The first rule of any commercial design is to do your homework. After all, what's the point in planning space when you have no real idea of how many bodies will occupy it and no understanding of the functionality that might be required of each square foot? It simply doesn't make sense...
And yet more and more fit outs are going ahead without adequate planning in those key early stages and with no real research supporting some of the briefs given. This poses a threat to the outcomes of these projects and plays fast and loose with the general expectation of the end-users.
So why are we so keen to skip over the research in those critical stages when there is so much to be gained from asking questions? The answer, as usual, comes down to cost.
Potential clients are often keen to skip the analysis part of the job, particularly at the tender stage when there is no specific consultant or contractor attached to the project. With no-one taking ownership early in the game, there is nobody to chivvy the client and press the point regarding that vital workplace study...
The workplace study is an in-depth appraisal of what exactly is required from the work environment. It helps the client to make decisive next steps in either choosing a new commercial property that suits the needs of the business and its employees or in making better use of existing space. A good workplace study will get to grips with what the workforce needs and wants and come up with solutions on how to deliver the same and how best to optimise space.
Done properly, the study involves interviews with all staff, at every level, and the gathering of information to feedback what individuals require to do their jobs and what they would ideally wish for. To sidestep this stage in the planning and not undertake any form of pre-appraisal is to risk getting it very wrong...
If staff won't benefit from, or use, breakout areas, for instance, and they are taking up valuable space then there's little point in having them. Similarly, if some workers choose to work from home because they struggle in an open-plan environment, creating quiet zones should be considered. However, if this then means those same workers will return to their desks in their droves, you need to allow for the extra bodies when you are considering the available space. All of this information can be determined from a workplace study.
We've had clients, working without these studies, who have under-estimated how many flexible workers, regularly choosing to work at home, would decide to break their working practices and come back into the office with a new space in the mix. Great that the new fit out was such a big success but not so great that these flexible workers weren't catered for and there aren't enough desks to go around.
It pays to ask questions first and when it comes to office fit outs, where there are big budgets involved, it simply makes sense. It's not cost-effective to save money on a workplace study only to end up with a workplace that's not fit for purpose. Budgeting for such an appraisal in the first place saves time and money in the long run.
A small, initial financial outlay is worth it if that single study plays its part in retaining good staff and positively impacting on the efficiency of your workplace.
So if you want more information about workplace studies, make sure you drop us a line or give us a call. We'll happily talk you through all of the benefits.