Some time ago, I encountered a great case study about a proxy for office productivity. A colleague had an interesting example that points to the link between the office layout, furniture, finishes and productivity. No he doesn’t have a magic formula to measuring productivity – this example uses ‘employee satisfaction’ as a proxy.
He regularly uses surveys to gauge the satisfaction of employees with their office accommodations. The example involves two office towers in Montreal. One building was corporately owned and managed while the other was a leased building managed by the landlord. Satisfaction surveys had consistently shown the leased building at a higher satisfaction level than the owned building, which seemed to correlate with the widely held notion that many services in leased buildings are better than those in corporately owned and managed facilities.
Eventually, reorganizations provided an opportunity to reduce leased space, and two thirds of the staff in the leased building were relocated to the owned building. The move was an opportunity to use new layouts, designs and systems furniture in the new space.
When the next customer satisfaction survey was conducted and the results reviewed, there was a surprising change. The satisfaction results for the leased building actually decreased, while the level of satisfaction in the owned building increased and even exceeded the leased building’s results. The Facilities personnel, processes, resources and overall service hadn’t changed in the owned building.
My colleague tells me that this sudden change took them by surprise, and when they started to assess the results and analyze the possible reasons for the change, they could only come to one conclusion.
The change in furniture with newly designed space complete with fresh colours and finishes increased the satisfaction of the employees who relocated from the leased building to the owned building. Even more interestingly, those left behind in the leased building with older furniture, layouts and finishes were less satisfied than they had ever been, likely because their fellow workers in the owned building now had the newest and best office space while theirs had not changed.
Admittedly, there is debate about the extent employee satisfaction has a great deal of impact on office productivity, however I think we all can recognize that a positive envirionment to work in will improve results. This example shows the change that can result from implementing new layouts, furniture and finishes.