A light-filled central staircase within an office for a large tech company. Credit: Connie Zhou.

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Hana Kassem Co-Authors Paper about Informing Architectural Design Through Anthropological Understanding

In the article “Workplace Redux: An Anthropological Approach to Today’s Workplace Design,” co-authored with Melissa Fisher, Ph.D., the KPF Principal provided insight into the importance of ethnography in office design.

The exploration of the workplace evolution begins with the question: “How can we design more human-centric, inclusive, resilient, healthy, and sustainable work environments that support the evolving workplace culture of today?” Hana and Melissa argue that cultural anthropology can offer valuable insight into addressing this question, writing that it “can enrich and shape architectural approaches during the current era of transformation.” An increasing number of companies are hiring professional anthropologists, who are able to better understand the needs of the employees and can relay this information to the organization with “practical solutions to questions such as how to draw employees back to the office and how to foster stronger, cohesive, and inclusive communities,” the article notes.

The role of the architect is pivotal to addressing the needs of workplace culture. “Their role in workplace design, if well informed, can greatly contribute to the creation of dynamic, efficient, and employee-friendly settings that promote well-being, innovation, and the fulfillment of the greatest collective and individual potentials,” Hana and Melissa write. But to best maximize the success of these designs, the two argue for an “anthropologically-informed, architectural approach to shaping work environments. As such we build on key methods and concepts in anthropology, namely ethnography and culture, linking them to architectural ideas and practice.”

The article emphasizes the importance of ethnography as a means to discern the world views of employees and understand their behaviors, as well as multi-sited ethnography, which entails observing people, connections, and technologies across physical and digital workspaces. Additionally, Hana and Melissa examine the connections between workplace culture and the broader socio-cultural and economic context.

The article’s co-author Melissa Fisher, Ph.D., is a cultural anthropologist and Senior Advisor at CFAR Consulting and Coaching Services as well as a Visiting Scholar at New York University’s institute for Public Knowledge. Read the full piece in Work Design Magazine here.