Successful organisations invariably acknowledge that attractive workspaces are essential to attract and retain talent, build their brand around their working environment, be more efficient - and ultimately improve their bottom line.
Workspace interviewed expert changemakers Catalyst on the work they are doing in the New Zealand market, and how the first step they take to succeed in this vital arena is applying the science that is essential in informing every design.
“We design spaces knowing that these are likely to be repurposed in the future to meet the demands of rapidly changing work environments; it’s all about understanding the unique and differing needs of organisations, how these are likely to evolve and the strategies Catalyst can develop to manage these,” says Ruth Parnell, Senior Designer at Catalyst
“While organisations want to be able to showcase their culture through their workplace environment, they come to us for guidance on how best to achieve this delicate balance between a functional versus flexible office setting.” Of course, she says, there is a genuine science underpinning the ultimate design and how people use the space, and that this ‘science’ can be gathered through a workplace utilisation study.
Why do a utilisation study?
“Often the results may not match the perception of what the client thinks they need,” says Ruth. “A utilisation study is an intensive time study of the space that the client currently occupies. It identifies usage patterns such as peak periods, which spaces are under pressure, how and what technology is being utilised, and where productivity gains might be made. We interview team members about their use of the workspace – their frustrations and what they like – and importantly the perceived weaknesses they have encountered. We pride ourselves on listening, evaluating and implementing improvements.”
From this detailed understanding Catalyst can then advise on a workspace design, providing more efficient use of space and effective work areas. This could be in the form of a smaller footprint, changing the location or sizes of meeting rooms, adding collaboration spaces or creating more space through smaller desks. In many cases Catalyst creates pilot sites, trialling different spaces, furniture, meeting room sizes to gather feedback from users prior to implementing the changes across the organisation.
“Any size organisation can benefit from a utilisation space study,” says Ruth. “We have undertaken a range of them, from 83 workspaces through to over 1,200. It’s not just large organisations that need to use their space more efficiently.”
Catalyst director Colin Depree says that the company adds significant value through applying our experience across an entire project lifetime. “From interior design, architecture, cost estimation, project management, build and more, the key benefit is that we understand the customer’s needs and their budget to ensure we are delivering a concept that reflects both.
“One area requiring particular attention is the workplace change management piece as people are often reluctant to change. However, through education around expectations and benefits, once they see and use the space, they are generally excited and pleased to embrace the change.”
For an organisation looking to implement small changes to make an impact, senior designer Drew Blair suggests that “changing to smaller sit/stand desks will create more space to transform into a collaboration area. Secondly, a well-appointed staff hub or kitchen is incredibly important, this can be used in a variety of ways for meetings, social interaction, client events – it is the ultimate in flexible space and provides a sense of community.”
When designing space, Catalyst focuses on making them as effective and efficient as possible. “Take collaborative space for example,” says Drew. “We concentrate on using colours to stimulate conversations, paired with natural light, ideally with a view, and then identify a location situated away from the general workplace to ensure acoustics don’t disturb the day-to-day activities. People must want to use it; therefore, it needs to be attractive and productive.”
Finally, Ruth adds: “To incorporate the correct technology into the workspace we need to drill down into what the key drivers are for that organisation. Technology needs to fit the workspace. This includes providing connectivity not only in collaboration areas but throughout – the modern worker’s office is now the entire workplace setting.”