Jul 13, 2011

Steelcase’s Applied Research

Elysa Soffer's picture
Elysa Soffer

Ask, Observe, Experience and Realize is Steelcase’s approach to learning and innovating for workplace environments. At a recent knowledge share between members of Steelcase’s Applied Research team and Hot Studio’s User Experience team, we were pleasantly surprised by all of the commonalities in our practices.

The Applied Research team at Steelcase consults with corporate clients to help them align the relationship between people, culture, and the work environment while keeping pace with workplace trends like multi-disciplinary collaboration. They use their findings to recommend design principles and work settings.

Similar to Hot Studio’s User Experience practice, Steelcase also has to manage client expectations, navigate stakeholders, and learn about a client’s culture and brand prior to design. But more unique to workplace improvements is the significant amount of change management Steelcase takes responsibility for. Their clients can’t just begin to implement recommendations before socializing the change into a workforce through a series of feedback and information sessions and careful planning. I couldn’t imagine doing that level of change integration when deploying a new online experience, but one could argue that it does affect a company’s culture and should be considered.

The Steelcase team often asks, “What does your space say about your culture?”—A question I’m sure we’re asking here at Hot as we expand to another floor, almost doubling the size of our San Francisco office.

Steelcase has identified various work modes: individually-focused, collaborative (in teams), socializing, and learning. We were most impressed by the unique furniture that enhances collaboration.

One of our team’s favorites was the Node. It’s a mobile chair and adjustable work surface. Designed for the classroom, it was apparent that the Node would be useful at work too. The Node allows for easy relocation next to your team, creating a conference-like setting when facing each other. With your laptop bag stowed beneath, a static workstation hardly seems necessary.

Since more teams are distributed across multiple locations around the globe, Steelcase is also thinking about meeting room set-ups that take advantage of multiple screens. The first screen can display team members on video and the second could show presentations.

There are many configurations of meeting pods that cater to both private meetings and group participation. The ability to stop in and grab a stool behind the core group meeting lends itself to adding and subtracting group members as necessary.

Steelcase makes it clear that productivity is directly linked to the work environment. Understanding how employees prefer to work is key.

Read more about the Applied Research Group at Steelcase.

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