David Lanphear

A Little “Tszuj”

Shortly after taking my new job, it was discovered that the office planned on moving. In order to consolidate locations and join together a growing workforce, senior executives determined that it would be best for collaboration if the two area offices became one. But to make such a move successful, multiple factors have to be considered – the first of which, is the people.

At the time, the director of innovation was on maternity leave (with twins!) so I gathered some teammates and took it upon ourselves to offer our assistance. If the objective of the move was to increase collaboration and provide for a unified office experience, we wanted to understand what being a part of an office meant to people.

Feedback poster at 9am

So we opened our question to the offices. We hung two design prompts by the elevators with some post-it’s and stickies and seeded a couple of responses. We got to scheduling 8 in-person interviews at each location and held dine-and-dish group exploratory sessions for each as well.

The feedback we got was surprising, and instrumental to our responses. Instead of fostering community and collaboration, people felt unheard, unspoken to, and disengaged in the decision. They were thinking of just working from home, but the simple act of reaching out as a design team and gathering their opinions gave employees a new hope for the transition.

After hearing this, the senior leadership team began a roadshow to watch, listen, and interact with employees who would be effected. Engagement went up, and real conversations started to occur.

When we returned with additional prototypes (below) to react to, everyone was more than willing to contribute their reactions. We tested everything from interior design choices, technology solutions, mobility options, and of course – collaboration tools. With permission to speak and a new identity of ownership, we began to chart out the future of a combined office together.

Additional feedback poster in other location
Results after 1 day of community feedback

In the end, we identified a previously unrecognized need and recommended a provider for a new type of technology solution to pilot at the new office. We saw multiple other ideas go through additional iterations before being implemented in various ways around the new office. But we also validated the desire for collaboration features.

Few of these tools, however, would have even been successful if people stayed home. It was our research – reaching out and empathizing with our own employees – that encouraged these individuals to go in and define a community of their own.

While iterations of many of our ideas were ultimately implemented, it was the power of conversation that truly made the difference.

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  • Lincoln Financial Group

  • LFG.com

  • January 13, 2020

Changing offices involves a lot of design decisions. But we learned that engaging the people is the most important decision of all.