Posts tagged office design
The Business Case for Office Design

by Bill Esler

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Proving contract furniture projects benefit the bottom line was the mission of journalist and author Kevin Salwen. At the behest of BIFMA and the International Interior Design Association, Salwen and his colleagues identified some signature headquarter build-outs that demonstrably improved productivity for client staffs. The co-author of the IIDA/BIFMA report on workplace - Design, Leveraged - examines how smart companies use office space to boost productivity.

“For decades, businesses have viewed their work spaces as ‘overhead,’ a necessary evil of spending on desks, carpet and pricey lighting,” Salwen writes. “But now, smart companies are shifting their thinking on design: The firms doing the hard work to get it right are reaping the benefits right down to their bottom lines.”

Salwen says this applies to all firms, not just Google and Facebook. “Most of Corporate America doesn’t fill its seats with 20-something engineers eager to pull all-night hackathons,” he says.

Why is design critical? Three factors:

  • Real estate costs are rising roughly 10 percent a year
  • A scorching war for talent is underway (and expected to worsen)
  • Demand for innovation amid global competition is acute

Only one in four U.S. workers say they have optimal workplace environments, according to a 2013 survey by San Francisco architectural firm Gensler. “Design may be the single most under-leveraged tool in the business world,” says Salwen. David Radcliffe, Google’s VP real estate and workplace services, reveals his Top 5 office planning keys:

  • Coming in to work matters: “We want to create an environment where it feels like they’re missing out if they’re not there.”
  • Valuing accidental encounters: at least half of Google’s space is dedicated to “collaborative environments” – casual meeting places with a couch or a kitchen so workers bump into each other and chat. White boards and plugs for laptops are sprinkled through the office for spontaneous brainstorming.
  • Healthy eco-friendly buildings: Good health helps drive productivity and innovation, so furniture is formaldehyde-free and building materials are free of toxins. Space allows a maximum of natural light.
  • Blend local with Google: Local staff advise on locations, and interiors, using different architects. Each office “starts with a clean sheet of paper.”
  • Go urban: “We love urban cores,” says Radcliffe.

Originally published on woodworkingnetwork.com in November of last year, this article highlights the significant link between office design and a business’ bottom line. For more information and case studies, visit Salwen’s website, DesignLeveraged.org.

5 Workspace Trends to Look for This Year

image1. A Balance Between Public & Private

Though office spaces are becoming more collaborative, private areas are still required for phone calls, closed-door meetings, or focus work. Many companies are mixing up their space design—incorporating open desks and impromptu break areas, as well as small meeting spaces, phone booths, and conference rooms to support the various types of work that are required in a given day.

2. A Breakdown of Barriers

With more CEOs and senior managers moving out of private offices and into the open floor environment, the hierarchy of working relationships has shifted. This transparency encourages collaboration and community for everyone across the organizational chart. Sharing the floor also allows management to stay involved, know what’s going on and participate in a more meaningful way.

3. A Focus on Employee Health

We’ve all heard the news: sitting is the new smoking. In addition to the physical pain associated with slumping over computers all day, research has proven that sedentary lifestyles take a toll on health. Thus, more employers are encouraging employees to move throughout their day.

Popular desk alternatives include adjustable and standing height desks. Other than the health benefits gained by using this furniture, many companies suggest that greater creativity and a freer flow of ideas have been seen among employees who stand while working. Other chair substitutes including bosu balls and treadmill desks. In addition to furniture alternatives, companies are also promoting physical health through office design, including bicycle storage and spaces for quick workouts or stretching.

4. Collaborative Spaces

Breakout zones also encourage employees to collaborate outside the boundaries of meeting rooms. These playful gathering spaces that promote socialization lead to encounters among individuals from separate departments who may not usually interact.

5. The Workplace as a Home Away from Home

Many workspaces are becoming more casual, adopting a homey aesthetic. Rather than stiff chairs, formal desks and closed doors, today’s workplaces are incorporating breakout areas with cozy seating. These areas gives employees the opportunity to “create experiences that energize and inspire.” Employers therefore give employees options for a variety of comfortable yet productive environments to encourage longer work hours.

Content via Fast Company, January 8, 2015.

I Think, Ergo I Stand

By Bara Vaida

imageEvery week, ergonomics expert July Landis walks into offices and observes workers slouching in their chairs and leaning over keyboards with hunched shoulders. Some are straining their necks to view too-high computer monitors and others are awkwardly twisting their bodies to grab their phone or read documents.

She sees recipes for pain.

