Measure Multiple Times, Design Once / by Helen Zouvelekis

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There’s an old adage among professional and do-it-yourself builders; measure twice, cut once. Whether a person is building a bookshelf, installing carpet, cutting bathroom tile, framing a window, installing electric cable, etc., the thought is to make absolutely certain that the measurement for whatever needs to be cut, nailed, screwed, glued, cemented, etc. is correct because if not, it either means doing the job over again or settling for something that’s less than perfect.

In the realm of workplace design, I like to think of this adage, but with a twist. I like to say measure multiple times, design once. Let me explain.
 
When a company’s management team decides to design and build a new workplace there is a lot to consider. Location, size, and cost per square foot are the most obvious, but a myriad of other things need to be considered as well. For example, is there a need or interest to have open space, private space, and/ or collaborative space and, if so, to what extent? Is there a need or interest to have amenities, such as a café, bike storage, showers, quiet rooms, reading nooks, a game area, etc.? Is corporate branding an issue and, if so, to what extent does this get reflected in the design and layout of a workplace? Is there a need or interest in work benches or standing desks? Is there a preference for certain technology to be in the workplace, as well as lighting, security, audio/ visual, etc.?

As the list of design-related questions and/ or considerations builds, management needs to recognize and understand that the best way to answer these questions and/ or considerations is to survey the company’s employees because, after all, the majority of what’s to be placed in the workplace is for their daily use and benefit. It would also be prudent if management included some employee representatives and an architecture/ design firm in the creation of the survey itself so it can be as thorough and detailed as possible. 

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With survey responses in hand, management can then work with an architecture/ design firm (and budget) to determine how best to plan, layout, and construct the new workplace. From there, it’s a matter of the actual building and installation of what’s been specified and then, if all goes smoothly, the final move in.
 
For most, the assumption would be that the process stops there (i.e., measure once and design once), but it shouldn’t. As important and necessary as it is to survey employees upfront in the design process, it is just as important to survey employees post move-in. Because so much time, effort, and money was put into the design and construction of a new workplace, management should make certain its extrapolating the most out of it by way of employee satisfaction, use, and value. Within the first several months of being in the new workplace, employees should be surveyed again and asked about their new environment and if it is meeting their expectations in a variety of categories (e.g., seating, work spaces, technology, lighting, acoustics, branding, décor, amenities, etc.). If, through this post move-in survey, all seems well, great, but if not then the appropriate changes should be made as best as possible.

But, even here, the surveying should not stop. Since so much research has pointed to the correlation between the workplace and employee engagement and productivity, as well as talent recruitment and retention, a company’s management should take an active role in making certain, over time, that the workplace is designed and fitted out as best it can be. Hence, the need to measure multiple times.  

 
 Roger Marquis

Roger Marquis