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Post occupancy evaluation the human element

Date: 25 July 2016

There are increasing levels of awareness around evidence-based design (EBD) and the pre and post evaluation that comes along with it. 

To accurately monitor design impact, industry experts are taking an approach known as post-occupancy evaluation (POE), which enables a better understanding of the effect that spaces can have on behaviour, and allow them to recognise links between environmental and human variables. 

While POE is by no means a new concept, there is increasing interest around the human aspect of office functionality. But of course, with more interest comes more questions, such as; how do we successfully engage all end users to identify and quantify what really works for them?

To address these questions and unlock any uncertainty around POE, Evidence Space recently held a webinar in partnership with Building magazine and a panel of experts featuring Monica Parker of HATCH Analytics, Richard Mazuch of IBI Group and Rosie Haslem of Spacelab, to discuss best practice and future design trends. 

A key (and arguably the most important) takeaway from the session came from Monica Parker, Founder of HATCH Analytics, who explained the need to inject an element of fun into the evaluation stage, using different tools to avoid ‘survey fatigue’.

Employees are often reluctant to feedback accurately – or sometimes at all – due to the sheer fact that they don’t see the value in doing so; there’s no real incentive or benefit communicated to them to do anything more than simply box tick and get it off their desk.

To make the process appear more worthwhile, it’s crucial to identify more exciting monitoring and evaluation methods that take human emotions into account. After all, design success is hinged on how a space makes users think, feel and perform. 

Another interesting insight came from Rosie Haslem, Director of Workplace Consultancy at Spacelab, who revealed that the average UK office worker spends over half (or 56 per cent) of their time away from their designated work station, working instead with other colleagues in co-working spaces or specifically-designed breakout areas. As this becomes more prominent in workplace culture, it’s important that design and building follows suit.

So as we increasingly look to using POE to help us improve productivity in the workplace – is it time to make more of POE data to ensure all buildings are designed to support flexible working? 

Put simply, the answer is yes. Especially given that the effectiveness of a design is ultimately determined by how well it aligns with a business’s culture, and how a company uses data collected from employee monitoring and evaluation to feed into future design activity. As Monica quoted: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

What we, as an industry, can take away from this webinar is that regardless of what’s around the corner for design, POE will play an important part in creating spaces that employees actually want to work in. 

By appealing to the human element of staff’s psyche and making the evaluation process a fun and enjoyable experience, we are not only likely to see increased morale among employees, but also have in-depth, accurate data on hand to use in design going forward. 

This webinar was chaired by Chloe McCulloch, Managing Editor of Building and the panel included Monica Parker, Founder of HATCH Analytics; Richard Mazuch, Architect and Senior Director of Design Research and Innovation at IBI Group; and Rosie Haslem, Director of Workplace Consultancy at Spacelab.

It’s the latest event in a series designed by Evidence Space to provide the wider industry with expert resources and insights, and stimulate conversation around the concept of evidence-based design.

For further information on evidence-based design visit www.EvidenceSpace.com

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Post occupancy evaluation