Workplace Pilots: Test. Learn. Build.

By Julie Fuex and Larry Lander

Pilot studies are routinely performed in the development of products, technology, research, and services, in order to test the feasibility of an idea on a small scale with minimal financial investment. This same testing process can also be utilized by organizations planning a strategic workplace design to drive business performance. Differentiated from mock-ups or beta sites, workplace pilots are small scale built work environments, where an organization’s employees permanently reside and work on a daily basis. The design of a pilot reflects the workplace strategy solutions being tested, and employees participate in measurement activities during the testing period.

Testing workplace strategy solutions on a small scale before implementing them enterprise wide can provide several benefits to organizations. First, it provides an opportunity for significant long-term costs savings by learning from the challenges and failures identified during the pilot. Building systems and products can be compared, tested and evaluated in a real-world environment.  Architectural details are evaluated for road-worthiness before they are repeated tens, hundreds or thousands of times on a larger project.  Furniture solutions can be fine-tuned with actual user input.  The effectiveness of the workplace design to truly support the business objectives can be measured and tested in real time.  These learnings not only apply to the design and architecture of the workplace strategy, but also to the process for transitioning employees in to the new workplace. By testing the overall project management plan that will be implemented when managing the larger project, organizations are able to correct and adjust to ensure the larger project is successful.

Another, softer benefit of a workplace pilot is the impact it can have on the change management effort for the larger project. When employees who reside in the pilot space are taken through a successful and effective change management effort, those employees become ambassadors for the new workplace strategy. As ambassadors, they can describe their own experience working in the pilot and help promote the benefits of the new workplace to their colleagues. In addition, a workplace pilot’s value can last long after the testing has completed and the learnings have been incorporated. It can remain a permanent environment that all employees within the organization can visit, see and touch. This allows employees to experience the benefits of the new workplace for themselves. A personal, positive experience is much more likely to lead to the adoption of desired behaviors, than receiving a communication or presentation about the workplace change.

Workplace pilots can test a variety of workplace design and process solutions, but can provide the most value when they are a true microcosm of a larger strategic real estate project. In those instances, the data and learnings can be far reaching; not only impacting workplace design, but project processes and change management as well. 


Julie Fuex


Julie is a Senior Consultant with PDR, specializing in change management and communications strategy. She advises companies undergoing changes to their workplace on how to effectively communicate and engage their employees to increase adoption and behavior change. Julie has extensive experience in working with clients to implement workplace pilots. Her most recent project was the successful Dominion Workplace Pilot, which provided valuable data that was used to inform design decisions for their new downtown Richmond towers. 

Larry Lander


As a Principal with PDR, Larry is an expert in workplace strategy, programming and concept design.  Larry’s twenty-five year career at PDR has included many of PDR’s most challenging and significant projects around the world including ExxonMobil’s Houston campus, ConocoPhillips’ Houston headquarters, the redevelopment of Chevron’s Bellaire, Texas campus, and Eaton Corporation’s headquarters in Cleveland.  He is leading PDR’s team in applying a unique Inside Out approach to Dominion’s new Richmond corporate headquarters which began with an overall Master Plan, and evolved into piloting new ways of working for their Dominion Workplace Plan.