Design as a business strategy: Tapping data is easier than you think

We have been preaching “good design matters” for a long time, demonstrating the connection between the physical environment and employee satisfaction, individual and team performance, and an evolving organizational culture.

April 20, 2017 |
Perkins+Will’s Ideas + Buildings

“Good design is good business,” Thomas J. Watson famously declared in the early 70s. But while the link between design and performance has since been well established with products, only recently has the physical workplace environment garnered the same attention.

As workplace experts (not to mention people who work in offices), we understand the impact design has on how work is done: how productive we are and—as crucially—how engaged we are in it. We have been preaching “good design matters” for a long time, demonstrating the connection between the physical environment and employee satisfaction, individual and team performance, and an evolving organizational culture. Heads nod, but we are also met with raised eyebrows asking, “How do you know?”

We were able to ask this question of ourselves when redesigning four of our Perkins+Will offices. Faced with expiring leases, our Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle studios moved, while our New York office renovated, in 2016. Designing these four spaces challenged us to take bold steps to improve our workplace effectiveness. While each project had its own unique set of drivers, collectively we all strove to facilitate collaboration, enable choice, promote health and wellbeing, and optimize sustainability.

While the improvements were reward enough, we were thrilled to be awarded an Architectural Record Good Design is Good Business award for the rigor by which we evaluated our work. So how exactly did we establish the link between our designs and our business performance? We did the following:

-Issued Leesman’s Workplace effectiveness survey to employees in the four offices. These responses were measured against the Leesman Index’s more than 200,000 global responses across a range of industries, allowing us to understand how our employees felt about their environment (relative to respondents at other leading organizations).

 

Perkins+Will satisfaction scores (blue line) exceed or meet Leesman+ (green line) and are well above Lessman Benchmark (red line) scores.

 

  • Interviewed office leaders to better understand how well their vision for the business manifested itself in the environment, and talked to marketing leads to track the office’s impact on the quality and quantity of prospective client engagements and successful pursuits.
  • Reviewed operations data to gain insight into efficiency of the renovated offices against other Perkins+Will offices.
  • Tracked technology investments allowing us to gauge the relationship between tools and workplace effectiveness.
  • Measured our lighting and acoustical levels to determine possible impact on wellness and—by extension—productivity.
  • Reviewed the program for each office allowing us to triangulate performance results against the allocation of a variety of space types.
  • Evaluated our improvements to energy use, material health, and sustainability to draw connections to employee health, wellbeing, and productivity.

Gathering and codifying this data showed us first-hand how valuable this information is, and how easily accessible it is; many metrics are inherently tracked, and the rest are relatively easy to access.

Living in the Data Age, it’s a great time for clients who are curious about measuring project success against goals to determine workplace effectiveness. With our help, those willing to ask the questions can uncover rich insights about their employees that can help shape the design of their workplace. This deeper exploration to answer the “How do you know?” validates design as a business strategy, making its value understood as both an art and a science.

Perkins+Will’s Ideas + Buildings | Perkins+Will

Perkins+Will is a firm of remarkable people who are driven by discovery – through their relationships, research, and design. In the simplest sense, our ideas are the precursors for all of our design work. Ideas + Buildings, Perkins+Will’s blog, features emerging thought leadership from across the firm, inviting an even greater global dialog around learning, wellness, workplace, sustainability, and everything in between. Visit the blog at: http://blog.perkinswill.com.

Related Blogs

September 04, 2018 | Resiliency | Perkins+WillKimberly Seigel

Resilient design, much like all projects in the built environment, requires funding.  

August 13, 2018 | Office Building Design | Perkins+WillChristine Dansereau

A study found that contrary to popular belief, the open office did not encourage—but rather, inhibited...

April 13, 2018 | Virtual Reality | Perkins+WillYanel De Angel

There’s no question that, as opposed to a top-down process, an open process is best for an office like ours...

March 22, 2018 | Architects | Perkins+WillBreeze Glazer

Achieving integrated design usually means operating under a strong relationship. 

How to solve the housing crunch on college campuses

Pictured: The efficiency unit design for the University of California, Hastings College of the Law (left); research prototype by Perkins+Will (right)

March 14, 2018 | Multifamily Housing | Perkins+WillDavid Damon and John Long, Principals, Perkins+Will

A growing number of public and private academic institutions are turning to designers and architects for al...

February 23, 2018 | Office Building Design | Perkins+Will Yukari Yamahiro

Evidence shows that companies that hire on or emphasize cultural fit struggle to innovate and change.

January 24, 2018 | Urban Planning | Perkins+WillPeter Baird

Aside from the roads being wider and the lack of infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, there seemed to...

Activating the workplace
January 03, 2018 | Office Building Design | Perkins+WillMary Baker

Here's how active work stations impact how you think, perform, and feel.

November 16, 2017 | K-12 Schools | Perkins+WillJessica Figenholtz and Andrew Broderick

There are three driving issues behind this next generation: demographic change, behavioral change, and the...

Kids walking outside of a school
September 20, 2017 | K-12 Schools | Perkins+WillRachael Dumas

School structures offer a unique opportunity as they can often double as community centers and serve as she...

Overlay Init