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Evaluating an office change project

Many people seem to think that when the coffee machine is filled up with fresh coffee, printers have been connected and all employees have a place to sit and something to sit on, this is where a new office projects ends. Finally, after much effort and the move, which was expected not to affect the functioning of the organization, you can relax. This is definitely a success, but it does not mean the project is over.

Ewelina Solecka, Workplace Consulting Manager, Nowy Styl Group
Mikołaj Tarnawa, Workplace Research & Consulting Specialist, Nowy Styl Group

A new office space project is a huge undertaking in financial, logistic and organisational terms. It is also time consuming. After the project is completed, does your new office support all the processes constantly taking place within your organisation? Have you met the objectives you set yourself at the beginning? You have a new office, and usually more space, but how did it impact communication between departments? What about the well-being of employees? To be sure on these issues, you need to carry out an evaluation.

In his book Mechanizmy wykorzystania ewaluacji. Studium ewaluacji średniookresowych INTERREG III (Mechanisms for benefitting from evaluation. Study of medium-term evaluations INTERREG III) Karol Olejniczak says that evaluation is a study which aims to review and report on the quality and value of a studied phenomenon. Organisations focused on accomplishing their business goals need to make decisions, evaluate their effectiveness and, possibly, make necessary changes on a daily basis, all of this to work out the highest possible profit.

It should be no different with a new office space project. It is yet another business project which has an impact on the operation of the organisation, and it is often crucial for its continued functioning and development. A decision to relocate the office is often forced by external factors, such as insufficient space or upcoming end of lease agreement. So, a value added as a result of completing the project will be the ability to hire new people or changing the location to a more prestigious one. Or can you achieve even more?

Designing a new office is primarily an attempt to provide a functional response to the basic needs of the organisation.

Responding to the needs of the organisation

Already at the beginning of a new office project it is a good idea to consider what goals you want to and can achieve, and what needs you want to meet. Ask yourself these questions: How does your present office work? How does communication between different departments work? Is it effective? Is your office comfortable? Perhaps your employees have flagged some issues, but there was never time to bend over them? Designing a new office is not only about creating designer space in trendy colours. It is primarily an attempt to provide a response to basic needs of the organisation.

Needs that are often contradictory, different for different departments, resulting from various styles of work, various duties and management styles. On top of that, there are also the needs of employees who, after all, will be the main beneficiaries of the new office. A space can effectively support business processes taking place in an organisation, but it will not be possible if it is not designed well.

Ask yourself these questions:

How does your present office work?

How does communication between different departments work?

Is it effective?

Is your office comfortable?

Perhaps your employees have flagged some issues, but there was never time to bend over them?

People talking in the office

The first step in creating a new office design should be to consider what you expect of the new space, and what it can give your organisation. It is much easier to answer this question when you get help from someone with a fresh look. Therefore, when you design a new office it is a good idea to use a workplace strategy. It assumes that an office space design should be based on workspace research and analysis carried out by external consultants. You can then be sure that your new office will have solutions tailored to the individual needs of your organisation, and that will have a beneficial effect on work efficiency and comfort.

Every business activity is subject to evaluation. Your new office project should too.

Evaluation – why and how

The course of an evaluation process will depend on the goals of your new office project. In an evaluation study, we are able to verify a number of aspects: whether the assumed objectives of the project have been achieved, whether users of the new space feel well in it, and how the office interacts with them. For an evaluation focused on building knowledge – how the project went, how it could be improved and, taking into account the specific nature of the organisation, what to pay close attention to next time, because sooner or later we will have to move again. Depending on your goals, evaluation will be carried out using qualitative and/or quantitative research methods. This will include a survey, participant observation, interviews and statistical analysis of data received. If you decide to carry out work space research and analysis before the start of the project, evaluation can also involve a comparison of results before and after the office change (pre-and post-test).

Evaluation as a responsibility

Every business activity is subject to evaluation. Your new office project should too. This offers a lot of benefits. With evaluation, you can find out whether your employees feel good in the new office. It has been designed taking into account their needs and suggestions, but not every solution that looks good on paper will work well in reality. Sometimes you need to make just a small adjustment to the new office space, a few tweaks to how it is finished or furnished to improve the level of satisfaction significantly. At a low cost, you can make a change that will protect you from a drop in work efficiency or even an increased employee turnover.

Checking whether your employees are happy with the new office has one more benefit – it allows you to build a positive image as an employer. But it only makes sense to show this level of care for the employee if the organisation actually engages in the process of evaluation and subsequent changes. It needs to demonstrate willingness to listen to people and to meet their needs. By asking their opinion, you agree to introduce any improvements that may come up.

Are you ready for evaluation?

  • Have you specified its objective?

  • Will you introduce changes, if any, to the finished project?

  • Do you have the adequate resources to introduce them?

  • Do you want to engage people from outside the organisation to carry out that process?

The article was originally published in Harvard Business Review Poland (02/2019)

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