This is the first of twelve articles on workplace strategy issues that are shaping the way we design offices today. This information comes from my 38 years of experience in commercial design, as well as the meetings, international conferences and classes I have taught and attended with thousands of top facility managers over the past 20 years.
Alignment of Work Space Design to Desired Corporate Culture:
The re-design of an organization’s facility is an ideal time to re-think its desired corporate culture and the desired results of corporate re-invention. A beautifully designed facility will not achieve the desired results unless it is combined with the proper cultural foundation to support it. The results that most organizations desire today is a world class, quality organization with a high percentage of engaged staff where innovation occurs through effective collaboration. Creating a culture where everyone is excited about their company’s mission and their individual role in helping to achieve real results through meaningful work. The organization must promote a sense of security in the workspace where staff is empowered to try new innovative approaches and to allow for failure if a new approach or initiative doesn’t work. Management should also be supportive to enable the desired change through the proper policies and incentives. As an example, some organizations encourage staff to take blocks of time to walk away from their electronic leashes so they can pursue creative thinking time, or time for exercise throughout the day.
Gathering the Right Information
Design can support the needs of management and staff by conducting a top-down and bottom-up programming approach. The first step is to perform a series of visioning exercises to identify the desired end-results of a major relocation or renovation. The second step is to take a “people focused” approach to understanding the true nature of every end-user’s functions within the organization and what design considerations would make them most productive. Sometimes the results of these two steps are contradictory, which needs to be addressed with management. Ignoring existing standards and taking a zero-based, out of the box approach to programming is essential to collecting meaningful information. Critical adjacencies, amount of time dedicated to heads-down work versus collaborative work, work time spent outside of the office, work flow, paper flow, technology support, visual and acoustical privacy issues, collaboration needs, ergonomics, lighting and environmental controls are just a few of the issues that must be addressed that will shape the needs of a company’s workspace.
The Most Nimble Wins!
Flexibility in space, furniture and construction standards are vital for any organization to be competitive in our complex and ever changing world
Modularity and simplicity in space standards, furniture standards and construction standards are some of the considerations that should be explored for any organization in a dynamic industry. There is a dilemma between providing a wide variety of workspaces, especially with organizations that utilize a telework/free address (unassigned)/hoteling model, versus keeping space standards simple and limited. There is always a happy medium that can do both, if properly designed.
Telework as an Option
A telework option, or alternative work arrangement, which incorporates free address space at the office, is not for everyone. Most companies considering such a fundamental change of non-assigned workspace will hire a telework consultant who will survey the staff to determine who is a good candidate for telework. It also requires a higher level of staff management and metrics to track and measure staff productivity. There are many case studies that illustrate significant square footage savings from implementing a telework program. The “My Work Corporate Workplace” initiative implemented by Bank of America is one such success story that resulted in a $6,000 per year/per associate savings in real estate while achieving a 97% increase in job satisfaction. Other added benefits were providing more flexibility to their young parent employees, which resulted in a sense of work-life balance. The telework program allowed the Bank to expand its geographic reach for talent and also helped to support their COOP (Continuity of Operations Plan). They reinforced their corporate culture through developing an internal, on-line corporate community group, which resulted in connecting employees that share common interests.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to one approach that blends the desired workplace culture, facilities design and management results. Each organization is coming from a unique place and desiring different results. It takes a creative, cohesive and dedicated team of both management and consultants to work together to explore the various options and create the desired results.