To know where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve been. As it turns out, this is even applicable to office design.
At least that’s what the study of human psychology in the workplace – and its growing importance in achieving results – is telling us.
First, there was the open bullpen office layout. Reminiscent of a 1950s newsroom or trading room floor, the bullpen often evokes images of a chaotic environment with little or no separation between workers. Then, in 1964, Robert Propst designed the cubicle as a way to empower employees by eliminating the bullpen’s privacy deficit.
In 2018, our deeper understanding of human behavior at work is causing the future of office design to look to the past as we shift back towards a workplace focused on open layouts to foster collaborative behaviours rather than isolation.
For forward-thinking designers, the question now is how to design a workspace that delivers the fullest behaviors of collaboration and concentration in order to maximize business success.
The Four Behavioural Cognitions
In the 1920s, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung identified four main human “behavioural cognitions” – the ways in which people acquire knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and the senses. According to Jung, the four human behavioural cognitions are:
- Thinking abilities, logical processing and progression
- Emotional drives, response and integration
- Intuitive introspection (such as belief and trust)
- Senses and their influence on interpreting the environment
By leveraging an understanding of these cognitions, designers can actually create offices that are conducive to the workspace behaviours that contribute to business success.
Predicting Employee Behaviour
Understanding and anticipating the central needs of human behavior allows designers to optimize the use of a given workspace in a way that elevates workforce productivity. Examining where people exercise their cognition is key in anticipating their behavior and designing workspaces in a way that appeals to those behaviours.
This is to say that workspaces can be designed to emulate the environments in which people are naturally prone to the types of behaviours that contribute to business success.
The Keys to Designing a Workspace for Behaviour
Each person is unique, and this extends to their cognitive behaviours. According to Jung, while we all have the ability to exercise all four cognitions, we’re usually prone to rely on one or two more prominently than the rest.
When it comes to workspaces, people perform better in environments that cater to their behavioural needs. What this means for workspace design is that an office that stimulates productive behavior will require a plethora of different spaces that tailor to different behavioural cognitions.
Designing Dynamic Work Environments
This takes us back to the death of the cubicle. People perform best in dynamic environments because it allows them to cater to their cognitions. The ability to change our environment within a greater workspace allows us to cater to our behavioural cognitions to stimulate thought, learning, progression and the ability to create.
For an introverted personality, for example, their best work may be done in a quiet place whereas an extroverted personality may thrive in a busy and socially interactive environment. The key is to design workspaces that offer something for each personality type.
Cater to Emotional Drives
In the business world, millennials often get a bad rap. But they’re also the largest demographic in the workforce – and the future of it – which means they are shaping the future of the workspace.
Millennials lend substantial consideration to values and culture when considering job satisfaction. This is for a plethora of reasons, from the demands of today’s job market to the expectation of constant accessibility created by advancing technology as well as the growing ability to operate remotely at work. The key factor that inspires them not only to be at the office but to actually invest themselves in their work is a great corporate culture.
This means that catering to emotional drives is paramount in designing workspaces that boost employee morale – and productivity in turn. The most effective workspace design considers the balance of emotional drives and functional needs fused with design elements that embody corporate culture.
This can take many forms. Designers should consider a variety of ergonomic needs such as multiple chair options and standing desks while employing layouts that encourage movement. Visual cues like wall art and plants have given workspaces a personalized feel while the offering of healthy foods demonstrates a commitment to employee wellbeing. All of these factors play into the emotional connection that ties employees to their workspace and company.
Catering to Sensory Needs
From lighting to temperature to noise volume and even smell, our senses play a bigger part in our productivity than we may believe.
When designing an office it’s important to consider our senses and their influence on the way we perceive our environments.
Physical and virtual environments define the sensory experience of teams at work. Design, at its core, is a sensory result and must be tuned to the precise sensory needs of the people at work in order to strike the balance between under or over-stimulation.
If our current trajectory is any indicator, our growing understanding of workplace psychology will have us continuing to draw inspiration from the past as we shape our future workspaces. In doing so, we will design ever-improving offices that stimulate workspace behaviour which contribute to business success.