Work is no longer focused on attendance or the manufacture of grommets. There is now a strong argument for the place of work to be engaging on both a social and an emotional level providing a happier & healthier working environment, that ultimately manifest into a more successful and profitable company. Graham Bird explores what this means for progressive employers.
Working environments are experiencing a seismic shift from the dictatorial to the autonomous whereby people decide when and where and how they work. The first steps towards this change was the adoption of Agile/Flexible working practices leading to an output-driven work ethic, which centered around trust. Many companies worldwide have moved to these working practices, but does it really make for a happier and healthier workforce? And more importantly how do you measure how happy your workforce is?
Baker Stuart developed Activity Sampling to capture human interactions, the very lifeblood of any organisation. By capturing how staff want to work and how they interact with their environment we can understand how best to set out the landscape to support their work and social needs. Work is such a large part of our lives that we should enjoy being there.
Some people are hot!
Many of my longest standing friends are current and ex work colleagues, people I would probably never have met in my existing social circles. These were the people that made being at work an enjoyable experience. Often they were the focal point for the morning coffee session or occasionally those I spoke to when the work/life balance was out of kilter. An office without these gregarious types would be a lonely place. If you map the human traffic around the office you quickly see well-worn carpet around these desks.
When I started work as a draughtsman, I soon realised that Mr Drown (yes, times were more formal then) was the font of all knowledge. If I came across a problem I would bypass the manager and go straight to Reginald. Some years later when I moved to research and development everyone knew that Bert was the go-to man, he’d been there, seen it and wore the T shirt. They were able and willing to share their knowledge and both excellent teachers. Yet more threadbare carpet for the FM to replace.
We are slowly stripping away the hierarchical structure of the traditional office and moving to a more fluid environment were colleagues can come and go as they please, choose were to sit and then opt to move multiple times during their working day. They move around the landscape taking the seat by the window, the desk next to Bert, a chair by the coffee bar or maybe a shared bench. We accept that some colleagues like to be static whilst others can’t sit still.
Meeting environments are available that fit the mood and style of the attendees or subject matter be that open plan, stand up, formal or informal settings. They will always be available and within easy reach as meetings aren’t always prearranged. The office will be built around the occupants and their needs a place they want to be because people matter.
Counting carpet tiles
Modelling how people interact with office space requires a more scientific approach than counting worn carpet tiles. You need to be able to identify interactions when, where and as they happen including those in open space.
Using a combination of established work study techniques, highly trained observers and smart technology Baker Stuart and CADM can now capture that detail and accurately model the entire office environment including open plan space.
We not only measure the activity where and when it happens but add insightful commentary on the formality and potential outcome of the event. Over a year in development and testing the results have surprised us, and surprised the design companies with whom we have shared the data.
With a thorough understanding of when, where and how your staff want to work and socialise, you can provide an environment fit for their needs and make it a desirable destination rather than a place to work.