IDR Sustainable Workplace

Psychologically, commercially and environmentally viable organizations

Questions from a Facilities Director regarding office effectiveness

A Facilities Director red our latest peer reviewed paper on office space and asked a series of really good questions.

The letter is reproduced at the foot of this blog (with the Director's name changed for privacy reasons).  Answers to it follow immediately:

Hello Jenny,

 

How lovely to hear from you.  Thank you for taking the time to write.  You ask excellent questions.  Let me try to answer them as succinctly as I can.

 

1.     You asked “In relation to the recent paper, while enrichment in the guise of plants led to positive results, do you think other forms of enrichment could also have achieved the same results?”

 

Yes.  It seems to that psychological is the key here.  We have enriched spaces using plants, art, light, furniture and smell.  All of these had an effect.  Plants are probably the cheapest way to that effect we have found. I should also say that I have many friends in the office plant sector who think that plants are more special.  They may or may not be right but we have yet to run a ‘plants V something else’ enrichment study. 

 

Your point about dying plants is a good one.  Although there is clear evidence that giving somebody a plant to look after is better than giving them a plant that is looked after by somebody else.  Both are better than no plants at all.

 

 

 

2.     You asked “Do you think that there would be a fall-out after 3 months in the positive impacts, or did you pick that period as sufficiently long for people to have moved through the phase of novelty with the new thing, and it just be accepted?”

 

There seems to be a slight tail off of effect with enriched spaces over time.  However they always remain far superior to lean spaces.  No fall off has been observed where people are given the chance to design their own spaces.

 

 

 

3.     You asked “Do you think that staff's subjective view of their productivity is useful? My feeling is that it isn't, as if you have been doing a job for the afternoon that you enjoy you are likely to rate your productivity higher than if you have been doing something tedious.  If there is academic basis for self-assessment I would be very grateful if you could point me in the right direction. “

 

Your feeling is spot on, people are terrible judges of their own productivity. Measuring productivity by questionnaire is entirely worthless and indeed misleading.  When we measure productivity we find that companies do not understabdy (e.g., call centres measure how fast a call is answered or how happy customers may be.  Both of these measures have little to do with productivity).

 

Our productivity measures are always be (a) quantifiable and (b) related to the job being assessed.

 

I hope this is of use to you.  Do feel free to make further contact.

 

Bye for now,

 

Craig

 

 

 Jenny's letter:

Dear Dr Knight

 

I have read your paper on Lean vs Green with considerable interest, as well as your more general comments about lean offices and how to have engaged staff.  I am a senior level FM of many years (indeed, I used to run the campus at Tremough, Pernyn) and your findings on de-personalised spaces ring true to me, as well as the limitations of office space per se to deliver engagement when designed and imposed by people other than the staff working in it. 

 

In relation to the recent paper, while enrichment in the guise of plants led to positive results, do you think other forms of enrichment could also have achieved the same results? So, for example, if interesting art-works had been installed rather than plants?  I should say that as a long-term proponent of sustainable FM, I would love to think that plants made all the difference.  Other enrichment could also indicate management engagement and therefore potentially lead to the same improvements in the staff group.  I have somewhat flippantly tweeted pondering the impact of the dying plants that one so often encounters in offices, but there is some seriousness with this question. Uncared for plants might actually cause a negative impact, with a sense of nobody caring for the living things in this office!

 

Do you think that there would be a fall-out after 3 months in the positive impacts, or did you pick that period as sufficiently long for people to have moved through the phase of novelty with the new thing, and it just be accepted?

 

How we try to measure productivity is an on-going difficulty as you say. We develop and run surveys to understand user satisfaction with buildings and services, but have always been clear that this cannot be used to extrapolate anything about their productivity.  There may of course be a correlation, but to demonstrate causality is I believe impossible, due in part to the difficulties in assessing productivity, and also in removing the influence of other factors eg demonstration of generally good or poor management. Do you think that staff's subjective view of their productivity is useful? My feeling is that it isn't, as if you have been doing a job for the afternoon that you enjoy you are likely to rate your productivity higher than if you have been doing something tedious.  If there is academic basis for self-assessment I would be very grateful if you could point me in the right direction. 

 

Thank you for such an interesting piece of work.

 

Best wishes

 

Jenny

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