Project Description

MKThink on Workplace Design

Systems-thinking the ever-evolving office environment

In MKThink’s approach to workplace design, we adopt a systems view and look beyond the physical environment to examine the interconnected components that cumulatively define the workplace and employee experience. We focus on the integration of three components of the workplace system:

  • Place: Where the work is performed

  • Technology: Tools required to perform the work
  • Policy: Rules governing performance

Our design process is a high-touch exercise from which we gain a deep understanding of a client’s unique competencies and qualities to inform an effective work environment that promotes those competencies and qualities.

Our process begins with a discovery phase in which we collect qualitative and quantitative data on organizational culture, policies, and existing facilities. The data collected informs a map of the workplace system, which guides the development of an effective, integrated strategy. The planning and design of the Place, Technology, and Policy are developed in parallel to ensure a cohesive solution.

Drivers of Change in the Nature of Work

Transition from Physical to Virtual
The office long served as the backbone for all work activity. It contained all of the tools, equipment, and resources essential to business productivity and success, and equally contained work activities to the boundaries of physical infrastructure.

With the advent of the information age, physical infrastructure has given way to technological infrastructure. In today’s workplace, networks provide employees access to core applications and databases. Information is transmitted digitally. And employees communicate electronically with one another and with clients, customers, and vendors.

High Capital Demands
The traditional workplace has become increasingly vulnerable to capital costs and risks, calling for organizational nimbleness to respond to market opportunities and/or constraints.

Evolution of the Employee
Employers have shifted from long-term relationships with employees to more transactional ones. Consequently, workers are redefining their roles from that of committed team players to individual brand builders focused on creating portfolios of experiences.

Cost of Living Challenges
In many markets, the high cost of housing and commuting logistics present employers with climates that pose challenges to affording and retaining employees, who are expected to report to an office and perform under the direct, face-to-face supervision of a manager

This transformation has created new opportunities and criteria for the physical workplace.

Designing Places

Our workplace environment design addresses two types of places—those controlled by the employer and those controlled by others. Based on our portfolio of clients, we have found that employer-controlled environments generally prioritize layouts and facilities to optimize modalities that call for face-to-face interactions between employees and/or require specialized tools and resources. The primary function of the physical workplace is for:

• Collaboration
• Culture/identity building
• Brand expression
• Research and development requiring special equipment
• Manufacturing/prototyping

For space controlled by others (remote work environments), we propose policy design—standards and guidelines that establish minimum criteria. This exemplifies a point where Place design and Policy design interconnect.

Designing Technology and Policy

The organizational structures of most of our clients divide Facilities, Information Technology, and Human Resources into separate departments. To achieve an integrated workplace strategy, our process engages representatives from each of these departments to cultivate the necessary cross-functional relationship to inform an effective and systemic design solution.

Our approach is best illustrated by the following client cases:

The Nature Conservancy
Santa Clara Valley Water District
Mozilla Corporation