Efficiency versus Employee Satisfaction
What is Efficiency?
Efficiency = Output/Input
Efficiency refers to achieving maximum productivity with minimum effort. In the context of design, this means achieving maximum creative output with minimum time and effort. Efficiency can be achieved in both the process of designing and the resulting product, such as furniture or space planning. Different offices have different approaches to efficiency, with some focusing on one aspect at the expense of the other.
The Efficient Process and Ways to achieve it:
A very interesting method devised by Matharoo associates pushes employees to work after hours. Whenever a new project arrives in the studio, the team gathers to discuss the brief around 4 pm, and the task is to come up with bold and radical conceptual ideas by the next morning. All employees right from the principal architect to the interns work on the same design brief after office hours, at their homes, and at their desired times and workplace. The next day, an idea is chosen after looking at all the proposals, regardless of who has brought up the idea. This allows each employee, regardless of position in the studio, to participate in the design process, if he wishes to, as the process is not mandatory for all.
Along with this, he has a timekeeping system in place wherein the employees keep track of the time taken to finish changes in a drawing. This amount of time becomes the benchmark or record to be broken next time if a similar type of work is in hand. Reducing the amount of time versus the number of changes in a drawing simply shows how the employee is progressing in terms of speed and accuracy. These systems allow Matharoo associates to work very efficiently, and produce good work simultaneously.
On the other hand, looking at the ideas of efficiency for Groundwork architecture, the focus is more on the number of projects vs time. Very clear systems of hierarchy and the work done at each level is set.
The most prominent system of all is a clear division of stages of design i.e. Conceptual Design, Schematic Design, and Construction Drawings. The conceptual design comes from the principal architect and the project architect. Which is then given to a senior architect to make a schematic drawing set. This schematic stage is approved by the clients and the production of working drawings starts.
In this process, the roles of the senior architects, junior architects and interns are fixed. This makes them experts at what they do, but at the same time makes them uninterested by making them do the same things again and again. For the design development and making of the construction drawings, the employees are given the drawings of previous projects done by the office as a reference for the design language, which makes the design process faster.
Groundwork focuses more on the details, and resolution of each and every part of the building, and making drawings for each and every corner and the tiniest detail possible. Sometimes this leads to employees drawing some things that are already built on-site, and the idea is to complete the drawing set. This is one aspect where groundwork’s focus on efficiency is diluted and more importance is given to the completion of the set of drawings.
Here, one can see that the idea of an efficient process can be interpreted in two drastically different ways. On one hand, Matharoo does not clearly say that the process needs to be efficient but the smaller aspects introduced in the office culture make the office efficient in designing. While groundwork architecture has very strong systems in place which lead to the streamlining of the design process and making it efficient.
The idea of employee satisfaction comes from the agendas of better employee retention and better quality output by the employees in a short amount of time, which translates to an efficient process of design. Understanding the desires of employees and incorporating them in a way which does not hinder the smooth functioning of the office is a critical system to develop in an office.
There are many ways in which employee satisfaction is catered to in different offices, AndBlack studio takes their employees on yearly tours, while groundwork architecture has recently started events like GA Talks, and they also take employees to their completed projects as site visits. Matharoo associates have smaller events in place throughout the year that help employees come out of their daily routines and enjoy for a bit every once in a while. They have pool days when every employee has to compulsorily enter the pool or he has to leave the office. They have movie screenings, outings, and many other activities. A food menu is designed every year and the lunch and snacks are decided. New interns have to cook a meal for the entire studio at least once, and if the employee is staying back after hours, the dinner is on the studio, whatever he wishes to eat! These types of activities are designed to encourage employee satisfaction and achieve work-life balance.
Here, one can see that while encouraging events and activities, Matharoo also pushes his employees to be more efficient, by keeping checks as mentioned above, but along with that, he also encourages activities like these. A healthy combination of both leads to more productivity as well as a good work-life balance for the employees. On the other hand, groundwork architectures systems for efficiency work better than Matharoo associates in many ways, but the monotonous work lack of involvement in larger design ideas for most of the employees might lead to less employee satisfaction sometimes. And looking at every other office the idea of efficient systems is given priority, above employee satisfaction to some extent, whereas one should thrive towards employee satisfaction in ways which lead to better productivity in employees.