“There are all kinds of ways that people, without realizing it, are doing things to injure themselves at work,” says Landis, president and CEO of Ergo Concepts, a suburban Germantown, Maryland ergonomics consulting firm hired by large and small companies to create pain-free office environments.

Every year, about 1 million people strain their necks, hurt their backs or sprain their wrists so badly that they need serious medical attention and can’t return to work for days, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That lost work time and the medical costs relating to treating disabling workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses more than $20 billion in 2011, according to a 2013 report by Liberty Mutual Insurance, a Boston-based company that analyzes federal ergonomics data to create its national Workplace Safety Index.

Further, new research shows that the amount of time people spend sitting is causing injury to their health. Adults who sit for more than four hours a day, compared with those who sit for just two hours, have a 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause and a 125 percent increased risk of health problems related to cardiovascular disease, says James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic.

“Sitting is the new smoking,” says Landis.

Whiles some smaller companies and single-individual-run businesses may feel they don’t have the money or time for ergonomics, there are quantifiable savings, says Bruce Lyon, director of risk control at the Hays Companies, an employee-benefits brokerage firm based in Kansas City, Missouri. For every $1 that a company spends on workplace safety, its return on investment is about $4 to $6, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates.

“Employers and employees often don’t think of sitting as dangerous,” says Lyon. “But if you are static and sitting in an incorrect posture for an extended period, that constricts blood flow. Eventually, the restriction causes soft tissue damage, and for some it can be debilitating.”

To prevent injuries, Landis, a physical therapist by training, and her staff help companies purchase ergonomically correct office equipment and provide evaluation and training to employees. They teach how body positions and daily work activities can lead to the development of chronic pain.

“There is no one-size-fits-all method of pieces of equipment,” says Landis, whose company has consultants in 45 U.S. cities. “You have to evaluate each person’s height, weight and body type, whether they are right- or left-handed, the amount of time they are sitting in front of a computer, and then, through a collaborative discussion, tailor a solution to that person.”

Consistent themes do arise. For example, in a recent evaluation visit to the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in Washington, D.C., Landis worked with Sohni Anand and Chris Graham. Anand suffered from chronic, tingling neck pain, while Graham had occasional lower back pain. After talking and watching while they worked, Landis spotted the problems: incorrectly positioned chairs, computer monitors, keyboards and feet. She gave both AIR employees lessons on using and positioning their equipment, and then offered advices on ways to stay active during the day.

A half hour after Landis had made the fixes, Anand said, “I already feel better.”

Originally published in the Costco Connection, August 2014.

(Re)Designing the Workplace, Strategically

imageAs stated by Gina Berndt, Principal at Perkins + Will, in an IIDA Perspective issue, “people and an organization’s culture trump the physical environment. The environment can reinforce culture, but it can’t create it.” This idea lies at the root of effective workplace strategy, which must “encompass an organization’s goals and values.”

Work Design Magazine recently published an article outlining the elements of strategic design. The first point of strategic design requires designers to evaluate the “corporate vision and values” of a company to determine how they can be manifested in the office environment. When the environment is designed to reinforce these ideas, the physical space has the potential to maximize performance and boost “employee engagement, loyalty, and innovation.”

To develop an effective workplace strategy, designers must gather cultural information, business objectives and note challenges the company faces “through observation, focus groups, surveys, and interviews.” This information will allow designers to “address the physical space and technology issues needed to achieve the desired employee behaviors… and greater business results.”

Once the strategy is determined, it must be reinforced among the employees who are “the key” of every organization. By sharing the company’s mission and strategy, employee engagement can be boosted and cultivated through an effective, well-designed workplace. This, In turn, “foster[s] a culture that makes it easier to attract and retain an engaged workforce.”

Asking the “right” questions will lead designers to helpful answers for crafting a “people-centered and strategic approach” to workplace design. As outlined by Work Design Magazine, these include:

- What are the organization’s goals and values?

- What can companies do to energize and engage the workforce?

- How can the workplace impact productivity?

- How can design innovations help improve quality of life and work?

- What does success look like?

Please check back next week for some common design challenges and their strategic workplace solutions, which can help boost employee happiness and output, thereby increasing business results.

A New Kind Of Grind

imageIn last month’s issue of Interiors & Sources, one feature explored the question about where America’s independent laborers will be working as their numbers rise from roughly 25-30% to almost 50% of the workforce in the next few years. According to the Intuit 2020 report, both large corporations and small businesses will develop larger networks of contingent workers, “minimizing fixed labor costs and expanding the available talent pool.”

