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Meet our expert Chiara Lai


How did you join Colliers?

I first joined Colliers as an R&D Project Manager intern for 5 months in 2018 as part of my Master's degree in Occupational Psychology at the Ecole Centrale de Lyon. I had the chance to work on the Engie IT observatory, set up after their move to a dynamic work environment in 2015. My objectives were to examine in detail the uses and experiences of employees in a dynamic work environment. Our analyses enabled us to formulate a series of recommendations to bring the spaces to life and support their appropriation by employees.

I then returned to Colliers in 2019 as an R&D doctoral student to complete my thesis, which ends this summer 2022, as part of a collaboration with the CNAM (CRTD laboratory, Centre de Recherche sur le Travail et Développement), a partner of Colliers. My research questions the processes of appropriation of new workspaces by employees, as well as the way these spatial typologies impact work.

What is your approach and what project are you working on?

The challenge of my work is to understand the impact of new spatial forms (dynamic work environment, NWoW, HWoW) on the activity of their users. The final objective is to compare the way in which the logic of appropriation of these spaces is thought out from their conception with the actual experience of the users. My actions have a double orientation:

  • Enrich our design processes with concrete elements from our clients' feedback
  • Propose devices to support and accompany the appropriation of spaces.

I am also working on a brand new project that involves the Colliers Architects, Workplace and Change Management teams; the design of a serious game in the form of a game board. Its objective is to simulate work situations in new spaces in order to guide our clients in their planning choices and to enrich our design process. Ultimately, this serious game aims to promote the success of projects by making spaces a real resource for work.

What do you think your research brings to our clients?

Most of the time, work environment projects are analysed in terms of satisfaction. However, this dimension tells us little about the real impact of spaces on employees. My work proposes an approach centred on the analysis of uses. In this context, I use tools from ergonomics and work psychology (observations, interviews, photolanguage, simulation, etc.) to get to the heart of work and understand the perception and experience of employees in relation to their space.

I therefore start from the work and its uses in order to draw up recommendations on design and on support for change.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

What I find most exciting is the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the design of real estate projects and to be able to measure the content of their transformation challenges, to analyse the constraints that designers encounter during these projects and the levers they manage to find. Behind the term "designers", there is also a great wealth and diversity of professions, each with its own expertise and vision, which meet and are articulated around common objectives.

In my work, I am also committed to highlighting the creative force of employees and their ability to rethink and 'hijack' their spaces to make them more relevant to their work. It is in this creativity that we can find solutions to design places that make sense in the long term.


Want to read more? Check out the publications of Chiara Lai, PhD student at Colliers France, below: