From a construction perspective, how can you design in a user centric way when there is no user to consider?

Research across a quarter of a million employees in over 2,000 workplaces reveals that organisations are not getting what they should from their corporate workplaces.

The key conclusions of our recent The Next 250k report expose that opportunities are being consistently missed and the impact of the physical and virtual infrastructure of workplace grossly underestimated. While there is much talk of corporate resilience and adaptability, the stark reality is that while employers continue to endure economic uncertainty, too many of their employees are having to put up with workplaces that fail to support their basic working day. As per the UK workplace effectiveness scores amassed by our team of impartial statisticians, half of offices are simply not fit for purpose.

Segment those workplaces further, to those that have been surveyed shortly after relocation or refurbishment works have been undertaken, and the figures are even more worrying – only 18 per cent of new workplaces surveyed deliver noticeable operational benefit. That’s a pretty sad indictment of the design industry to create value and, considering the investment required, most of these projects appear to be an inexcusable waste of time, money and effort. So how do we bridge this gap in knowledge and encourage the realms of design, construction and facilities management to work together when designing the base build and physical infrastructures necessary to support the end user?

More recent findings also suggest that followers of workplace strategy fashion are also risking the overall effectiveness of workplaces. Deafening debate around knowledge transfer and collaboration seems to have resulted in a series of spaces that overbake the collective work at the expense of the concentrative solo activities. Most interestingly, we are uncovering that an employee whose workplace does not support their individual work is more likely to disagree that their work environment allows them to work productively, regardless of what they report of their collaborative work. It appears, then, that individual work is the hygiene factor of all workplaces.

Since Leesman sprung into life in 2010, we’ve been trying to understand why some workplaces deliver outstanding performance and others don’t. The data we’ve amassed so far has helped us realise the dos and don’ts of workplace design and management – and our clients are leveraging this data to fuel better business decision making, focusing on employee experience. Our research suggests that the key determinants of an effective office environment include great acoustics, light and air quality, not to mention availability of caffeinated beverages and food. In addition, our data reveals that variety is key. Offering a wide range of different workspaces empowers people to choose the right environment for the specific task in hand, and an array of spaces can drastically reduce the destructive impact of noise.

Despite the conclusions amassed so far, it doesn’t end there for us. We’ve still got a way to go because we haven’t yet researched how the base build impacts performance – this is an area the industry shouldn’t ignore. From next year, we will be asking more questions in order to continue to push, probe and challenge current thinking, such as – is the physical distribution of the space the problem? Or is it that the core services / facilities on ground floor level aren’t deemed satisfactory?

From a construction perspective, how can you design in a user centric way when there is no user to consider? By considering occupant density, cost of occupancy and cost of fit out, and comparing these data points to the user experience sentiments data, we will be able to create a blueprint for effective office design. Once that’s been made publicly available, it’s down to the design, construction and FM teams to work together to ensure the physical and virtual infrastructures align in a way that boosts workplace and organisational performance.