Posted In // Design Tips
Questioning conformity & standardizationThere are plenty of arguments for standardization in the workplace. Especially at a business with many employees, the idea of customizing every single workspace for individual needs seems extraordinarily inefficient. A smart enterprise wants to buy everything in volume, and by sticking to one standard design, it becomes much less daunting to manage facilities and to make any upgrades.
Businesses have long known that they can increase their bottom line by limiting the human element – by treating their labor force as pieces of one unified and interdependent machine. It may not sound nice, but it has certainly proven effective in many settings.
More and more, though, organizations are realizing that cookie-cutter approaches removing personality and individuality from the office are the surest ways to ward off top talent. After all, 2014 research from the MIT Sloan Management Review revealed that while conformity may have its pluses, nonconformity (ie, lack of standardization) can be incredibly valuable when it is knowledge-based and choice-driven.
Worker-empowered spacesSpecific to the field of design, scholars at the University of Exeter discovered in 2010 that employee mood can be enhanced when their immediate environment reflects who they are, in turn boosting productivity.
“When people feel uncomfortable in their surroundings they are less engaged,” says Dr. Craig Knight. “If they can have some control, that all changes and people… [identify] more with their employer, and are more efficient when doing their jobs.”
Dr. Knight and his team conducted several studies analyzing worker response to the individuality of design. Participants completed two questionnaires and were analyzed for their performance in two different scenarios. More than 2000 office employees were assessed.
In the questionnaires, the respondent shared the extent to which their needs and opinions were factored into the design of their office. Consistently, people who felt that they had more control over their environments had higher job satisfaction and were more emotionally integrated into the workplace.
After asking workers directly how they felt, the scientists observed their activity levels in four types of settings:
1. lean environments that were solely focused on efficiency
2. enriched ones that had decorations
3. empowered environments that customized the design by incorporating the employee’s perspective
4. disempowered workspaces in which superiors trumped and reshaped the worker’s preferences.
The rise in productivity among those in the second and third environmental types was extraordinarily compelling: workers achieved 17% more in enriched settings and 32% more in empowered settings than they did in lean ones.