Asking the right questions is the key to tackling any type of space related challenge. Space challenges, of the workplace kind, can come in many forms; too little space to accommodate headcount, end of lease cycles resulting in a move, or changing workstyles due to changing business processes. As design strategists, the process we use to find the right solutions can encompass a variety of activities including interviews, workshops, utilisation studies and surveys. The most valuable feedback we receive through all of these formats is end user feedback. We encourage the organisations we work with to open up engagement on the topic of workplace design to a wide audience wherever possible. The benefits are two-fold; ensuring we capture insights into requirements and desires from those within an organisation who may not typically be given a voice in strategic decisions, and creating buy-in from a larger population for any future changes.
Real time, in the moment data capture is an important aspect of this end user engagement. Utilising a simple AEIOU framework, participants at our workshop at the CassInnovate Conference were taken through an exercise to set up a short ‘in the moment’ digital survey to address the question ‘How does the physical environment influence your behaviour?’ Provided with question prompts under each AEIOU category and flash cards outlining different question formats, each group structured their own survey to address the research question, with guidance from our London StratDisco team Hannah Beveridge and Jordan Jones.
Framing the context is important, and groups realised quickly that considering the context for their survey was vital to ensure it was targeted. Whether your study is looking to review your own workplace environment, general feelings and response to spaces of a particular category, or in this case, the influence of the Cass University on the behaviours and emotions of conference participants, understanding the context will help guide decisions about which questions should be asked.
The AEIOU framework is useful for discussions of environment and behaviour. Breaking our thinking into Activities, Environment, Interaction, Objects and Users allows us to address many aspects of the way space and behaviour interact.
Activities – What are people doing?
Environment – Where are they?
Interactions – How are people interacting with each other or the environment?
Objects – What objects/tools are being use and how?
Users – Who are the users and what are their relationships?
Under each of these categories there are many questions which could be asked. The suitability of specific questions will depend on what research question you are trying to ask and what the context of the study is.
Most popular questions
From the selection provided, the most popular question by far was ‘Why are you here?’ Perhaps an existential question, however a useful one under the ‘User’ category to understand what users are in the space to do. This can then lead on to an assessment of whether the space is fit for purpose for the intended activities and inhabitants.
Also popular was ‘What can you see / smell / hear?’ Asking respondents to consider the full sensory experience of an environment can give a more rounded set of insights.
Workshop participants were also keen on modifying and combining question types to invent new formats utilising a range of media. Emoji’s, videos and searching the web for images were all popular formats to make an ‘in the moment’ capture more engaging for respondents.
Workshop participants are now equipped with a simple framework, and knowledge of some digital platforms, to help them capture end user feedback to help solve their own space challenges. If you’d like more information about this workshop, or the platforms we use and how we work, we’d love to hear from you.