Mon, 7 November 2016
Diane Hoskins, the Co-CEO of Gensler explains the importance of workplace design and what organizations can do to improve employee experience, productivity, and innovation.
Diane Hoskins is the Co-CEO of Gensler, which is a global design firm that focuses on creating a better world through the power of design. The company started in San Francisco 50 years ago and they now have about 5,000 employees and 46 offices all over the world. Hoskins has degrees in Architecture and Business.
Over the past 10 years Gensler has been conducting research on workplace design and how it affects productivity, innovation and competitive dynamics. In all of their research they came to the conclusion that workplace design does in fact contribute to innovation and productivity. When Gensler gets an initial call from an organization wanting to update their workplace they start by getting an understanding of what the core needs of the organization are. They have to get a sense of what the organization’s current culture is like, what its values are, and where the company is going in the future. During this process they interview employees, give out surveys, observe day to day activities and collect data in order to best serve the needs of the company. There are no two companies that are exactly the same, so it is important to design a workplace that uniquely fits each one.
One topic in workplace design that has been debated a lot over the past few years is open vs. closed office spaces. Some people think it is better for everyone to have their own offices or cubicles and they believe that meeting spaces should be closed off and private. Others think open workspaces creates a better working atmosphere where people are more creative. Hoskins believes that it is all about a diversity of spaces and giving employees choices in their workplace. She says it is not about choosing either open or closed spaces, but having a mixture of both. For example, an organization could have closed meeting spaces of various sizes, open informal meeting areas with soft seating, and coffee bars and cafes for working and “unplanned chance encounters”. Hoskins says it is all about “unlocking the pathways that allow employees to step out of a routine”.
Business leaders have begun to see that there is a relationship between their workplace design and the performance of their employees and their company as a whole. They can see it in examples such as Airbnb, Facebook, and Etsy. The most innovative companies are not using the office spaces of the past where the whole building had one static floor plan that was built with the job in mind instead of the employee. Now, organizations are realiizing that their workplace needs to be more fluid and adaptable and one that is designed to create an atmosphere where employees can do their best work. Hoskings says ideally companies would be adaptive, making small changes to their workplace all the time to keep up with their employees and the current technology. However, that is not always possible monetarily or physically, so she suggests that companies take a look at their design every 2-4 years to make sure it is the most effective use of the space.
So what do employees want in a workspace? Based on Gensler’s research, the things that employees want are pretty basic and not anything over the top. The four main things that employees want are individual spaces that have a functional layout, adjustability that allows them to adapt their workspace to their current needs (sitting down, standing up, etc..), noise management, and access to the resources they need. After those four basics the next things on the list were food related such as a cafe or a coffee shop. Things that were not high up on the list were the over the top additions such as slides and ping pong tables.
The fact is that most of us spend the majority of our waking hours in our work environment and that is why it is so important to have a space we can go to that allows us to feel connected, be productive, and stay focused. This also in turn helps the business because as Hoskins says, “healthy, strong people do great work”.
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(Music by Ronald Jenkees)