Data driven design: the workplace of the future

Data driven design: the workplace of the futureInfinity House Group Monday Headshots - by James Rudd at Infinity House, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, England, on 02 September 2019. Copyright 2019 owned by James Rudd

It’s time to embrace a fact-based approach to office design

The impact of your workplace decisions is far reaching and can often have substantial financial implications. Getting your workspace right can be a gamechanger for any business, no matter the scale. But how do you know what style will stand the test of time? What will the workplace of the future look like? And how can you ensure you stay ahead of the design curve?

Murray Hibbert, Sales Director at Habit Action – the office and design build company creating awesome workspaces with science – delves into how data-driven design looks set to change the face of the office.

Workspaces, like life and business itself, naturally evolve over time. Just think back to the Mad Men era (1960s) where office workers could expect teak veneers, Knoll-style couches, ashtrays, and old-fashioned telephones- not to mention the pervasive fug of cigarette smoke. If you were the boss, you could also expect a large office to yourself complete with geometric wallpaper, a drinks trolley and blinds to shut out the rest of the office.

Fast forward, through the grey cubical farms of the 80s and 90s, to today, and it’s clear that office design has shifted much more towards user-friendliness. Advances in technology have precipitated a new, more flexible way of working and design is increasingly evolving to accommodate this shift. Spaces tailored to suit different needs, such as coworking, collaboration, private phone calls and quiet working, are becoming more of a design priority than ever before.

So, what’s next for the future of the office? Have we taken user-friendly design as far as it can go? Far from it. In fact, one thing we can certainly expect to see is science playing a bigger role in influencing design decisions, as savvy companies increasingly harness the power of technology to help them make more intelligent, user-friendly, use of space.

Evidence-based design, where decisions are made using a data-driven approach, looks set to become the next big influential factor and is likely to change the face of office design for good.

An evidence-based office design scheme takes data from an organisation’s working styles and patterns and converts it into a tangible workspace design scheme. The data, often gathered via an app, can give insights into how employees feel about their current workspace, provide a “heat map” of what areas are being used the most and when, and detail precisely what activities each space is being used for.

So how exactly does such a process work?  Firstly, a set of tailored statements are put forward, including an agree/disagree scale, which allow the app to capture how staff feel about the workplace’s current design. Next, temporary sensors are placed throughout the space, which pick up signals from people’s phones to create a heatmap of which areas are being used the most. Finally, the app includes an activity calendar, which employees fill in to give a clear picture of what activities are taking place in the office, and at what time.

By giving decision makers a comprehensive picture of how their workspace is used, data-driven design allows any new design and space plan to integrate seamlessly with employee requirements. This could mean creating special workstations or even removing them altogether for a more flexible approach. Alternatively, it could mean the introduction of innovative furniture, specially designed break-out areas, or new technology. Crucially, data-driven design takes the guess work out of office decoration, instead allowing decisions to be made based on facts.

From looking at layout, the conversation looks set to move on further, to encompass all the elements of an interior that make a positive difference to employee performance – and that aren’t currently being optimised.

The right lighting for example, both in terms of illumination and colour temperature, has been shown to help combat fatigue and enhance wellbeing, so is one area that will be prioritised. The right acoustics are also important, helping people concentrate and produce their best work. According to research, just 30 per cent of office occupants are currently happy with the noise levels in their workplace, so it is clear there is plenty of scope for improvement.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the power of scent will also increasingly be harnessed to improve staff experience and stimulate particular behaviours. For example, citrus scents are known to stimulate creativity, whereas rosemary can be used to encourage mental clarity-ideal for accomplishing difficult tasks.

The future workspace will be smart, taking into account usage and culture. Crucially, its design will be inspired by data insight, rather than emotions and individual opinion, and will be very much led by the diverse and continuously changing needs of the 21st century worker.

We know from our customers that there is already an appetite amongst forward-thinking companies for tackling office design holistically, putting thought into how every element can benefit employee performance. In future, we can expect increasing numbers of firms to look beyond aesthetics, as they switch on the productivity benefits of employee-focussed design.

By using a data-driven research approach, businesses can get a better understanding of how well their processes suit the space in which they work, which could prove invaluable for the future. Is it time to embrace a fact-based approach to office redesign? Our experience suggests it could make a real difference.

For more information about Habit Action, visit


Data driven design: the workplace of the future