Evaluation of workplace quality - A method for improvement and further development of workplace design for the future
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Background for Master’s Thesis Research Most of the workspace inhabited by people today were developed in and according to work needs in a time when the pace and character of changes in work were much less pronounced than they are today (McGregor & Then, 1991). Innovative thinking in office design is once again changing the way we think about our workspace, on a level not experienced since the end of the nineteenth century. Duffy (1997) states that the way people work in their offices are changing rapidly and that these changes will affect the conventions upon which office design and real estate practice have been based for decades. New technology enables people to work from almost anywhere at any time. Office design therefore plays an important role and should encourage and support the new ways of working Tanis and Duffy (2008, cited in Grech & Walter, 2008) asserted that the benefits of office design were measurable, by putting office design into the general context of business. They made the distinction between efficiency and effectiveness to office design, making it possible to measure the business benefits of design features that save money and add value. In order to create functional workplaces for the future, which not only anticipates, but take full advantage of all the changes that are taking place, it is important to have the right methods and tools for evaluation of workplaces. With such an evaluation it is possible to identify challenges in the workplace design that can be improved in order to develop workplaces that better supports the users in their daily work task (Duffy, 1997). The goal of this thesis was to decide on a method within building evaluation that is suitable for workplaces and can be used for improvement and further development of workplace design for the future. With Telenor as a pilot study in this thesis, the purpose was to adapt and adjust a workplace evaluation method to fit the purpose of evaluation of the Telenor Workplace Model in order to make it standardized for future use. The aim of this master’s thesis was therefore to ratify to what degree building evaluation can contribute in further development and improvement of open plan workplace design in an organization. Research and Development Process The research initiated with an existing survey developed to evaluate offices in a post occupancy phase on a detailed and analytical level. An early edition of this survey has already been used by Telenor Real Estate in their projects to evaluate the usability of their workplace model. Telenor serves the pilot study in this thesis and the purpose of this thesis was to adapt the previous mentioned survey to fit the purpose of projects in Telenor Real Estate. Telenor Real Estate has developed a Telenor Workplace Model, and wants this to be applied to every Telenor Building on a long term basis. In order to do so it is important for Telenor Real Estate to collect data that can be used to visualize the effects of such an application to the decision makers for every building. To collect this data they need a standardized method with tools easily operated and analyzed. As the Head of Workplace Management mentioned in the interview, it is important that everything is automated so that it is simple to send out, collect and analyze the evaluation results. In order to get a deep understanding of the different aspects of background and purpose for workplace evaluation, it was considered necessary to collect information and opinions from different people involved in an evaluation. This researcher has identified three perspectives in development of an evaluation method that needs to be considered; the developer, the user and the participants. Telenor wanted a shorter survey focusing more on functional space and quality in order to quickly analyze the workplace quality for use in benchmarks or pre-, and post reconstruction comparisons, it was crucial to eliminate all questions considered sensitive and less important for the workplace function purpose The method developed in this thesis was tested in a pilot study at Telenor’s premises in Budapest in form of a newly developed Survey on Workplace Quality and the Usability Walkthrough found in USE-Tool. The usability of the survey was evaluated through a focus group at Telenor Budapest in order to assess if the method achieved the objectives stated in the research question of this thesis. Thesis Conclusion The method developed in this research is best suited to be used as an evaluation tool for open plan offices, but can also be used in other types of workplaces for the same purpose. The pilot study in this research is performed in a flexible, non-territorial workplace, but most of the questions in the survey tool can also be used for a workplace with cell office structure. USE-Tool, which was evaluated to be a well suited method to serve the purpose of this thesis, is a thorough evaluation method for usability containing several steps with tools to make qualitative assessments of a building. However, it does not provide a tool to collect quantitative data. As mentioned by the Head of Workplace Management at Telenor Real Estate, it was important for an evaluation method to provide statistical results that could be presented to the decision makers in a reconstruction or development project. Another impotent goal of the evaluation was to retrieve data for benchmark. Statistical data is often preferred by people in business as it is a good and easy way to visualize results and to benchmark. The researcher will therefore suggest that The Survey of Workplace Quality can be used as a supplement to applications of USE-Tool in order to collect the quantitative data need for benchmarks and presentation purposes. A post occupancy evaluation involves a systematic evaluation of opinions, from the perspective of the users of a building, and assesses how well a building matches the users' needs (Preiser et al, 1988). As several of the presented evaluation methods state the importance of the user’s assessments of their workplace when evaluating the improvements of its design, one can conclude that a workplace evaluation achieves its purpose.