Urban Physics In Future Workplace

The US population is now mostly urbanized, and new methods to study cities are starting to emerge. One such method is called urban physics. MIT and NYU researchers are using it to figure out how systems and individuals interact within a city. They monitor things like crime rate, traffic and spread of disease.

Stepping off the street and into the office, urban physics has the potential to be just as useful in future workplace design and workforce planning, says Max Chopovsky in an article for the HBR Blog Network. Through the use of quantitative data, it can optimize office spaces so that they complement the company's mission and cater to the unique work styles of employees.

Some pioneering companies across the world are already using urban physics. Google promotes cross-department interactions with an intimate speakeasy-like space, while Groupon uses tiki huts, forests and a carnival-themed fun zone to encourage creativity. Many other companies are trying different things to create energetic and youthful spaces. Yet just throwing a few posters on the wall and having a foosball table somewhere doesn't build company culture or create employee satisfaction. That's why urban physics infuses science into office planning decisions that target better workflow and organizational culture.

Urban physics methods can be applied at most workplaces willing to make changes. For example, it's a good idea to measure peak employee workload times, and then think about how the physical environment can help workers at those critical moments. The answer might be easy access to coffee, relaxation space or opportunities to engage in cross-departmental discussions.

Another thing to measure is employee movement within the office. Identifying high traffic meeting areas and improving them with physical rearrangements can streamline some processes and boost productivity. At the same time, identifying underused conference areas and turning them into coffee shops, bars or quiet rooms can improve employee satisfaction.