Discovery Communications Case Study

London, England, and multiple locations

Project Info
Discovery Communications Case Study
London, England, and multiple locations

Real Estate Strategy
Space Utilization
Communications Strategy
Change Management

Smart space management, including shared workstations and collaboration areas, helps the staff of an international corporation thrive in an evolving business landscape.

In 2014, Discovery Communications decided to rethink its office space. The multimedia company had open-plan environments, but it still lacked the flexibility to keep pace with its dynamic, project-based staffing arrangements. Interested in other options, including agile working, Discovery asked Perkins+Will’s Workplace Strategy team to develop a cost-effective model to facilitate rapid personnel changes, help attract and retain the field’s top talent, and better reflect the company’s image as a cultural innovator.

The effort began with a pilot in Discovery’s London office, with approximately 60 people from its Human Resources department. Perkins+Will, along with Discovery’s internal real estate team, deployed quantitative and qualitative tools such as utilization studies and staff-engagement surveys to understand how staff employed the existing space. (One surprising finding: The department’s existing workstations were fully utilized only 54% of the time.) Reporting the results to Discovery’s leadership team, we proposed switching to a more agile seating solution that would offer other types of private settings, an important factor given the sensitive nature of some of HR’s activities.

Through stress-testing use peaks and running test fits, we concluded that providing seven workstations per 10 people would suffice. This allotment also would open up space for the new settings, including shared solo and collaboration spaces. In moving to this kind of sharing culture, the business had begun to visualize the strength that comes with flexibility.

Working in an agile environment, rather than at a fixed, assigned desk, necessitates shifts in behavior and mindset. To facilitate the transition, Perkins+Will collaborated with Discovery’s leadership and staff on a change-management strategy that drew heavily on the Prosci ADKAR methodology: only upon realizing the need for change can one identify the tools to execute it. In Discovery’s case, this awareness came via multiple workshops with project champions. The meetings centered on sharing the research that drove the recommendations, developing protocols for the new settings, and empowering the champions to serve as two-way communication conduits to the wider group. We supplemented the workshops with town halls, change-readiness surveys, and a welcome packet for all participants. Once past move-in, we also worked with champions to resolve post-occupancy concerns and ensure the adoption of proposed behaviors.

Post-occupancy feedback demonstrated the project’s success from staffing and financial perspectives. It also supported the business case for a floor-wide roll-out, entailing 300 additional employees across five departments. Using an identical process to the pilot, we collected each department’s requirements and then incorporated them into a single strategy. On the advice of the firm’s leadership and champions, we kept functional teams grouped in neighborhoods, with all parties sharing the shared solo and group settings. Data informed each department’s workstation/employee sharing ratio, which ultimately ranged from 6:10 to 8:10.

The project was so successful that Discovery has decided to employ agile work practices across its global portfolio, with Perkins+Will leading the way. So far, we have taken its Helsinki and Mumbai offices through implementation, and we are looking into agile practices for nine more of the company’s outposts, located across three continents.