CannonDesign’s Commercial Workplace Design and Strategy team is featured extensively in a new piece from The Chicago Tribune, titled “From seat sensors to infrared cameras, Big Brother-type tech could have a hand in designing your next office.” The article focuses on the fact that “employers, and the design firms they hire, are collecting reams of data about how employees use their workspaces. They’re using seat sensors, infrared cameras, footfall trackers and surveys, while also analyzing email traffic patterns, badge swipes and conference room reservation systems. The information is being used to develop office designs that not only optimize space but also improve employee experience.”

The full article can be read online. Here’s a key excerpt from the article.

When CannonDesign created plans for Zurich North America’s new headquarters in Schaumburg, which would be home to 3,000 employees, the insurance firm did not want to use sensors or beacons because of privacy concerns, Meg Osman said. But the process was no less data-driven, relying on surveys, focus groups, interviews, observational studies and a test floor where 150 employees spent three months sampling different configurations.

Zurich North America

The findings from the test floor resulted in a highly customized, 783,000-square-foot solution for the company, which wanted to introduce social hubs but avoid creating areas that could distract employees, most of whom are doing focused work. And it reduced the risk that it would be a disaster.

“When you’re making a hundreds-of-millions dollar investment decision, you want to make sure it’s going to work,” said Mark Hirons, design principal at CannonDesign. “This process helps take the pressure off company leaders.”

Post-occupancy surveys conducted more than six months after Zurich moved found 83 percent satisfaction, and it was consistent across all generations, which Osman said is unusual. It also found that middle managers were among the most satisfied, which was notable given that a concern from the start was that dissatisfaction among middle management could trickle down and taint the opinion of their employees.

To guard against that, the design firm paid particular attention to the needs of those managers, seating them by the window to keep them off the main circulation path and near small meeting rooms. It also named them change management ambassadors, engaging them early in the process to get them on board.

CJ Blossom Park

Though employee surveys and interviews lack the whiz-bang nature of sensors and other technologies, collecting data through such channels is critical to making employees feel they have input in their futures.

“When we are infringing upon a business, the earlier we can get to employees and make them part of the change, the better it is for the design and the better it is for adoption,” said Swapna Sathyan, director of workplace strategy consulting at CannonDesign.

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