Kelly Griffin

Kelly Griffin

Workplace Strategist, NBBJ
Kelly is a workplace strategist and designer at NBBJ. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Kelly’s in-depth research into current workplace strategies and their impact on performance has helped her design transformative workplaces for Google, Amgen, Boeing, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Russell Investments and others.

Building a Workplace? Do the Math.

Statistical Analysis Can Lead to Healthier, Happier, More Productive Work

December 4, 2014

Workplace Strategist, NBBJ

This post was co-authored by Timothy Deak, a social strategist at NBBJ.

We have intuitions about the human experience that we use to inform design. For instance, we’ve always known that daylight is important. Exposure to the appropriate spectrum of light throughout the day enhances health and well-being, immune responses and productivity. But who knew that you could directly show that something like daylight in the workplace positively affects an employee’s perception of well-being? Using detailed surveys and statistical analysis — most recently of our own company and a large consulting firm — we can validate those intuitions with concrete evidence.

Converting raw data about the workplace into design-validating evidence requires statistical savvy. Using SPSS, a powerful statistics program, we can compare different variables (like daylight and well-being) to see whether there is a correlation between them. On top of that, we can determine through regression analysis how much one variable (like the ability to focus) can be explained by others (like acoustical privacy and access to restful places.) With statistical software, we can safely say the observations don’t result from random chance — they’re likely caused by the variables we’ve identified:

Well-being: A regression analysis of our internal survey data shows that half of all possible responses to people’s sense of well-being at work can be explained by access to a task lamp and satisfaction with their ability to focus. What’s more, the ability to find a space to suit one’s work and one’s satisfaction with access to daylight are both positively correlated with well-being. If we were to offer every employee a task lamp, improved access to daylight and a broader diversity of workplaces, the model suggests that people’s well-being could be much improved.


Surveys indicate that as employees’ satisfaction with noise levels increases, so does their satisfaction with their ability to focus (trend line with data points omitted; click to enlarge).

Ability to Focus: The internal survey shows that one-third of all possible responses to an employee’s ability to focus can be explained by access to restful places and acoustical privacy. Correlations from the consulting company survey show that as satisfaction with noise level improves:

    1. People take less time to work away from their desk to concentrate, and
    2. The ability to focus increases.

This provides strong statistical evidence that people’s perceptions about noise impact their ability to focus — and suggest that we ought to design our spaces to accommodate this perception.

Collaboration: We’ve built statistical models to identify the factors that contribute to informal collaboration. The consulting company survey shows that two factors — one, the ability to share information and, two, having access to people who can help — account for sixty percent of people’s sense of effective informal collaboration. In turn, seeing one’s team, knowing about team activities and having the ability to work across teams contribute greatly to an employee’s ability to find people who can help.

We’ve always sensed that certain factors are important to a productive workplace. Now, our ability to directly tie those factors to specific outcomes means we can design a workplace for maximum impact.

Image courtesy of M.Kemal/Flickr.

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Learning on the Job

The Workplace of the Future Is Here, and It Looks Like College

December 2, 2013

Workplace Strategist, NBBJ

So much of the world of work is changing: technology enables ultimate flexibility, mobility, and connectivity; younger workers don’t aspire to the same rewards that the corner office represented for their parents; and key team members may not even be employees, but rather cherished partners that come together as needed to tackle a particular problem. With the confluence of forces enabling a real change in the way we work, the corporate office — and the world of Dilbert it evokes — is a thing of the past.

For one, the repetitive tasks that once made up the majority of someone’s workday can be sent offshore for less cost, or taken over completely by technology. The work that remains is all about innovation and ideas, most of which is better accomplished together. The future office won’t be about housing people and their furniture, but about creating communities that enable teams to do their best work.

Consider a knowledge worker’s typical day. So much of what she does is about moving fluidly between multiple work modes: collaborating with others, building social connections, and solitary transactional or focused work. The office can evolve to be a great place for supporting multiple work modes, providing technology that connects teams and instilling the culture that is critical to an organization’s success. There has been a lot of conversation about where people are most successful in getting their work done. While the coffeehouse down the street provides the kind of background noise that makes us feel more focused and creative, it doesn’t necessarily provide all the tools or space we need. We’re learning that choice and variety matter. A workplace that focuses on the tools, meeting places, and social spaces that help teams work productively, with less priority on individual spaces, aligns better with the evolution of work. The workplace becomes the place where people can connect with the culture and behaviors that leadership believes are needed for success.

While these changes may seem at times overwhelming, we already have a perfect model for them: education. Learning is changing as much as work is. Rather than sitting in a dark lecture hall, trying to absorb information from a single voice, students are encouraged to work in small teams to solve a problem. The student union has become the perfect place for the new way of learning. In addition to food and coffee, play and fitness areas, it also provides a variety of lounges and focused work spaces that accommodate the multiple work modes of project-based teams. The student union even fulfills a much needed resource for everything on student loans, club meeting spaces and concierge services for navigating the campus. Easy to access and open to everyone, it provides the resources that places of individual work — dorm rooms, coffee shops and study carrels — can’t accommodate. And to a younger generation educated to solve problems as a group, the workplace of today could feel like a hindrance to the way they learned to work.

The transition can be hard, especially for older generations caught in the middle of change and shifting expectations. But as our economy evolves, as technology improves our ability to work together across distance and time, and as a younger generation accustomed to mobility represents up to 40% of the workplace, the office will catch up — ready to support the work, the culture and the behaviors organizations need to thrive.

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