As independent workers “begin to account for a large chunk of the American workforce, they’re going to need a place to work that isn’t Starbucks… Enter the co-working space.” Gone is the simple co-working space with the requisite power access; this has been replaced with “full floors providing all the amenities one could ask for.”

Apart from the physical attributes of new co-workings offices, the intangible benefits are significant. The collaborative community that is housed within modern co-working spaces has rendered these offices “open-sourced knowledge banks… based on collaboration rather than self-interested competition. On a purely psychological level, co-working spaces are healthier, more productive, and more in line with a healthy society than traditional work spaces.”

Interiors & Sources learned three valuable lessons from visiting Grind and Fueled Collective, two co-working office space brands. The first lesson is that “designing a successful office share is about designing a culture as much as a space.” This idea takes shape in the offices’ “highly designed professional” aesthetics, which not only create a pleasing work environment, but also serve to “curate a lifestyle.” As a result, members are stimulated to cement both professional and personal connections with one another.

The second lesson, “let your end-user be their own layout specialist,” promotes flexibility and choice among members. By eliminating walls, barriers, and partitions, co-working spaces like Grind encourage “collaboration [through] proximity.” The office therefore “does with furniture what most people do with walls,” by allowing members to adjust the space and layout of the office to suit their own needs.

Finally, lesson three warns designers that “the end-user is [their] new competition.” Business owners and end-users have developed such a strong voice and influence on their work environments that they are “sometimes the ones designing the space themselves.” With the “market’s growth potential being an exponential one,” these lessons could prove very valuable for designers and manufactures alike.

FORm_office  a New Standard at Major Financial Institution   More than 2000 employees will be moving from a traditional cubicle environment to bench workstations within the next 18 months. The requirements are focused on real estate efficiencies, such as footprint and densification, as well as effective user tools- ample personal storage, technical flexibility, brand expression, and collaboration.  LEED and sustainable achievements were also major factors in the selection process.   The client team selected Innovant over the competition for two reasons: the ability to provide a clean, intelligent, tailored solution and an experienced, consultative team. When proposing the Innovant package to senior management at this Fortune 100 company, the lead client project team member said,    “I remembered your message to us that ‘Innovant provides a tailored solution that doesn’t include custom pricing’. It hit home with our management team who were making the decision”.    The first projects are based in New York, where the client is consolidating their real estate portfolio to two locations. National and global projects are forecasted in the next few years.

FORm_office  a New Standard at Major Financial Institution

More than 2000 employees will be moving from a traditional cubicle environment to bench workstations within the next 18 months. The requirements are focused on real estate efficiencies, such as footprint and densification, as well as effective user tools- ample personal storage, technical flexibility, brand expression, and collaboration.  LEED and sustainable achievements were also major factors in the selection process.
 
The client team selected Innovant over the competition for two reasons: the ability to provide a clean, intelligent, tailored solution and an experienced, consultative team. When proposing the Innovant package to senior management at this Fortune 100 company, the lead client project team member said,

“I remembered your message to us that ‘Innovant provides a tailored solution that doesn’t include custom pricing’. It hit home with our management team who were making the decision”.
 
The first projects are based in New York, where the client is consolidating their real estate portfolio to two locations. National and global projects are forecasted in the next few years.

Tips for Making Employees Love Their Office

Inc Magazine published this great article below– Providing basics like flexibility and organized environments can go a long way with employees. These elements help to create a happier more productive workplace.


You take your staff on kayaking trips. You order pizza for meetings. But who cares about the occasional extras if your workers aren’t delighted to be in their workspace day-in and day-out? We reviewed the best in office amenities and policies recently covered in Inc.and on Inc.com for the highlights of companies making their offices into places their employees love coming to in the morning.

1. Stay organized.
Whether it’s business plans or business cards, conference binders or marketing copy, entrepreneurs have a lot of information to track. But with so many important managerial matters on your plate, it’s hard to put a tidy workspace high on your priority list. Who knows that better than the employees who work in a disorganized or cluttered office? Their productivity and motivation can suffer when everyone’s not on the same page about where important information, tools, and supplies can be found. Laura Leist, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers, which is based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, explains: “When you’re talking about organizing your workspace you need to make a decision about what needs to be organized and there’s five areas that you can look at.” These five areas are paper, general stuff such as office supplies, your space and furniture layout, electronic information, and time management. Read more.

