Honestly, I didn’t write the punny title for this column; two talented DORIS researchers did. I’m sure we giggled about it for hours; maybe we’re going stir crazy. Who knows?
What I do know is that we are incredibly interested in how individuals and organizations are working remotely. At DORIS, our research has focused on a broad array of issues—from productivity to creativity and innovation to understanding how the physical set-up at home affects people.
One of our many discoveries has been how a person’s at-home set up affects his or her overall satisfaction. The most satisfied people were those who had a dedicated office space within their home.
OK, well, actually, the most satisfied group of people were a select few working from a closet, but that’s a story for a different day.
On the other hand, the least satisfied group indicated they had no defined space to work. These people were moving around the house to avoid partners, children and pets while working.
When we discovered that, we couldn’t help but laugh at the irony. See, a major trend in office space right now is giving people the mobility to work from wherever they want within the office. (And in some cases, not even assigning them a desk to call their own!) Now that we’ve collectively prototyped that, maybe it’s time to iterate? Maybe we can iterate to a prototype where my kids aren’t arguing over a crayon in the background of my Zoom meeting?
Because we know there is a direct correlation between satisfaction levels and productivity, it’s likely leaders are already asking more questions about how they can support employees’ physical workspaces at home. DORIS has started collecting self-reported data on where people feel more effective when conducting certain tasks. People generally agree that they can get most of their day-to-day work done efficiently, either at home or in the office.
However, we discovered that subtle differences in how DORIS asked specific questions (like slight changes in wording or framing) greatly affected the response. For example, one group indicated that, when they are seeking an answer to a colleague’s question, it didn’t matter if they were at home or in the office. Interestingly, when asked which location was better for receiving or giving mentorship, the office was a much more favorable location. While the logistics of mentorship with a colleague are nearly identical to the logistics of working through a question, the act of mentorship was still perceived to be more efficient in the office.
This kind of nuance is not specific to this particular example. Insights about these kinds of shades are what DORIS strives to uncover as we continue our research. Not only to fulfill our own curiosities but also because we understand that business leaders everywhere are trying to determine their future workspace.
Too remote or not too remote? That is the question. The question DORIS is on a mission to answer.•
Julka is founder of Indianapolis-based DORIS Research, which uses design thinking to organize workspaces.