The Intersection of Workplace Data and Design

Spring 2020 Issue
By: Ben Waber
Humanyze’s redesigned interior space at its headquarters in Boston is the outcome of a seven-month collaborative process with Gensler that relied on a wide range of analytics. \u003cem\u003ePhoto courtesy of Gensler\u003c/em\u003e

In-depth information on employee preferences informs an office redesign in Boston.

In the modern office, work doesn’t only happen at a shared desk or in a closed-door meeting. Work also happens in casual encounters like bumping into colleagues at the coffee station or during walks to a meeting.

With digital tools providing even more ways to connect in the workplace, creating the right physical space to support collaborative and efficient work is essential. Discovering what collaborative opportunities exist in order to inform design is rooted in understanding how people are already working, and those insights require objective data. Once it’s understood how teams are collaborating, there is an opportunity to create spaces that impact employees’ work life for the better.

Putting Data to Work

When Humanyze, a workplace analytics company, wanted to redesign the interior of its new corporate headquarters in Boston in November 2017, it enlisted Gensler, a global architecture and planning firm. The project centered on creating a new workspace that encourages collaboration among employees and supports a thriving culture.

Using Organizational Network Analysis (ONA), Humanyze helps companies make smarter, faster business decisions by providing insights into the relationships between workspace design and collaboration, as well as their impact on an organization. The science behind this technology helps companies uncover how physical space and digital technologies impact the way teams work.

Centered on gathering internal company data, ONA software can discover and measure an organization’s internal communication patterns and collaboration levels. It then translates that information into insights around spatial workplace efficiency, such as office layout or remote work possibilities. With this information, companies can then create optimal workspaces for employees that drive productivity and collaboration.

Workplace research and analytics have long been intrinsic to Gensler’s design process. That makes it uniquely poised to design a workspace that realizes Humanyze’s vision and mission. By gathering data through digital and physical channels such as Slack, email, and in-person meetings and interactions, Humanyze gleaned detailed insights about its internal organizational needs and problems. Gensler then incorporated these data-based insights into its design and creatively transformed Humanyze’s work environment.

A Unique Space

Through a seven-month-long collaboration, Gensler created a space that fits the needs of Humanyze and positively impacts its employees. With unique features like a mobile coffee station and a video portal to its West Coast office, the open-concept design also has spaces that promote wellness. These include a treadmill workstation with views of the Charles River and a meditation room.

Rooted in Humanyze’s history and brand of data-based office functionally and efficiency, the new design features bright, modern spaces that foster creativity and allow for better collaboration. The new 7,733-square-foot office includes meeting rooms in multiple sizes to fit the needs of the various teams. And it’s built to accommodate a growing company — Humanyze currently has 40 employees with plans to expand.

The impact of the new design is already providing positive results at Humanyze. Leveraging its own technology, the data shows a positive impact on the company’s levels of collaboration. The ample meeting areas and the strategic layout of the new office resulted in more time spent with coworkers across all teams. This maintains the company’s overall culture and high levels of connectedness, and it also increases contact among employees.

Humanyze and Gensler’s collaborative success is an example for future workplace redesigns. The project highlights the far-reaching influence of data-centered discoveries and the invaluable overlap between workplace analytics and architectural design.

In addition to the business returns, employees benefit from being fully supported by a work environment statistically tailored to meet their needs and set them up for collaboration. Building efficient and effective workspaces through data-informed insights is the next wave of customization for both companies and their employees.

Ben Waber is the president and co-founder of Humanyze.