2. Make it comfy.
“Designing a comfortable office environment is about more than aesthetics; careful attention to design can give a boost to employee happiness. In the current economy, the focus is often on leasing office space based on price, with less attention paid to design, layout and amenities. Smart business leaders, however, think beyond the existing layout and furniture options when moving into a new office or refurbishing a space. That fresh coat of paint and new carpet your landlord gave you when you signed the lease is great, but there are other small investments of time and money that can transform your office into a more productive workspace,” writes Lois Goodell,principal and the director of interior design at CBT Architects, in an Inc.com guide on creating a productive office environment.In short, making a comfortable environment takes more than a sturdy desk and comfortable chair – it incorporates quality lighting, good ventilation, and a quality heating-and-cooling system. Read more

3. Give everyone a say.
It’s an extreme example, but when Thomas Walter, CEO of Tasty Catering in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, encountered Jim Collins's Good to Great, he asked each of his employees to read it. Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan writes: “Tasty Catering formed two Good to Great councils, which make all strategic decisions for the company. Each council has eight charter members drawn from across the company—culinary workers, clerical staff, drivers. One council conducts business in English, the other in Spanish, which is the first language for about a third of the work force. At least one of the three owners—Walter and his two brothers—sits in with each group. The councils hold meetings a few days apart, and an outside translator produces copies of the combined minutes in both languages. Each month, two random employees are chosen to join the councils for the month.” She quotes Anna Wollin, an account executive who joined one of the councils when they were formed, who says: “It puts us all on an even playing field. I had been with the company less than a year, and my opinion was as important as an owner’s opinion.” Read more.  

4. Consider openness.
It’s not right for every team of workers, but the trend today is to support collaboration, in all its forms: mentoring, problem solving, routine communication and information sharing. Goodell writes: “To do so, create more open spaces in the office, from workspaces with low panels that make it easier to communicate to all-day cafés where employees not only eat, but also meet to work.” It’s also important to consider what happens when someone in a large open office environment needs to concentrate on a big project or lead a conference call. Open spaces only work when employees have access to areas where they can focus on a specific task. One solution is “hoteling,” offices that can be reserved or used at will when needed. These offices can be small, but should be highly functional. They should be equipped with good lighting, phone systems and technology necessary to complete critical tasks. Read more

5. Make the workplace a community.
In this year’s Top Small Company Workplaces, Leigh Buchanan interviewed Bill Witherspoon about his open-book management and leadership style at Sky Factory. His employees not only love the clear and open communication structure, but also love helping each other. Witherspoon explains why: “I think of our factory as a community, and service is the core of community. There are two kinds of service. One is: I do this for you, and I expect a return. For example, I provide good customer service, and I expect loyalty. The other kind of service is selfless. I do something for you without thought of a return. I help you spontaneously and without thinking about it. That second kind of service is powerful. When someone has a moment of free time, how wonderful if she automatically thinks, Now, what can I do to help someone else? At the start of our Friday meetings, the leader for that week tells an appreciative story about someone at the company and presents the person with $25. Often, the story involves an unselfish, unsolicited offer of help." Read more

Innovant Trading desk in New York Times Article “In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and to Think” see featured image   
 
 Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.” 
 The building was designed by  NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm  whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here. 
 These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential. 
 
   http://nyti.ms/wSy1SF

Innovant Trading desk in New York Times Article “In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and to Think” see featured image

Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.”

The building was designed by NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here.

These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential.

http://nyti.ms/wSy1SF

Amerca’s Workforce Reducing its Footprint - Work Environments are getting Smaller and Smarter  
 In this week’s issue of Monday Morning Quarterback studies from CoreNet Global showed that the amount of office space per worker has been declining as more and more offices adopt open plan environments. We’ve found on numerous occasions that to successfully densify your office having  a more  intelligent workstation is essential. Giving employees flexible workstations and different environments throughout the office to do their work can lead to huge increases in productivity. 
 “For the first time many companies, the average allocation of office spaces per person in North America will fall to 100 square feet or below within the next five years.  By 2017, at least 40% of the companies responding indicated they will reach this bench mark of individual space utilization, which has been the case in Europe for the past several years but is now heading for the Americas. 
 The average for all companies for square fee per worker in 2017 will be 151 square feet, compared to 176 square feet today, and 225 square feet in 2010. “The main reason for the declines,” said Richard Kadzis CoreNet Global’s Vice President of Strategic Communications, “is the huge increase in collaborative and team oriented space inside a growing number of companies that are stressing “smaller but smarter” workplaces against the back drop of continuing economic uncertainty and cost containment.” Core Net Global, which  conducted the survey, is the worldwide association for corporate real estate and workplace professionals. 
 Today, just 24 percent of the respondents reported that the average space per office worker is 100 square feet or less; however 40% reported that within five years, the average space per office worker would be 100 square feet or less. 
 It is clear the amount of space dedicated solely to specific employees is steadily shrinking. A majority of the respondents, 55%, reported that square feet per worker has already decreased between 5 – 25% over the last 5 years. 
 “There are a number of additional factors contributing to the decline in the amount of space per worker“ said Kadzis. “ More Companies are adopting open floor plans in which employees do not have any permanently designated spaces at all; rather they use unassigned space when they are in the office setting that often change daily. This trend is enabled by technology and by cost measures, as they require smaller footprints .” 

