UX - Designing for Profit and Happiness in Workplace Experience

At SXSW I spoke about how you could use UX methodology, which has been used in product and application design for years, to design a productive and engaging workplace.
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At SXSW I spoke about how you could use UX methodology, which has been used in product and application design for years, to design a productive and engaging workplace. In the panel, "The Productive Workplace - UX, Technology and You," I mentioned how we broke down the factors of workplace experience and described some of the techniques we used to gain deep insights into the people that were using these spaces. After the event I received a lot of questions about what measures we used to analyze the workspace experience. Here, I will outline the steps taken and some of the methods used in the analysis stage of workspace design.



Our biggest component was in observation. We spent a lot of time observing employees in various space types to really understand their pain points, the gaps in their experience and how they were using spaces or changing them to make them more useful. Observation is very powerful in identifying things that people do not necessarily verbalize in interviews or indicate in surveys.

Exploration Workshops

2015-04-02-1427984962-2477796-workshop.png In order to even create a measure for employee workplace experience we had to understand what was top of mind for our employees. Here we utilized open discussions about their experience and what space types were more important to them, as well as some workshop sessions. During one particularly valuable session we took carefully selected photos of workspaces and forced selections of what users liked and didn't like. The photos were carefully selected to make the environment's good and bad characteristics bubble up to the surface. This allowed us to look for patterns within various demographics, or patterns for employees collectively. The most important data, however, was collected in the discussion that followed the activity. We analyzed the data sets to learn what factors and attributes of space were really important to people. For example, when talking about "focus rooms" the theme of "quietness" came up, telling us that "quietness" was an important attribute to the employees for any spaces intended for focus.


While we were looking to measure the employee workplace experience, it became clear that the key to knowing how to design a great experience was in fact to be found in knowing how the employees were measuring us. Each day when the employees were working we needed to understand how they knew if they'd had a good or bad experience. Like I mentioned in the panel, if you have a good Starbucks experience, for example, you know exactly why it was good or bad. You know the factors you are "measuring" Starbucks on - be that the service, the cleanliness, the quality of the coffee etc. Each of these can again be broken down into factors; for example, "service" could come down to how friendly the server was, how fast you were served...you get the gist.
For the workplace experience we needed to know what these factors were- and it certainly wasn't an annual C-Sat (customer satisfaction) score. Here are the steps we followed to create our workplace experience measure -

1. Identify the Components of Workplace Experience

Using the data from our exploration workshops we figured out which components of workplace made up employee satisfaction. The Experience Factors we found to be important to these employees were:

  • Connectedness - how connected they felt to people, the company and information.
  • Culture - how they experienced their own culture as well as the company culture through branding and environmental marketing.
  • Enablement - how the materials and technology around them enabled them to actually do the work they needed to do, or carry out the activities they needed to do, within specific spaces.
  • Flexibility - how easily they could move around the office and work from multiple types of spaces as their needs changed throughout the day.
  • Engagement - how social elements, aesthetics, ambiance, community feel and group behaviors allowed them to be actively engaged in their work life.

2. Identify Types of Spaces

Next we needed to define the space types (including flexible multipurpose spaces) that the employees were operating in. This was important so that people were clear on the types of spaces we were referring to when measuring their experiences. For this we used data from our exploration workshops to find the attributes that were important to each space, which included things like -

  • Focus spaces - with attributes such as allowing concentration, quietness...
  • Conference room - with attributes such as allowing virtual inclusion...
  • Work Café - with attributes such as allowing serendipitous meetings...
  • Collaboration Space - with attributes such as inspiring creativity...
  • Etc...

Each company tends to have their own space identities. Remember, we also included the flexible types of space, for example, Touchdown Space was space that could be used for individual work or for collaboration. The space types were categorized by a variety of variables such as the types of activities people were mostly trying to do there, the duration they were there or the number of people accommodated.

The reason for giving the spaces attributes is to streamline the experience data collecting phase, so that you know which questions to ask people for each space type use and how you are measuring the attributes. For example, in "Open Collaboration" space you would not be measuring if it allowed for private concentration, duh!

3. Break Down the Components

To further break down the Experience Factors we applied what we had learnt from the exploration workshops to the things people felt were important in determining their experience of each space. Each factor will usually break down into about 5 sub questions. You will use these questions to measure each space type you listed, choosing only the questions that align to the attribute of the space that you previously defined. For example - Collaboration Space, with attributes such as "inspire creativity" or "virtual inclusion", would include the sub-questions from the factors "Enablement" and "Engagement".

You will need to determine these for your own target audience. Some example questions we found useful were -

  • Connectedness - Are there ways to enable the meeting of new people in the space?
  • Engaging - Does the space make you feel like you want to be there?
  • Etc...

4. Measure the Experience

We measured the experience from both the employee perspective and the business perspective (being the teams that are creating and implementing the spaces).

For the employees - we converted the various questions to statements, then held workshops and asked whether the employee agreed, partially agreed, or disagreed. Most insightful were the hours of conversation on these opinions and in particular on why they partially agreed or didn't agree.

For the business - we took the various points of responsibility, such as facilities and IT, and made them further evaluate the office using the same criteria.

2015-04-02-1427984993-361138-Metric.png Our exploration sessions also showed us which space types were more important than others. We used this to weight the space types to give us a final experience score. For example, if Conference Rooms were more important than Touch Down space to people, then it had a higher weighting in the overall "office experience score".

We then used the responses to calculate a score per space, overall and per experience factor. This included one for the employees and one for the business.


This method was chosen because it highlighted any gaps in perception, where the business thought all was well but the people using the spaces didn't and vice versa. It also allowed us to obtain a baseline for the experience that wasn't a simple 10 point C-Sat score, but rather a measure we could understand and act on. The measure translated experience into something tangible that the business could then understand and invest in.

Also, while creating a business case is so important for getting stakeholder alignment and funding, more important for us as designers is to understand what we are designing for - the factors that we need to focus on depending on what we are creating. This methodology keeps this top of mind for us and using the insights we captured for our workplace personas allowed us to create engaging and productive spaces for the people actually using them.

Thanks to all those that came to the SXSW session!


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