The workplace has evolved exponentially following the pandemic, fundamentally shifting knowledge work and surfacing many questions about the purpose of an office and what kinds of work environments best support productivity, collaboration and connection. In years past, leaders have often looked to others in the industry for guidance, leveraging trends to define their workplace strategies. However, in today’s work environment, relying on trends with limited context can lead to uncertainty when the stakes and costs are high.
The new workplace ecosystem requires an analytical approach. Newmark’s Workplace Strategy Human Experience (WPSHE) team advocates for the application of a scientific method – identifying a gap within the workplace and creating and testing hypotheses to drive organizational culture and behavior. The scientific approach helps leaders think critically about the office, asking the right questions to design an experiment before committing significant time and resources to a solution.
The scientific method includes five steps:
Define the question or observation to evaluate.
Create a hypothesis.
Design an experiment to test your hypothesis - gather data.
Analyze the data gathered from your experiment.
For leaders in commercial real estate, the most frequently asked workplace questions are:
How do I get people back to the office?
Do I have suitable size spaces in the right places?
Would a more collaborative work environment support the new ways of working?
Newmark’s Workplace Strategy and Human Experience team conducted three different real-world experiments and hypotheses with clients to identify real estate solutions custom-tailored to the clients’ needs:
Client A. Immersive Experience
Define the question or observation. Since the client’s return to office, most employees were not meeting the in-office attendance requirements. Most of their work is very concentrated. The workspace was very traditional, with many high-walled workstations and private offices.
Create a hypothesis. Would a space configuration with a mix of work settings better support how people work when they are in the office?
Design an experiment to test your hypothesis – gather data. The Newmark WPSHE team created three pilot neighborhoods – a reorganized office layout to dedicate areas to specific departments, functions or activity types – with four groups of participants to experience the space, each for a three-week period.
Analyze the data gathered from your experiment. The Newmark WPSHE team used pre- and post-pilot QR code surveys, sensors, and observations in the space to gather feedback on furniture. The client also conducted focus groups to measure how people used the space to learn if the new layout better supported their work.
Draw conclusions. While many of the open, collaborative spaces are not suited for all-day heads-down work, the neighborhood pilots better-supported connection to others and informal collaboration. The new layout also had a more inspiring appearance that helped employees feel more relaxed and provided a much-needed refuge to recharge.
Client B. Pocket Pilot
Define the question or observation. The client’s leaders want to increase the in-office mandate to three days a week. Many employees have stated that the open workspace is distracting and makes it hard to conduct video calls. The company is trying to grow and recruit younger talent, and the workspace is not inspiring.
Create a hypothesis. Could inserting new soft seating and collaborative furniture better support how the client works and be a cost-effective way to update the look and feel of the space?
Design an experiment to test your hypothesis – gather data. Identify areas to drop in new collaborative furniture sprinkled throughout the space, encourage people to use it and test different work settings in different locations.
Analyze the data gathered from your experiment. The Newmark WPSHE team used QR codes posted near work settings being tested to gather employee feedback and set up sensors to measure usage.
Draw conclusions. We learned that the result was not one size fits all! Different departments gravitated to different furniture settings, and the results across the configurations varied. Small, enclosed spaces were rated an improvement for video calls. However, the data showed that the overall aesthetic and experience of the space were not improved enough with the furniture insertion to make the space inspiring for recruiting purposes.
Client C. Policy Pilot
Define the question or observation. The client’s employees asked for a four-day workweek, and leadership was curious if that could work for the organization.
Create a hypothesis. Would moving to a four-day workweek negatively impact productivity and business goals? Or could it help improve employee retention and be a positive for the business?
Design an experiment to test your hypothesis – gather data. Pick one or more groups from the organization to try the four-day workweek for a set period of time.
Analyze the data gathered from your experiment. The Newmark WPSHE team gathered productivity and business metrics from before and during the pilot and used surveys pre- and post- to measure employee engagement and perceived productivity.
Draw conclusions. Four-day workweek helped improve time to market with a new product update and improved employee satisfaction.
The critical takeaway from any pilot is understanding your organization’s experiment experience. The new workplace ecosystem is fluid and ever-evolving. Newmark’s Workplace Strategy and Human Experience team advocates for continued workplace assessment and encourages clients to conduct multiple pilots as needs change or new questions arise to address the organizations’ needs. Keep asking questions, developing hypotheses and measuring outcomes to learn what can be improved in our constantly evolving landscape.
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