31 December, 2016

The Multisensory Workplace

As a human-centered workplace consultancy, PLASTARC has long recognized the connections between what can seem like contrasting entities: people and architecture, emotions and data, the natural and built environment.

We see these pieces as interconnected nodes in a vast, unified system. And happily, we’re beginning to see more and more companies and projects derive their missions and motivations from such an integrated perspective. They’re seconding our belief that people—not just tech-enabled buildings—are important and reliable sensors in the workplace, constantly capturing usable data about what’s safe and what’s not, what’s conducive and obstructive to work, what feels good and what feels lousy.

This wider interest in the multisensory workplace signals the embrace of an increasingly complex understanding of occupant experience, and that’s exciting to us, because we’ve always approached design from this multisensory perspective. We hold this viewpoint to be an accessible, simple, and effective one from which designers and non-designers alike can see and make sense of our world: through the same basic five senses we learn about in kindergarten: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Read more about everything “multisensory” means and how we employ it in our work in this Q & A with Melissa Marsh in Allwork.Space. following her presentation at GCUC in Los Angeles.

On our minds

Heeding multiple dimensions of sensory experience both complicates and enables the task of designing human-centric spaces; it opens exciting opportunities for leveraging workplace design strategies in increasingly nuanced ways. Depending on who you talk to—a kindergarten teacher, taste bud researcher, or psychic medium—we humans may be employing senses that go way beyond the basic five to feel our way through life. Designers can appeal to each of these sensory systems in virtually endless ways!

PLASTARC is dedicated to working for a world in which every one of our five (or more) senses is engaged and appealed to at work, and where the smartest buildings are “dialed-in” to our sensations—reacting to make our workplaces more flexible, comfortable, and productive. We’ll keep tracking the successes and challenges of the multisensory workplace, so stay tuned.

From the archives

It’s hard to believe that, over two years ago, we attended the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) Conference for the first time! This year, we returned to share our research on spatial transparency and organizational connection. You can catch our ANFA takeaways in Work Design Magazine.

At this time last year, we joined the Financial Times (scroll down to the video “FT Innovate US 2015 - 14. Workspace - Marsh, Rasiej, Schmitt”) to discuss how workspace is a powerful tool for enabling organizational success and business acceleration with Andrew Rasiej of Civic Hall and Bernd Schmitt of Columbia Business School. Earlier in 2015, we were also featured in a Financial Times article about the use of wood and other natural materials in the workplace, including this multisensory direct hit: “Sounds, smells, colours and lighting... all make a huge impact on our experience; meanwhile, design typically focuses exclusively on look.”

More trends, discoveries, and insights are coming your way next month. Until then, happy holidays and we'll see you in 2017!

In Case You Missed It

We’ve had a busy fall, organizing and presenting at programs nationwide and internationally. Some were laser-focused on multisensory design, such as Neocon East 2016: The Multisensory Environment: Future Of Workplace UX, where we spoke about why sensory factors are critical to workplace performance, communication, and collaboration; and our webinar, Multisensory Design: A Human Approach To The Workplace, which illustrated how today’s occupant-consumers are demanding more hospitable workspaces, and how design can meet their needs by focusing on people, not machines. In addition to them, we’ve also been talking about...

…how social research methods inform the built environment.

We co-organized and moderated I Love This Place! Exceptional Design Driven By Social Research, a program at the Center for Architecture in New York City about the successful integration of social science into the built environment. (This was the last 2016 event by AIA’s Social Science Research and Architecture Committee, but you can stay in the loop about our 2017 events through our Meetup group!) For “Archtober,” we led a group of our peers on a workspace tour and discussion with social science experts about ways to create exceptional spaces through research and engagement. We called it Walk the Talk: Successful Social Science and Design Integration. Away from the hustle of the city, we presented on opportunities for better integration of people sciences into architectural practice at the AIA New York State Design Conference 2016: People-centric Built Environment in Saratoga Springs. And, back in the NYC fray, we co-organized Designing for People Using Evidence: LEED, WELL, and What's Next?, which focused on the challenges of measuring well-being: physical, emotional, and environmental.

…when investment in the digital layer of buildings advances the occupant experience.

Why should buildings invest as much in digital strategy as they do in furniture, fixtures, and facades? We made our case at WorkTech16 Toronto: Why Your Building Needs a CTO. And at WorkTech16 West Coast, we moderated panels and presentations covering the gamut from work practice simulation to lessons learned from autonomous vehicles to spacecraft living studies. In Boston, we joined DisruptCRE: Driving A New Tenant Experience to share our expertise on leveraging social data to better understand and enhance the tenant experience.

...why enabling people through workplace design and management is sustainable.

Since it began in 2014, we’ve made a habit of presenting at the Bloomberg Data For Good Exchange. This year, we shared our work on transforming the building industry and health outcomes through social data-supported design. At IFMA NYC: Improving The BMI Of Your Workplace, we spread the word that good health is good business.

PLASTARC is dedicated to working for a world in which every one of our five (or more) senses is engaged and appealed to at work, and where the smartest buildings are “dialed-in” to our sensations—reacting to make our workplaces more flexible, comfortable, and productive. We’ll keep tracking the successes and challenges of the multisensory workplace, so stay tuned.

Looking Ahead

Below are a few of the people, events, and initiatives we’ve crossed paths with recently; most all are employing the multisensory perspective in some way, big or small!

As we look ahead to spring 2017, we’re excited to push our research and consulting forward by learning from other disciplines. In March, at Columbia Business School’s BRITE Conference in NYC, and at UPenn’s Wharton People Analytics Conference in Philadelphia, we’ll explore how trends in consumer marketing and social data are ushering in exciting opportunities for the multisensory workplace. Also in March, we’ll take the stage with Verizon at the CoreNet APAC Summit in Shanghai and present some of our current work on non-traditional approaches to corporate real estate and how they can advance brand impact, accelerate business initiatives, and foster a global community of customers and employees. Then, at IFMA Facilities Fusion in Las Vegas in April, we’ll discuss social data’s expanding applications for the profession of office management.