Knowledge, 01.06.2023

Data-based personas: designing customized workspaces

Our working world is changing: processes are becoming increasingly digital and hybrid, location-independent working is becoming increasingly commonplace. As a result, the new working world – the New Normal – also requires a different working infrastructure. The need for flexibly usable workspaces must be considered, as must the different working needs, forms, and locations of employees. 

Companies that want to actively shape the future of work and remain competitive should therefore ask themselves the following questions: What demands do our employees place on their working environment and how can the office be designed so that they can work productive, happy, and healthy way?  

To answer these questions, our research team relies on the development of data-based employee typologies, known as personas, for our workplace projects. We asked Dr Sina Bruebach-Schlickum, head of our research team, about the importance of personas in workplace planning and the benefits of a data-based approach. 

Sina, what exactly are personas?

Personas are representative characters that make the typical behavior and needs of different user groups in companies tangible. A persona therefore represents a “prototype” for a group of users. The development of personas has its roots in marketing and aims to know the exact needs, behaviors and wishes of consumers and to address them even more specifically with content.  

And what are they used for when planning modern working environments?  

We develop our personas with a focus on employees’ working methods and the functional – but also emotional – requirements of the working environment. Although a persona is fictitious, it should still be described as concretely as possible. In this way, we summarize employees with similar working methods and needs into types. They are named and given a “face”, so to speak. When developing personas, it is important that every employee can identify with at least one persona. For example, the company often has the Office Hero, the All-rounder, the Mobile Champion, or the Visionary. Our planning team therefore has the needs and requirements of each type of employee in mind and can conceptualize and design the spaces and rooms to suit them perfectly. 

What does “data-based” persona development mean in this context?

The basis of data-based persona development is an online survey of a representative number of employees within the company. Specific questions relevant to persona development are collected here. These may include questions about working methods, locations and satisfaction or work-related needs. Based on this data, employee types – i.e., personas – are mapped using “cluster analyses”. These are presented to selected user representatives in advance of the workshops and then verified together in the workshop.  

How do you cooperate with the user representatives?

Close dialogue with the user representatives is extremely important throughout the entire process. We collaborate with them to verify and supplement the personas developed based on the data collected. The representatives assign themselves to an existing persona in their department. They describe a typical daily routine – we call this “A Day in the Life of …” – with the corresponding activities (What?) and the spatial (Where?), technical and other requirements (How?). An exemplary working day can then be created for each of the personas, which provides our team with further information about the requirements in terms of space, culture, technology, and services. These findings are used to create a holistic workplace concept and the room and space program, known as the layout. 

What exactly is the advantage of data-based persona development?

With data-based persona development, we place the future users of the working environments at the center of our considerations and concepts. This allows us to organize our projects more effectively in terms of time and to make them leaner overall. Compared to purely workshop-based persona development, we gain more objectivity and quality through verifiable facts and analyses. This increases the likelihood that employees’ wishes and requirements will be captured even better. In addition, everyone involved in the project has concrete characters in mind that we can regularly refer to and with whom it is easier to identify. This makes the development process more people-centered, concrete, and efficient.  

Would you like to know more about this topic and are you interested in our workplace projects? Sina Bruebach-Schlickum, head of our research team, looks forward to hearing from you. 

Dr. Sina Bruebach-Schlickum

Sina founded the first coworking space in Munich, Germany, in 2010 and familiar with topics such as flexible working and community management. As a New Work Research Analyst at workingwell, online surveys and customized analyses are part of her daily work. With her combination of theory and practice, she is an important driving force in the development of workplace concepts. Contact: 



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