Posts tagged privacy
Workspaces that Move People

imageRecently published in the October issue of Harvard Business Review, the story, “Workspaces That Move People,“ promotes the strategic design of workplaces in order to “produce specific performance outcome[s].” The article’s authors suggest that companies analyzing performance metrics can understand how a “space’s design helps or hurts [employee] performance,” thereby gaining the following insights:

  1. Where and how you work define who you work with
  2. Who you work with drives group performance to a large extent
  3. Workspace performance metrics can now be mapped with organizational ones

With this knowledge in hand, companies are closer than ever to designing (and then continually redesigning) workspaces that actually help employees do their jobs, rather than struggle to do them. In order to gather the information needed to drive these designs and redesigns, the authors advocate for the deployment of sensors — in phones, in offices, or even worn around the neck — that collect the necessary breadth and depth of office data. With this data, employers and designers could begin understanding who should be working with whom, where, and why — a discovery that could hasten the end of the office as we know it.

By comparing the real-time data described above with such organizational metrics as "total sales or number of new product launches,” the authors argue that it is possible to “demonstrate a workspace’s effect on the bottom line.” With this connection established, companies could “engineer” their workspaces to improve overall performance.  

Though knowledge work has been confined to the office for almost a century, the article suggests that the emerging data may lead to the dispersion of organizations across cities – as with Zappos and the experimental “Downtown Project” in Las Vegas. The article also cites the “digital workspace” as a major consideration for design, given that technology hosts an ever-growing amount of knowledge work and idea-sharing.

The future of the workplace is a fluid as it is unknown. We look forward to moving with it in the directions suggested by the growing pool of performance metrics.

The Not So Open Plan

imageMaking the change from cubicles to open plan office environments is a major shift for any organization. Two of the biggest concerns we often hear from clients are related to retaining sufficient storage and privacy. When shifting to more densified, open environments, the application of multi-functional solutions, such as storage elements that provide separation or privacy, can help address these concerns.

One main motivator behind this densification is the desire among companies to reduce their real estate portfolios, which leads them to look at the most efficient practices for working with less space. Corporate real estate and facilities managers ask how they can give their employees the tools to be productive, collaborative and focused, while reducing their allotment of space per person. One effective solution is to utilize furniture that serves multiple purposes, to create division and provide extra surface space; we call this, “storage as separation.”imageIn addition to space reductions, there has been a rise in corporate social responsibility initiatives, which include sustainability and LEED certification strategies. These often translate to open furniture plans, which have inherent sustainability benefits because they use fewer materials. Open furniture plans also minimize or eliminate such elements as panels, walls, and high storage that tend to obstruct lines of sight and access to natural light. As a result of these programs, more employees are sitting in the open environment, with senior management joining them outside their private offices.

By adding tailored privacy panels or storage units to Innovant’s workstations, privacy can be achieved with full utility and an enhanced aesthetic impact. What results is a “not so open plan” environment that balances privacy and interaction in the workplace.

Innovant Case Study: Societe Generale

imageTHE CHALLENGE

With Societe Generale’s US Headquarters lease set to expire in September 2013, the Director of Facilities Management organized an executive committee to study the efficiencies of moving as opposed to renovating. Upon the completion of those studies, it became clear that the company would benefit from moving its headquarters to a
new site.

In addition to this location change, Societe Generale evaluated workplace strategy, determining that it would build out a large trading oor with over 1,200 seats and create “neighborhoods” of benching for its 600+ administrative employees. The bank embarked on an expedition, reviewing all the major manufactures in order to find a vendor that could achieve the required functionality – including adequate privacy and personal storage – while also reflecting Societe Generale’s sophisticated aesthetic standards.  

THE INNOVANT SOLUTION

After a thorough review and comparison of the major manufacturers’ product offering, price and on-site mockups, Innovant was chosen for both the benching and trading desk solutions. This decision stemmed from numerous details in Innovant’s product design that set them apart from the competition. The product is “sturdy, well built, and easy to assemble due to its unistrut frame. The desktop design, monitor arm track and undercarriage framework for wire management are well thought out and manufactured with the highest quality materials.”

Throughout the mockup process, Innovant prevailed in terms of aesthetics, quality and framework. As a result, FORm_trading was chosen to outfit the bank’s trading floor. The product incorporated tailored technology management solutions for CPU housing and access, as well as bespoke personal storage pedestals for a premium fit and finish. Innovant’s proven sensitivity when using sophisticated materials and superior finishing capabilities resulted in the bank’s selection of FORm_office for its administrative benching. The bank’s “neighborhoods” incorporated tailored millwork storage units and end-of-row storage centers using mitered construction. These finely-finished elements afford employees a sense of enclosure despite working in open plan.

THE RESULT

By presenting the best solutions for both the trading and benching scopes of this job, Innovant could provide a single-source solution for Societe Generale. Since then, both the FORm_office and FORm_trading installations have received “rave reviews from the end-user community as they are both functionally and aesthetically pleasing.”

Check out other case studies on Innovant’s website.

