We teamed up with AgilQuest to survey over 300 people in A&D firms about the prevalence of open offices, their worst schedule hang-ups, and burgeoning trends.
The workplace is undergoing rapid changes and A&D firms are right at the center of it. As drivers of innovation, A&D firms are charged with satisfying their clients’ desires to incorporate all of the latest trends, now. In order to deliver meaningful solutions, new resources, and more impactful content, we teamed up with AgilQuest to better understand the state of the A&D industry today.
Who we surveyed
The majority of our 312 survey takers work in large firms. Twenty-six percent hail from firms of 250 or more, and over 63 percent of respondents work in firms of 30 or more. Responses from A&D professionals in firms of less than 30 clocked in at 23 percent.
To better understand the scope of their current work, we asked the respondents about their client base. Results showed that they primarily work with clients who have multiple locations, as opposed to 24 percent of survey takers who work mostly with clients in single locations.
Are we really going all in on all open?
The big bad open office gets a lot of attention, but only 34 percent of respondents reported that 75 percent or more of the spaces they are designing are open offices.
Bob Fox, our publisher and the founder of FOX Architects, said that this is consistent with what he’s seeing in the field.
“The pendulum is swinging back, and we’re seeing more private space included in office designs,” he said. “We need to have those quiet areas. They don’t have to be assigned, but it’s important to balance the open with quiet in order for people to work effectively.”
What’s the driver behind current projects?
We thought it would be all about cost reduction, but it’s not. The primary motivation behind 21 percent of respondents’ projects was improved quality of space, environments that foster collaboration came in at 18, and overall increases in productivity (15 percent) plus employee retention (15 percent) rounded out the top four drivers.
“Cost is still a big concern,” said Fox, “but we’re also seeing an increase in awareness in how the space can help the organization to perform better.”
What’s the hold up?
When it comes to the biggest challenges A&D firms experience with their clients, cost, schedules, knowledge, and process cause the most hiccups.
Fox believes the solution to these challenges is communication.
“Designers and architects are really creative — we know how to solve problems — but our ability to communicate all of the intricacies is a constant challenge,” he said. “The challenge now is that pace of change is increasing, and the number of things that affect design increase, and that puts tremendous pressure on our ability to communicate. So a successful process is really dependent upon high levels of communication.”
Here’s how the results of the “biggest challenges” question shook out:
Cost / schedule — 27 percent
Knowledge — 21 percent
Process — 17 percent
Change management — 12 percent
Expectations — 11 percent
Client leadership engagement / goals — 9 percent
Technology / solution set — 4 percent
Predictions for the future
Here are the top five workplace design topics that our survey takers think will be top of mind in the coming year:
Flexibility — Not only in agile, self-configurable spaces and work schedules but also in flexible lease terms.
Technology integration — Design that integrates wearables and ubiquitous technology in which employees won’t need to “drag their laptops with them”.
Privacy — Environments for employees who “want to be together but alone”.
New set of metrics — A need for deep data that proves specific interventions work and proof of productivity impacts.
Acoustic and comfort solutions — Solutions for mass-pack open plan spaces.
Fox said these answers ring true:
“The traditional metrics don’t work anymore, the way we work is different, types of space are different, we’re not confined to a desk or an office anymore, and there’s an increasing variety of different types of spaces or tools,” he said. “But there’s no common language yet around how we measure performance of those things, and that’s one of the missions of Work Design Magazine, to have these conversations and build a common language.”