Diane Hoskins, a Gensler executive director
Lee Powers Diane Hoskins, a Gensler executive director

Gensler dramatically changed its approach to research after the firm conducted a survey in 2005 that explored how employees actually worked. That survey, and a subsequent one, proved so insightful, recalls Diane Hoskins (left), a Gensler executive director, that the firm created a permanent Workplace Performance Index, or WPI: a pre- and post-occupancy diagnostic tool that is now a standard part of Gensler’s workplace projects. “Of course you carry knowledge with you from project to project, but you could not address the type of issues that come up in WPI under the time-crunch of a project,” Hoskins says. “Now we can go further and broader into the issues.”

A Web-based survey, the WPI takes about 10 minutes to complete and includes questions for clients about workday activities, spaces used, and the organization’s culture. The results are analyzed, compared to industry benchmarks, and presented to clients to see what is working and what isn’t.

For Atlanta advertising agency 22squared, which in 2011 wanted to move its 192-person staff to a new office, the WPI confirmed something managers already suspected: The company needed more collaboration and knowledge sharing. Gensler designers opened up the workspaces to allow for greater flow—while also maintaining a sense of individual privacy—and clustered workers in “neighborhoods.” And they added pool and ping-pong tables to bring people together. The result? Hoskins says that a post-occupancy WPI survey, conducted several months after the move, indicated that collaboration and knowledge sharing had improved by more than 20 percent.