Why price-sensitive workplace projects need higher-quality people data, with Workplace Strategist Ivan Chew

These days, everyone is a Workplace Strategist. If you’re running a workplace project you can turn in any direction and find someone promising to deliver a Workplace Strategy, but not necessarily a good one. 

I recently had an illuminating chat with Ivan Chew, an independent Senior Workplace Strategist. As a Workplace Strategist myself, we had a bit to chat about. 

Ivan brings a background in building and construction as a Quantity Surveyor (QS) and Project Manager (PM), meaning that he knows what it costs to deliver a workplace project. 

But there is more to the conversation. It’s not often that a QS or PM also has an Honours in Psychology and enjoys improv as his creative outlet.

Ivan’s workplace advice draws on his knowledge and experience in the science of human behaviour, which is exactly what leaders should be demanding from their Workplace Strategists – people who are smart about human behaviour.

I talked with Ivan about how he got into Workplace Strategy. He was driven by frustration at short term-ism which led to either long-term costs or complaints and predictably, substandard business outcomes. 

He shared a few specific examples of businesses where the solution was actually less expensive, and more effective and the right data was at the heart of these outcomes.

We agreed that better people data is critical for better workplace outcomes and for finding cheaper solutions. 

If you are curious about the role of Workplace Strategy in building a successful workplace design, you’ll find this episode highly insightful. 

– Nina

“The short term win is that you deliver a project, right? A win. Everyone’s excited by it. Unfortunately, the long term isn’t always factored in. And that’s where a Workplace Strategy comes in.” Ivan Chew

Key moments

– 00:00:31 – Ivan Chew is a Senior Workplace Strategist who most recently held a senior workplace role at the Australian National Maritime Museum and is now an independent consultant.

– 00:01:33 – We discuss Ivan’s research on work settings (desk types) and he advocates low-partition desks to boost creativity and quiet rooms for focused tasks.

– 00:04:18 – Ivan’s background in Quantity Surveying led him to Workplace Strategy, out of frustration.

– 00:08:51 – The value of a growth mindset in leadership for adapting to market shifts.

– 00:10:21 – Ivan shares an example of the opposite mindset and how to get workplace leaders with a fixed mindset over the line.

– 00:14:19 – Ivan explains his Workplace Strategy process.

– 00:26:32 – An example of a Singaporean company’s progress from compromised trade secrets to more productive workplace behaviours, through workplace design.

– 00:28:11 – Ivan comments on the evolving mental models of workplaces in the hybrid work era, warning against uninspiring offices.

– 00:33:37 – Ivan’s final comments advise an open mind and reliance on data for successful workplace planning.

Workplace Makers – the podcast about people building workplaces that attract a crowd

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