Workplace Planning and Psychology

Workplace Planning and Psychology

By: Catie Sterling

While beginning to work on some major office area renovations, my team has to discuss several different factors based on our client, such as the existing space they’re working in, their wants vs. needs, technology, collaboration styles, etc.  Floor Plans & Freud: The Psychology of Workplace Planning, an article from Interiors & Sources’ Continuing Education Series, dives into the deeper issues of workplace design and how to deliver the best solution for your client. The article addresses most of the questions we have raised, and how to go about solving the most relevant issues. Below, I’ve compiled a summary of 5 of the major points from the article:

  1. The workplace has evolved – We have to think about technology in the way that it has evolved and keeps evolving. We have to think about worker mobility. Lots of companies have a hard time answering if work mobility is right for them and if so, how much of it? We also have to think about who is working. We have a more diverse workforce than ever before in terms of age, gender, background, and personality.
  2. Sometimes the “problem” isn’t the problem – Businesses are made up of humans, and as humans we often don’t realize there is a difference between what we want and what we need, especially in the workplace. Sometimes the real issues are very different from the ones being addressed. It’s important to understand the client’s larger business goals and whether something is going on that is either unspoken or not fully understood.
  3. Quantitative vs. Qualitative – from the start of workplace planning we typically have to determine square footage, number of workers vs. number of workstations, conference rooms, and enclaves (the quantitative factors). While this is essential to workplace planning, the article suggests we consider qualitative factors as well. Fully understanding the qualitative issues is a bit more involved and requires a multi-method approach, like conducting interviews, surveys, and questionnaires.
  4. Designing for collaboration – collaboration is a broad term describing many different ways that people work together. So, deciding how many and what size of collaborative spaces are needed requires a clear understanding of how your client actually works.
  5. Understanding work patterns – There are four fundamental work patterns: “Focusing” – individual, concentrated, and uninterrupted work. “Collaborating” – anything from face-to-face to virtual, formal or informal, and can take place in spaces established just for this purpose. “Socializing”— casual, informal interaction. “Learning” – usually more formal interaction that involves one person sharing information with a group, such as presentations or training. Knowing which work pattern the client typically works in will greatly impact your design solution.

Taking all these points into consideration gives us a much clearer understanding of how to develop the best solution for our client. As interior designers, we sometimes have to play psychologist. Or at least try to. 🙂

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