Measuring the effectiveness of a workplace environment is the holy-grail for workplace designers. With the increase of debate and discussion around productivity levels in countries like the UK, the impact of a workplace environment on an organisation’s productivity is an important consideration for businesses contemplating a change to their workplace. Having contributed to the Stoddart Review published this week, it seems timely to share some thoughts on how to measure the impact of a workplace on productivity and what it all means. If you are considering, or in the process of reviewing and rethinking your workplace, here are our top 5 tips for assessing the impact of your space on the productivity of your people.
1. Understand how you define productivity.
Productivity does not equal productivity. Productivity is the measure of output per unit of input, however, the way one organisation measures and defines these inputs and outputs will be different from another. Some organisations focus on quality, others on quantity, and the balance between the importance of these will vary for all organisations. It is important to understand how each business or even department measures these outputs relative to the nature of the work being done. For example; a call centre may take a view based on number of calls taken and wait times for customers. For a technology company they may measure productivity based on the number of new ideas nurtured and released to market in a given timeframe. Each of these scenarios involve different measurements around profit, time, output quality and quantity which can be assessed and reviewed.
2. Look at both the tangible and intangible.
The design of the physical workplace is just one facet of an organisation which influences the output of its people. Many of the ways a workplace environment can influence productivity are indirect. As well as looking at the tangible aspects of quantity or metric driven assessments, we also need to look at the indirect, or more intangible ways an environment may impact its occupants. For example; if changes to an environment allow for greater heads down quiet work by an individual who requires those conditions to produce their work, this may lead to better quality or greater quantity of work being produced within a given time. Or if an environment allows for increased communication between departments, this may lead to better quality or more developed ideas or products being produced.
3. Consider what else is happening in your business.
The impact of a workplace on an organisation is multi-faceted, and designing a new workplace is often tied into other organisational changes which will also have an impact on staff. Companies consider a change to their physical environment based on many factors – real estate pressures, end of lease cycles, increased or decrease staff numbers, changes to business strategies such as diversification, mergers and acquisitions. Often, these decisions are also happening alongside personnel changes; organisational restructuring or changes in leadership. All of these factors contribute to the organisational culture and operations, and will all impact productivity. Being aware of the other changes happening in a business will lead to a better assessment of the role of workplace.
4. Use different metrics and measurements.
Both quantitative and qualitative measurements are important. Quantitative metrics can give us objective factual data, but a qualitative review can provide the detail to help us interpret it. For example, we may see an increase of 30% in volume of output by a team in a new environment, or in utilisation of a particular space, but metrics alone will not tell us whether this is as a result of the physical space, the occupants nearby, a change to technology provisions, or a myriad of other possible reasons and influences.
5. Complete both a pre and post-occupancy review.
A before and after snapshot is the best way to assess the impact of change. Surveys for example, are a great way to canvas opinion from staff and to increase staff engagement around a change to the physical environment. They will give a measure of the self-reported perception of levels of productivity from staff. If done pre and post-occupancy it will also give you a measure of how these perceptions have changed through the course of changing a workplace environment. These can be combined with many other sources of data increasingly available from within a workplace environment.
If these pre and post occupancy snapshots are combined with an understanding of the other changes happening in the business, a clear idea of how productivity is defined and measured, and we look at both the intangible and tangible aspects of the impact of a workplace through the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data, we will get a clear picture of how a space has impacted the productive output of it’s occupants.
Hannah Beveridge, Senior Associate, Senior Design Strategist, HLW London
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