

4. There’s no place for me to talk or work in private.

Another qualm of the open office concept is not having private spaces. Many employees don’t feel comfortable taking a personal call from at their desk or reading an email from a family member. Similarly, they may be having a bad day and need to get away while they work.

The easiest solution is creating private offices that can be booked by anyone. Also viable is introducing remote work options or flexible work hours. This takes some doing, but can be particularly useful in the long run.

5. It takes too long to fix things.

This complaint has nothing to do with space and everything to do with how it’s managed. Nothing will raise the voices of your workforce faster than a burnt-out lightbulb that stays dark for weeks or a lack of paper towels in the bathroom that persists for days. Employees expect the facilities around them to be hospitable and accommodating—and rightfully so.

One solution is an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) or a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Both platforms help facilitate better responsiveness to facility needs. Employees will know who to report issues to and once they do, the software creates an accountability string to ensure problems are fixed.

6. The office is boring and it really sucks away my productivity!

Sometimes even the most subjective complaints yield insight into how to improve your facilities. Case in point, complaints about a drab office may seem inane, but may actually help address productivity issues. If employees are getting brain drain from their surroundings, you need to make changes that stimulate their creativity, comfort, engagement, and productivity.

There’s an infinite number of possibilities for resolving this complaint (read addressing employee complaints). Ask employees specifically what about your workplace lulls them into lethargy and then make basic design changes and workplace improvements.

There are always going to be employee complaints because everyone wants something different out of their workplace experience. The key is honing in on common complaints and digging deeper into them to figure out how to better accommodate employees.

Keep reading: Checklist: Accommodating a Multigenerational Workforce