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How 'big data' can inform workplace design - with the Leesman Index

The world’s largest database on employee workplace experience, the Leesman Index is a powerful tool offering employers a rare insight into how their workplace is truly performing. With one simple questionnaire, the team can provide a systematic breakdown of how employees feel their workplace is affecting their performance. But what can be done with this information?

At our UK Showroom, we invited Leesman CEO Tim Oldman to speak to us about the true value of the Leesman Index and how it has enabled employers, interior designs and architects to improve both productivity and general wellbeing through effective workplace design.

What is the Leesman index?

The Leesman Index is a set of data collected via a questionnaire, designed to give insight into how a workplace is affecting employee performance and happiness, as Tim explains; "The Leesman Index is the world’s largest insight database on employee workplace experience. The data is collected through a really simple, very standard, online questionnaire; It’s available in 37 languages, and we’ve surveyed buildings in 91 countries now. The survey enables employees quite simply to tell us what they do, and whether their workplace supports them doing it."

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How can companies use the data to impact workplace design?

The detailed survey provides an interesting perspective on how a workplace is performing, tangible evidence with which to base future design choices on, using the thoughts of all employees.

Tim; "Companies our data in all sorts of different ways. It might dramatically change the trajectory of a project, with one example I can think of;

A client managed to grab some more space in a building they occupied, they had grown quite considerably, another floor became available, they grabbed the floor as soon as it was available, and the theory was, they would just expand the teams back out again, relax the space occupation, or the occupant density of the space. But in asking the employees what they felt, that was the last thing they wanted, because they were really buzzing from being tightly packed in as these sort of communities that have built up through the success.

We changed the strategy, or the client changed the strategy as a result of the feedback so they used the additional space for meeting rooms, breakout space, restaurants and canteens, and ancillary accommodation, leaving teams all collectively embarking on that thing together on that one floor."

Noise & Acoustics

With such a large database, the Leesman Index is able to not only pinpoint localised issues, but also highlight trends in the industry. One consistent factor, as Tim explains, related to noise disturbances and acoustics.

"One of the things that emerged very early on in the journey of collecting data, was that certain factors shine out, fairly consistently as being statistically linked to poor performance in workplace. Noise levels statistically is the strongest; an employee who is dissatisfied with noise levels is almost certainly going to be an employee who is not able to report that their workplace enables them to work productively."

"Although an employee might be dissatisfied with noise levels, it doesn’t mean that the space is too noisy. It might be that actually it is too quiet, and there are certain disturbances. Think about the bell ringing on the lift door every time in opens, or maybe somebody who’s got a really annoying ring tone on their phone. The risk almost is quick diagnosis – diagnosis takes time, and it takes a thoroughness, and an investigation at a local level."

Read - Sounds too good to miss - a panel discussion on workplace acoustics

Specialised interior design

With so much data collected, is there a secret formula, which all workplaces can follow to achieve success? According to Tim, there is not. With each workspace having specific needs, and working on specific tasks, true success is found in specialised workplace design, taking into consideration all the nuances found in the particular environment.

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Tim: "The goal of the Leesman Index is not to suddenly find a paint by numbers, silver bullet, secret elixir for high performance workplace.. Things like a desk and chair will always be top in importance for most employees out of our physical features list. However, the componentry of workplace is different for every organisation, and almost different for every function within an organisation.

Cookie cutter solutions that are standardised, and homogenised, and have a design guideline in how to roll them out, is really not where most of the high performance organisation that we work with are."

Watch the full interview with Tim Oldman below


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