Corenet 1 Big Day 2015 Event

I shall be joining Claudia Hamm and Maciej Markowski of JLL and Giuseppe Boscherini of Boscherini in a CoreNet debate on 5 March, entitled:

Connect your data dots and create your own case for healthy, happy and productive people.

“Can sustainable design truly foster a better organizational performance? If we look at any potential work environment as a physical, virtual and social ecosystem of human beings, the answer has to be a resounding “YES”. A recent research study by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) in collaboration with experts from across the globe proofs the point: there is a clear and measurable connection between sustainable design and the productivity of their occupants. Whether we look at attraction and retention of talent, health & well-being of employees or engagement levels and sense of cohesion – the organization’s commercial performance benefits when applying sustainable thinking in creating organisational resilience.”


Workplace utilisation – is it relevant? If so, how to visualise it

At present the majority of consultants and real estate managers’ report on office utilisation with a static report containing a series of diagrams and a summary of use showing the overall office utilisation, ideally broken down by building, department, and function.

This is produced as a historical activity to support the case for space reduction and for reviewing the office design and operations (i.e. making the case for changing from cellular to open plan). As ‘new ways of working’ is become ‘ways of working’ this is quickly becoming an out-dated activity.

There is clearly a case for understanding how the office is being used and to what capacity. However, times are changing and only capturing this information does not present the whole picture. As our workforce becomes more nimble, the relevance of these studies is rapidly dwindling.

As the office changes, so should the methodology for understanding how it works

The introduction of smarter working as the industry norm means we need to understand the variety of places employees are working.

It’s far more difficult to measure how informal meeting areas, touchdown space and restaurant areas are being used. Currently it is rare to see information on alternative working areas (the third place office) being captured: meetings in coffee shops, use of alternative offices, working from home, airports, on a train, etc.

Whilst in principle, business understands they need to support (if not actively encourage) staff working in these areas, there is inconsistency in how this information is captured and understood.

There are also many other factors that need to be considered, with the acknowledgement that you can no longer review information in a real estate silo. Many additional considerations need to be reviewed in conjunction with business real estate requirements. For example there’s a great deal of discussion about being seated at a desk all day being bad for our health, but our current workplace measure for space use is based on people sitting at their desk.

In addition to the many factors we need to take into consideration, there is also the issue that we are only capturing a snap shot of the present situation. How are staff using (and adapting to) the space they have been provided. To make an informed strategic decision we need to have an understanding of the ongoing opinion and propensity for change.

Self-reporting study, but not a one off survey

It is now time for us to change our tactics. Trust is at the core for how we implement organisational change, but there is still resistance to the self-reporting study. This is understandable if the study is a long and complicated survey asking for complex information, often out of context and using terminology only someone familiar with the workplace would understand.

This does not have to be the case any longer. We need to start to trust the opinion of our workforce and we need to do it in a way that the audience is familiar with. It needs to be engaging, informative, relevant, and as sophisticated as any other information stream we access.

Therefore, we need to gather and understand a far greater deal of opinion and information. This will be dynamic, changing on a continual basis and the information will need interpreting on a real-time basis to inform business on the best strategic plan for changing working practices.


Data needs to be beautiful
Infographics may be a buzzword of the moment, but there is good reason why you will open the papers or view online a graphic representation of some complex information translated into a visual story. Technology is also impacting how graphic designers present information. Digitally we can now be far more sophisticated with graphic treatment and at the same time, we are all suffering from information overload. Therefore, what we produce must be informative and engaging, and relevant.

The use of visuals to replace numbers and words is especially relevant when we are starting a conversation about the use of space. Good infographics can present a case without the need to read the full detail (at least not initially) and should be used to support both the gathering of information and for the reviewing of information.

The emotional journey

When we engage with staff, it is often because there are changes afoot, so there is need for consideration and explanation. Setting up an engagement portal providing information on the current ‘state of thought’ of the organisation can become the start of a fluent communications campaign that will run from initial fact finding through to project delivery and beyond.

This is not a one shot opportunity; it is an opportunity to start an engagement process that can be a point of reference, workplace management tool and an important reference for a variety audiences.

For staff, it can act as a guide to an organisation’s specific working protocols – a two-way channel to inform on opinion, feedback on activity that is actually happening and a point of reference for self- analytics on working practice.

For designers, architects and other providers, it can give guidance on the brand and ambition of the organisation and an insight to how staff operate within the organisation.

For consultants and stakeholders, it can provide a filtered dashboard allowing interrogation of specific detailed information and a holistic view of the state of play for the organisation. It also presents access to information on project opportunities, a view of current pilots and projects and post project reviews.


In the same way as our industry is having conversations about how we break silos of activity across the various business areas of responsibility, we need to start the conversation about “how do we interact with our core business collateral, our people?”

We need to understand how they really work and how we can best support them. This can only be achieved by accepting that the office is not a building but an omni- location, omni-cultural, omni-gender working experience.

How do we start to do this in a managed and user- friendly way? By ensuring we are asking the right questions to the right people through the right media. We must ensure we understand this information and can communicate with enough clarity to share with our colleagues, organisational decision makers and our workforce (our people).

Simon Russell, Written for Quora Consulting July 2014