Workspaces that Move People

imageRecently published in the October issue of Harvard Business Review, the story, “Workspaces That Move People,“ promotes the strategic design of workplaces in order to “produce specific performance outcome[s].” The article’s authors suggest that companies analyzing performance metrics can understand how a “space’s design helps or hurts [employee] performance,” thereby gaining the following insights:

  1. Where and how you work define who you work with
  2. Who you work with drives group performance to a large extent
  3. Workspace performance metrics can now be mapped with organizational ones

With this knowledge in hand, companies are closer than ever to designing (and then continually redesigning) workspaces that actually help employees do their jobs, rather than struggle to do them. In order to gather the information needed to drive these designs and redesigns, the authors advocate for the deployment of sensors — in phones, in offices, or even worn around the neck — that collect the necessary breadth and depth of office data. With this data, employers and designers could begin understanding who should be working with whom, where, and why — a discovery that could hasten the end of the office as we know it.

By comparing the real-time data described above with such organizational metrics as "total sales or number of new product launches,” the authors argue that it is possible to “demonstrate a workspace’s effect on the bottom line.” With this connection established, companies could “engineer” their workspaces to improve overall performance.  

Though knowledge work has been confined to the office for almost a century, the article suggests that the emerging data may lead to the dispersion of organizations across cities – as with Zappos and the experimental “Downtown Project” in Las Vegas. The article also cites the “digital workspace” as a major consideration for design, given that technology hosts an ever-growing amount of knowledge work and idea-sharing.

The future of the workplace is a fluid as it is unknown. We look forward to moving with it in the directions suggested by the growing pool of performance metrics.