Workplace design for today’s “knowledge worker”:

Workplace design for today’s “knowledge worker”:

By: Jill Mendoza We all know when the design industry claims the design of the workplace impacts performance, employee engagement and innovation the underlining intent of this message can be received with suspicion due to the pretext of self-promotion. And, rightly so, for there is an overabundance of literature and survey’s, mainly from the industry, on this subject.  As a consumer of the products and services we offer, how does one discern the claims we make? Take for example a recent survey published by Gensler, an international leader in our Industry.  I personally found the survey very informative, but in a quick glance of this document you won’t necessary get the most important message.  In summary, the survey identifies three key findings regarding the design of the workplace and its impact on an increasing number of knowledge workers as follows. 1.) U.S. Workers struggle to work effectively; 2.) Effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration; 3.) Choice drives performance and innovation; Gensler’s 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey  is a 22 page document that is packed full of data which examines the design factors that create an effective workplace. Their research directly compares today’s workplace with the workplace of 2008 and shows that workplace effectiveness has fallen in aggregate. The only caveat regarding the information presented is that it only represents responses from 2,035 randomly sampled knowledge workers nationwide. This sampling seems small when you consider the description of the “knowledge worker” in this McKinsey & Company publication as, “Physical labor and transactional tasks have been widely automated over the last three decades. Now advances in data analytics, low-cost computer power, machine learning, and interfaces that “understand” humans are moving the automation frontier rapidly toward the world’s more than 200 million knowledge workers” Additionally, the survey by CoreNet Global, published in 2012 notes;  “the office space per worker will drop to 100 square feet or below for many companies within five years. The average for all companies for square feet per worker in 2017 will be 151 square feet, compared to approximately 176 square feet today and 225 square feet in 2010.” “The main reason for the declines,” said Richard Kadzis, CoreNet Global’s Vice President of Strategic Communications, “is the huge increase in collaborative and team-oriented space inside a growing number of companies that are stressing ‘smaller but smarter’ workplaces against the backdrop of continuing economic uncertainty and cost containment.” The important message I received from these surveys and publications; the value of enabling employees to perform their jobs effectively begins with supporting the individual, focused work that represents the core of their day does not end there.  In addition to prioritizing focus work, we know that providing for collaboration and choice will also become important building blocks on which companies can design solutions that represent their own work processes, culture and needs. To surmise, the industry trend of planning for an increased number knowledge workers in a decreased amount of space will continue, and it is not necessarily an industry promotional message, but perhaps job security.  

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