A lot of questions. Not too many people (to begin with).
There’s only so much that can be gleaned from corporate collateral and LinkedIn stalking. A true understanding of any organisation is achieved through engagement – it used to be face-to-face, whites of eyes type meetings, but virtual interviews can work just as well when both parties bring their A-games.
It’s not about whether Colin from Accounts wants his own office, but understanding which roles have a greater call on privacy and lack of disturbance. It’s not about whether Susan from HR goes running at lunchtime but more about understanding the importance the organisation places on employee health and wellbeing. To a certain extent, it’s not about any particular employee today. They could be gone tomorrow, and then what do you do with a working environment that was designed around the particular needs of individuals?
That’s not to say the design will be vanilla in order not to offend anyone and cater to no one. There are fundamentals designers need to consider that actually change very little from organisation to organisation. Like a graphic equaliser on the 1980s Amstrad stereo your parents had in the front room, the strategy for (and eventually the design of) the new working environment will be fine-tuned to suit your very specific needs, and have enough flexibility to cope with most left-field challenges this modern world can throw at us. The key to achieving this is engagement and honest dialogue and the skill is in asking the right questions, adjusting the settings, and creating a truly bespoke design.
What are the fundamentals?
Believe it or not, research still says that a desk and chair are highly valued. (And it’s amazing how many organisations place such little value on the latter). As Shelley (Pete not Percy) said, “Noise Annoys”. Subjective yes, but a perfect workspace cannot fail to provide different zones for different people. A workplace project marries people, technology and place, so seamless and intuitive technology needs to be high on the list of priorities. Kevin from IT (or your 14-yr old daughter) won’t always be around to sort out your connection issues.
Hygiene when it comes to the workplace is more than clean toilets. It’s good natural light and, if possible, controllable lighting. It’s fresh air and a temperature that doesn’t stretch the definition of comfortable. This whole piece could be about the importance of coffee but that’s become a bit of a cliché…
A perfect workplace doesn’t have to be gimmicky. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in my book with a workplace being functional. Your client can say “Wow!” on day one, but you’ll get a lot more appreciation if they can say on day 1,000 “you know, the place still works for us”.