One of the contradictions that I constantly see with my clients, when it comes to design initiatives, is the desire to give their staff what they want while trying to simplify their space, furniture and specifications standards. The organization typically wants to achieve more flexibility, when it comes to making future changes to their space, as well as to create an economy of scale for the initial purchase of furniture, accessories and fixtures.
In this day and age of telework, hoteling and the adoption of an activity-based work model, this compromise is easier to achieve. The territorial space standards of dedicated workspaces are vanishing from many organizations and being replaced by shared workspaces. This paradigm shift has been slowly evolving with some organizations and happening overnight with others. According to Kay Sargent, a workplace thought leader with HOK, “employees can have the sense that they belong to the organization and its culture by creating neighborhoods where there is a collective “we” personality. The “we” team personality can be reinforced through team images on shared information walls while personalization can be achieved through images of activities that the individual likes to participate in or images of family members or pets on their locker and laptop screen.”
Another way to create a sense that the individual has a say in their workspace is to create a survey that asks questions about desired amenities and then publish the results. When management responds to the desires of the majority, that reinforces the “we” mentality and shows that management is looking out for the good of the majority.
This paradigm shift also requires employees to give up most of their personal stuff and unnecessary storage. Many organizations have realized that file cabinets have become “paper coffins” where 80% of the material that goes into a file cabinet never is used again. With the high cost of real estate, the 9 square feet of space that a file cabinet takes up can become a substantial savings when multiplied by the number of file cabinets that can be purged throughout an organization. Kay Sargent says “that purging an office can be liberating for the employee and a cathartic experience.”
Consider these initiatives to create a “we” team environment:
- Out of office team-building activities or retreats
- Regular team brain storming sessions where titles are left outside of the conference room
- An appreciation board where team members leave thank-you messages for other team members recognizing their help or contribution to the team
- Creation of a team name
- Hold celebrations for team accomplishments and efforts
- Scheduled down-time for individual thinking and team brainstorming