- Open Office
- Performance Environments: Change Management
- Performance Environments: Post-Occupancy Evaluation
- Performance Environments: Space Utilization Service
- Performance Environments: Place Mapping & Financial Modeling
- Performance Environments: Visioning
Herman Miller's Design Yard is a place where people and ideas meet. The people include employees, guests, consultants, customers. The ideas are as varied as the people themselves—designers, engineers, writers, researchers, planners, marketers. As a facility that supports connection and communication, the Design Yard seeks to leverage the culture of participation that has sparked ideas at Herman Miller for many years.
Since its opening, the Design Yard has been a kind of learning lab—a place to experiment and evaluate, observe and respond. Whether it's an innovative product concept or a new take on an established program, the Design Yard provides a setting where ideas can take hold and where lessons learned can have a far-reaching impact. That ethos makes it the perfect place for Herman Miller to put a new product line to the test.
The current test, really a learning opportunity, involves approximately 60 employees and the process of their relocation to a newly configured area near the entrance of the Design Yard. These residents, including the company's senior executives, are now working in an environment that's significantly different from the ones they left. Featuring Canvas Office Landscape, the space addresses the need shared by many organizations for environments that support both individual and collaborative work.
As the first phase of a two-year redo of the entire Design Yard, this project serves as a foundation for the overall effort. What's learned from it, in terms of both product application and project implementation, will help inform the rest of the initiative.
"At the same time that we're providing employees with a new workspace, we're showing others how we're thinking about the office environment," says Steve Panse, leader of the Canvas commercialization effort. "This project demonstrates how Canvas works in our own space. It expresses our eagerness to learn from it. We're committed to using what we learn to continue the ongoing expansion of its capabilities."
With its ability to create everything from private offices and systems settings to benching applications and collaborative areas, Canvas is the linchpin of the installation. "It's a single, integrated platform that unifies the look, feel, and function of an environment," says Panse. "Here at the Design Yard it provides a consistent theme that calms the whole landscape and ties it together."
Paula Edwards, a Herman Miller workplace strategist who helped develop the Canvas applications within the space, notes that Canvas has a more "residential feel" than other office-furniture choices. "Canvas can create spaces that are friendly and approachable," she says. "Its low-profile storage components, for example, can replace return walls and open up views and accessibility."
It's important to realize that the people who are now working in the new space didn't just land there. Prior to their move—including some executives moving from private offices to 6 x 6 stations and some heads-down workers moving from smaller to larger workstations—the company made sure that everyone was kept informed and involved in the process that led them to their new environment.
To that end—and as the Design Yard redo continues—Herman Miller's Performance Environments group is following the steps that it takes customers through as they prepare for changes in their office environments: visioning; space utilization data; place mapping and financial modeling; change management; post-occupancy evaluation. (An additional step, rePurpose, wasn't used for this project.) Tracy Brower, along with Paula Edwards, has been leading the process at the Design Yard.
"It's really helpful to have a clear process, one that's replicable," says Brower, director of Performance Environments. "It's a discipline that helps us be really clear on the front end about objectives and then to move forward efficiently and effectively. We're approaching this project with the knowledge that everything counts, that it's really important to pay attention to each person. How well people are treated sends an important message to them and to the rest of the organization."
To keep residents informed and comfortable with the process, "town hall" meetings were held. In addition, people were selected to serve as liaisons, connecting regularly with their groups and keeping them in the loop as plans progressed. New protocols and guidelines for living and working in the space were created as part of the overall effort to support the residents. "Going in, people need to know the design so they understand what's reasonable for them to expect," Brower adds.
The change goes beyond furniture. "We're not asking people to work the same way in a different space," says Brower. "We're asking them to work differently in this space, and that requires some adaptation."
People need to see that their new space is not just their individual space, she says. "Their space is the whole area, and the way they choose to use it at different times for different purposes is something they need to learn to think about differently."
What they learn will be part of what Herman Miller learns going forward. "We're making a concerted effort to document this Canvas experience, to understand its impact on the people working within it," says Brian Green, senior researcher at Herman Miller.
Several research initiatives helped inform the project. Pre-move ethnographic studies documented people's actions as they worked and collaborated. Also prior to the move, Design Yard residents participated in an online study of their work modes and needs. In a study of smaller stations called "campsites," researchers documented when, why, and for how long people use them. Post-occupancy evaluations will document how things are going and what's working well, or not. Herman Miller sees all this as an opportunity to further its understanding of the office environment and the evolving nature of office work.
"There's an ongoing shift in North America to a more collaborative work style," says Green. "Canvas is designed to address that shift, and we're going to make sure that we understand how as we continue to advance the Canvas line."