Amerca’s Workforce Reducing its Footprint - Work Environments are getting Smaller and Smarter

In this week’s issue of Monday Morning Quarterback studies from CoreNet Global showed that the amount of office space per worker has been declining as more and more offices adopt open plan environments. We’ve found on numerous occasions that to successfully densify your office having  a more  intelligent workstation is essential. Giving employees flexible workstations and different environments throughout the office to do their work can lead to huge increases in productivity.

“For the first time many companies, the average allocation of office spaces per person in North America will fall to 100 square feet or below within the next five years.  By 2017, at least 40% of the companies responding indicated they will reach this bench mark of individual space utilization, which has been the case in Europe for the past several years but is now heading for the Americas.

The average for all companies for square fee per worker in 2017 will be 151 square feet, compared to 176 square feet today, and 225 square feet in 2010. “The main reason for the declines,” said Richard Kadzis CoreNet Global’s Vice President of Strategic Communications, “is the huge increase in collaborative and team oriented space inside a growing number of companies that are stressing “smaller but smarter” workplaces against the back drop of continuing economic uncertainty and cost containment.” Core Net Global, which  conducted the survey, is the worldwide association for corporate real estate and workplace professionals.

Today, just 24 percent of the respondents reported that the average space per office worker is 100 square feet or less; however 40% reported that within five years, the average space per office worker would be 100 square feet or less.

It is clear the amount of space dedicated solely to specific employees is steadily shrinking. A majority of the respondents, 55%, reported that square feet per worker has already decreased between 5 – 25% over the last 5 years.

“There are a number of additional factors contributing to the decline in the amount of space per worker“ said Kadzis. “More Companies are adopting open floor plans in which employees do not have any permanently designated spaces at all; rather they use unassigned space when they are in the office setting that often change daily. This trend is enabled by technology and by cost measures, as they require smaller footprints.” 

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S4 Featured in February’s Issue of Contract Magazine 


In this month’s issue of Contract Magazine, FORm_office is featured in the 33rd Annual Interiors Awards for large offices with Perkins + Will. Innovant provided over 350 workstations helping create a beautiful, tranquil, open plan environment in the heart of Chicago.


Throughout the space one key element that allows the traders  to connect their work with their office surroundings is through their desk. It is the single element where the technology and organic nature of the floor meet at a single point. Innovant’s FORm_office S120 desks were picked as the perfect medium to connect these two opposing elements together. The desks extend the organic nature of the office beyond just the solid structural walls, by seamlessly integrating the core elements of the business with the design aesthetic envisioned for the space. They combine both the white and maple surfaces used for the ceiling and walls to create a single platform, which wraps around the entire floor to connect the entire space. Managing Principal Tom Kasznia from Perkins + Will said, “Natural elements, for example how water flows, gave us ideas for shape clustered desking systems for all open office areas allowing for one aesthetic to create a visual flow. The fully system addresses the traders’ needs specifically.” The S120 desk greatly appealed to a space, which was designed around these structural columns, as its flexible nature allowed for it to be conformed to the layout of the design.  


Innovant desks help speak to the concept that this workplace “values tranquility” and works to create harmony between technology and the end user. The sculptural like shape of S120 helps inspire those who sit at it. Employing organic accents help remind people of the natural elements in life beyond the working walls.


To read the full article see Page 66 Contract Magazine >

Contract Magazine - Digital Reader >

3 Tips For Designing A Work Space That Embodies Your Brand

Express your voice. Embody your values. Build a stage, not the set.

 "A workspace is as much an opportunity to express who you are as a company as it is a functional place to get work done. This is an important chance to put your brand into three-dimensions, to surround yourselves with personality and character, to create some theater for your prospective employees and partners.

Be forewarned though. This kind of expression is not borne from “design thinking.” This is not user-centered design that emanates from interviews of every employee or that integrates 1,000 voices. This design mandate needs to come from an individual or very small team so that it has a singular voice. This kind of creative personality comes from individual idiosyncrasy, so it cannot be a large group effort.“ - John Edson, Designer San Francisco CA