Experiential approach to workplace design

Experiential design has been around for decades and has been used effectively in the field of advertising and architectural and set design. However, now more than ever, there is a need to use the principles of experiential design at the workplace as well. This mode of communicating a brand or a thought process is the most effective and hence, the most successful. When you can feel or experience a thought, it is far more effective and impressive than a flurry of messages thrown at you.

By Akshay Lakhanpal, Regional Managing Director, Space Matrix, India

Need

A brand is defined by the experiences (positive or negative) that it generates for its consumers, employees or partners at various touchpoints (both digital and physical). Today, the workplace is becoming a crucial touchpoint to define, design and then convey the brand to the audience (physically first and then digitally as well). Whether the audience is internal (existing employees) or external (clients, partners or potential employees), the experience of a space must be in tandem with the organization’s ethos, beliefs and spirit. While the external audience is susceptible and impressionable to be tricked into a make-believe world, it is impossible to mislead the internal audience. Thus, it is advisable to portray the brand honestly. However, if the brand intends to embrace a culture not prevalent at the moment, then those aspirational aspects should be designed inside out.

For example, an organization may create a recreation area within the office with a large pool table, latest video gaming consoles and board games to attract employees and showcase the “work hard, play hard” philosophy to the external world. However, if the use of such a space is frowned upon by the leaders, then it is a failure. It would be a waste of space and seeing that everyday would make people realize what they are missing, culturally, at their workplace.

Experiential design is extremely difficult to achieve, and if attempted half-heartedly, it may create literal manifestations of perceived image / culture of the organization, which appeals to none. It is therefore important to spend significant time in understanding the organization, people, its culture, and how they party, work, or interact with the visitors / clients etc.

Employee Experience or EX

While designing an office for a reputed management consulting firm, we uncovered the fact that the organization was struggling to create a connect with the employees. Work from home and work from client premises policies, led to a virtually empty office and the pride of the workplace was insignificant. The solution for this problem was crafted by understanding the stated and implied pain points of the users. Once design addressed these issues, the office was functionally efficient. However, it was still devoid of the emotional connect. Experiences that struck a chord with the employees were designed and interwoven through the office to create an EX which would not only be extremely immersive but also unique to that organization – thereby, enhancing the loyalty to the brand. Besides the physical control of the space, the employees were handed over digital control of the space, thereby seamlessly blending the digital and physical experiences into one unified EX. The final layer of technology, giving ultimate control to monitor and alter the micro-environment in the workplace, exponentially improved the EX of the space.

Client Experience or CX

With the same consulting firm, we spent significant time in understanding how they could create reasons to host clients at their office and then worked towards a seamless CX as well. While it is important for employees to understand the brand and its purpose, it is equally essential for the clients to understand the same to build the trust in the brand. Once they understood the merits of this approach, a huge section of the office was allocated to the client area wherein all possible scenarios of engagement and education were thought through and incorporated. It is best to explain the process and the exercises with live examples in the right set-up than on a presentation deck.

As a design firm, we have taken this to the next level, wherein our new offices (Workplace Innovation labs) are designed keeping in mind the CX element. The whole office is designed to give the clients varied experiences of technology, new age products, and mechanical and IT solutions in action. This will help them review the pros and cons of every system and decide what’s best for their own office.

Process Experience or PX

As a design and build firm, it is important for us to ensure that the whole process experience for the client (which lasts 6 to 12 months) is as pleasing as the final outcome. It is hence our endeavor to invest in the right tools and technology to ensure that the client gets that adequate visibility to the process and outcomes are as predicted. This helps them become involved in the entire creative and site delivery phases of the project, giving them comfort and hence building trust.

Akshay Lakhanpal : With over 12 years of project management experience, Akshay plays a significant role in running the India team alongside his joint director.

Akshay plays a significant role in running the Space Matrix India team alongside his joint regional managing director, Jaiprakash Aildasani. He will jointly oversee the business operations, strategic planning, project management, human resources, design technology, and client relationships in India. With over 12-years’ project management experience working for leading international real estate companies such as Cushman and Wakefield and Jones Lang Lasalle, Akshay has built a strong reputation and is widely respected as a trusted advisor to his corporate clients. His qualifications include a B.Arch from NIT Nagpur and Masters in Building Engineering from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

In conclusion

It is hence imperative there should be a focused approach towards each of these experiences EX, CX and PX to ensure that the experience for all the stakeholders involved is pleasant and more importantly meaningful. This is a very strong tool to ensure that the brand is strongly perceived in the right light giving equal importance to employees and clients. While designing the workplace for employees, the ‘experience’ and ‘functional’ elements are of utmost importance. The creative team must eliminate any pain-points in the existing design and ensure seamless functionality throughout. At the same time, there must be the ‘experience’ element to it — an emotional connect, a sense of belonging integrated into the functionality to create an immersive experience at work. On the other hand, it is also crucial to make clients understand brand values, processes and how the organization creates optimized solutions. The element of ‘Client Experience’ is the best way to familiarize clients with the tools, technologies and solutions that a brand brings to the table.

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