While data drives how many businesses operate these days, one area you probably wouldn’t think about it being applied to is office workplace design.
Perkins+Will‘s Toronto office corporate interiors leader Janine Grossmann has thought about it, and it’s becoming a bigger part of her job at the 83-year-old architecture firm which employs more than 2,000 in 24 offices around the world.
“There is no silver bullet for every company, and not all companies should proceed like lemmings to the latest trend or idea,” said Grossmann, the recipient of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Urban Design Award and three Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario awards.
“Design should be driven by data, not trends. A one-size-fits-all approach to design shouldn’t override the business.
“To help future-proof workplace design decisions for our clients, our corporate interiors and workplace strategy team has developed Indicator, a benchmarking analytics tool that captures a wide scope of information related to corporate culture, technology tools, health and well-being of employees. With this information, we identify an organization’s unique issues and create a customized design response to address them.
“Not only does this data-driven approach deliver the best design outcome, it equips Perkins+Will, as designers, with the hard proof to back up the dollars spent on design. We can clearly demonstrate the return on investment of design to the client with measurable results.”
How Perkins+Will measures, uses data
Perkins+Will previously based its designs on such things as program information and client stakeholder interviews, which Grossman said would often contain biases and be limited in scope.
The company now uses multiple evaluation methods, including pre- and post-occupancy employee surveys, in-situ analysis, interviews, visioning sessions, and all-staff workshops to provide thousands of data points from which to further analyze and measure.
Perkins+Will has also invested heavily in technology platforms and applications to provide its workplace strategy team with the tools it needs to innovate, create and best serve its clients.
This new data-driven process can provide information that shows such things as: how spaces are being used and how often they’re used; how utilization rates will impact the size of real estate over time; and how different teams are using their work stations and surroundings differently than intended.
American studios transformed
Perkins+Will transformed its New York City, Minneapolis, Chicago and Seattle studios last year using this approach.
It partnered with Leesman on a confidential, standardized workplace effectiveness survey which measured how offices supported their employees and compared results to a database of more than 200,000 global respondents from a range of different industries.
Each studio used Leesman to obtain data about employee satisfaction pre- and post-occupancy.
“This was invaluable, as each office worked to improve their pre-occupancy scores by implementing change through the design of the new workplaces,” said Grossmann. “As a result of this process, not only did satisfaction levels increase post-occupancy, but we found that, through design, employee performance, productivity and overall business successes increased.
“Each office also ended up looking completely different from one another, as this process produced design outcomes that were tailored to the specific needs of each studio.”
While the square footage per person in the Chicago and Minneapolis studios decreased by 17 per cent, the number of unassigned seats within a range of settings increased. Operating costs also dropped by 11 per cent from the previous year. The Minneapolis studio saved $100,000 by reusing 65 per cent of the furniture from its old office, including filing cabinets, desks and chairs.
“Companies don’t just want a beautiful boardroom to impress clients,” said Grossmann. “They are looking for interiors that deliver a transformation to their business performance, improved productivity, increased employee satisfaction and, ultimately, a healthier and happier workplace.”
Applying the concept in Toronto
With Perkins+Will’s Toronto studio’s lease expiring this year, another opportunity to practise what it preaches was presented.
“To begin the process, our workplace strategy team began surveying employees to ascertain not only where we should move, but how our new space should represent us culturally, should empower and engage our employees, how it should represent our brand to our clients, and how it should provide new ways for our teams to work more efficiently,” said Grossmann.
These data-gathering exercises showed the studio was unoccupied during peak utilization 40 per cent of the time.
That led to the conclusion that the firm could decrease its real estate footprint without comprising output, which will have a large impact on the bottom line over time. It also resulted in the 72 employees being given the ability to choose from 175 places to work with different levels of technology, privacy and collaboration.