"Now that so much of life is lived at the office, how does that change what the office needs to be?" - Melissa Marsh, Founder and Executive Director of PLASTARC
SAN DIEGO (PRWEB) September 18, 2018
Workplace consultancy PLASTARC will present their research on building amenities at this year’s conference of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA), hosted by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla from Sept. 20-22. PLASTARC’s research studied the impact of shared spaces on the way coworking environments are used by their occupants.
The researchers aimed to discover which workplace amenities were enabling engagement and promoting wellness in the workplace, while also learning more about what might need to change. Citing the trend toward work-life integration, PLASTARC Founder and Executive Director Melissa Marsh articulated the central question of their research: “Now that so much of life is lived at the office, how does that change what the office needs to be?” In addition to the usual cafes and pantries, PLASTARC also studied spaces that support a fuller range of human needs, including better-designed restrooms and spaces for napping, nursing, and prayer.
The research team approached the project from an anthropologist’s perspective, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods. They observed the behavior of people in lounges and open office areas, which offered a mix of different furnishings and types of spaces, to see how people chose to use them. For instance, they found that smaller tables in some shared spaces were rarely used, suggesting that fewer, larger tables might be a better use of those spaces. The team also conducted interviews with members and managers of coworking communities to identify desired features. According to Sarah Wilen, a Sociospatial Analyst with PLASTARC, “Blending these different data sources paints a fuller picture than either might alone.”
Marsh shared why coworking spaces are a logical fit for PLASTARC’s workplace research, enabling an unfettered view of human needs: “Here, individuals have a high degree of autonomy. For example, in a corporate environment there might be a couch which no one will ever sit on—much less take a nap in—because they are bound by corporate norms. In a coworking environment, they are freer to express the behaviors that are true to their needs and desires.” PLASTARC research combines observations with conversations to uncover the differences between behaviors and expressed preferences.
Spaces and amenities for families were an area of special interest to the research team. They found that demand for spaces for nursing and caring for young children is strong. However, some subjects worried that having children present might disrupt the professional setting. Since members can choose to join or leave a coworking space at any time, these decisions become hot-button topics, forcing coworking operators to take a position.
This is the second time PLASTARC has presented findings at ANFA’s flagship bi-annual conference. In 2016, PLASTARC and environmental psychologist Dr. Sally Augustin presented research conducted on physical transparency in coworking spaces, including WeWork. They wanted to see how the use of glass throughout the spaces affected the behavior of occupants. The team was particularly interested in occupants’ sense of prospect—the feeling of being fully aware of one’s environment and the people in it.
PLASTARC’s interest in coworking was inspired by its tenancy in WeWork’s first space in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. The space included a sector-specific concept that was built to attract design and technology startups, and featured programming to help nurture their community. The unique environment provided PLASTARC with an opportunity to study the intersection of online and offline relationships between members through social network analysis, a topic they continue to explore.
Going forward, PLASTARC intends to continue to use coworking spaces to explore the deeper, often unexpressed, needs of people at work. Workplace social needs, often considered a ‘soft’ topic, get a true hearing through organizations like ANFA, who bring the rigor and depth of science to focus on people, not just trends.