OBSERVATION n. The faculty or habit of observing or noticing.
People intrigue me. Ever since I can remember, I have had a strong tendency to observe the actions of others around me. Although at times I believe it to be a positive trait, others sitting with me in a crowded restaurant may get annoyed as I am easily distracted by the cast of characters around me. Regardless, I am a strong believer in the power of observation.
About a year ago, I sat at lunch with Jim Keane, COO of Steelcase, who discussed with me the importance of observation in the work environment. He noted that much effort and time goes into planning for a new space, but those companies who are also spending time on the back-end, observing their employees in the new environment, are finding a more successful result. He finds this observation time can open up opportunities to make small changes that eventually lead to a more effective use of the space, accommodating the ways in which people are actually working.
We’re seeing like-minded companies who too believe in the benefits of post-occupancy observation starting to set aside budget dollars at the start of a project in an effort to anticipate and plan for these minor changes after the fact. In doing so, they are able to maximize the effective state of the space.
At Empire, we love to be our own test subjects. Our new collaborative, non-dedicated space in our Manhattan headquarters has brought new life to our office. The space was designed to accommodate many different ways of work for our employees throughout the day. By simply observing how our employees were using the space, we’ve been able to effectively make slight changes to increase its overall functionality.
As one example, we installed a bar-height table which we thought would be one of the most popular vignettes within the space. Instead it sat empty for months. We soon observed that the beautiful stools originally designed to be placed around the bench were not conducive to the way we needed to work, so we simply switched them for task stools. And that was the trick! Instantly a space that sat vacant became the bug light that everyone was attracted to.
Isn’t it crazy how one small change can take a space from drab to fab!
The positive power of observation: what will you observe about your work environment when you start looking?