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Part Two: Greg Lindsay on the Future of the Workplace

Earlier this summer, the marketing team attended an IIDANY Facilities Forum focused on the topic, “The Evolving Workplace: Change or Adapt?” Moderated by David Craig, Associate Principal at Cannon Design, the discussion featured insights on the evolving workplace and what this means for our industry from two workplace innovators, Greg Lindsay, Contributing Writer for Fast Company, and Bart Higgins, Director at ?What If!

Greg agreed to elaborate on some of his ideas for our blog, including explorations into what he calls “the blurring of the office and the city.” Read “Part One” of our interview here.

DH: You’ve written about Google and mentioned them at the IIDA event. Innovant has seen three global RFPs from them in the last four years, which is an extreme example of a company undergoing rapid growth at rapid speed. If you can speak to this, how do such companies deal with the chaos of space planning, workplace strategy, and establishing standards under these conditions?

GL: As a journalist, I’ve never been on the inside of such hyper-growth, so I can’t really speak to that. However, I am fascinated that the biggest cloud company in the universe is massively investing in physical space. The second Googleplex (i.e. the Bayview Campus) and London headquarters are evidence that Google values proximity.

DH: Do you think your amazement that Google is investing so much money in physical space relates to the idea of “engineering serendipity” that you’ve promoted? Are they really able to think in those terms when they’re moving so quickly?

GL: Yes, I think so. One example is Google’s “people analytics” group. The company was prescient enough to create a dedicated data analysis group to study how people in the company actually work. Eventually, most companies will follow suit in molding functions of HR and facilities management to actually manage people and space together as a single unit — or at least they should.

Another responsibility of Google’s people analytics group is to manage social interactions among Googlers. There’s a reason the Googleplex has a bee-keeping club, and it’s not to keep employees at the ‘Plex 20 hours a day, which is how such programs are typically seen from the outside. Instead, they’re trying to figure out how to mix employees in unforeseen combinations that go beyond corporate roles and politics.

I’ve seen the chronic coffee machine and water cooler metaphors come up frequently in this context. When companies try to figure out how to increase workforce cohesion or introduce people, the solution is invariably adding or moving the coffee machine around. After all this time, we seem to have no better idea for bringing people together than to leave food lying around the office kitchen, as if you were trying to attract a pack of wild animals. I’d be curious to track the people analytics group’s results, which may suggest new social modes for bringing people together.

The third example is Campus London, where Google has stacked an incubator, an accelerator, and two floors of co-working beneath a satellite office on the top floor. Google’s presence is the draw for the entrepreneurs who work there, while the appeal for Google is this hive of activity beneath them they can keep tabs on, learn from, and hire from. I think this is an interesting lesson for companies — especially considering we talk all the time about the benefits of industry clusters. Though the work clusters may not be competitive, they’re close enough to drive innovation.

DH: You also mentioned Facebook at the IIDA event, describing how Zuckerberg was very vocal in the design process with Gehry. How does Facebook measure up in the world of companies growing so quickly when they’re the ones driving the design of their workplace?

GL: I don’t think this makes Facebook much of an outlier since I imagine Google gave NBBJ a lot of input. Facebook is evolving, hiring, and adding new functions so quickly that the company believes it must be able to spawn out a whole new product group at a moment’s notice. The result is that it’s very reluctant to conform to planted physical space. Instead, they’ll just mount work surfaces on castors so they can rearrange the space as necessary. I think this is: A. Really interesting, B. It’s similar to the urban dynamic I write about, which describes why cities work so well, and C. If I were an architect it would scare the hell out of me because they’re basically saying, “You can’t figure us out. You can’t design spaces for us that morph as quickly as we need them to, so just give us a big box.”

DH: We’ve seen sit-to-stand workstations established as a standard in Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe at a rapid pace. In the US, however, that’s been lagging. Recently, Innovant has seen a surge in requests for adjustable height desks. Do you think this notion of adapting our workplaces for health and safety reasons is a real and sustainable shift, or is it just a trend?

GL: I don’t have informed opinion on this, though I would say yes. I think it’s a real trend, which is part of the larger notion of choice and the awareness that people no longer have to sit in an uncomfortable chair at an uncomfortable desk. Instead, they’re demanding a range of motions and a range of environments for work.

As Nilofer Merchant put it, “Sitting is the smoking of our generation.” I’ll be curious to see whether this achieves the status of a crusade, though it will be hard to trace its origins since there seems to be a greater acceptance of design and choice in the US. I certainly think the desire for public space and a range of motions at one’s desk are a part of a larger trend.

DH: Based on what you know about how work is changing, how do you envision the workplace of the future?

GL: The key is that it’s not just a workplace. The workplace of the future is merged intimately with the other environments around it. You’ll have environments that exist either to put your head down and work alone, or you’ll be involved in socializing; either you’re plugged into the cloud or you’re really involved in physical space with people while executing multiple work modes at once.

The workplace of the future won’t start by walking into an elevator lobby or parking your car outside a suburban office complex and going inside to sit at a desk, where there’s nothing but desks and there’s nothing but work. I imagine the street intersecting with the building, so that the moment blurs when you walk into the office out of what today would be a coffee shop, restaurant or retail complex.

The people you’re working with are not necessarily your professional colleagues. You chose that space because it’s designed for the kind of work you want to do and it houses the kind of people you need to work with (or not work with). I imagine you won’t necessarily be choosing where and how you work based on who is paying you. Instead, you’ll base your decision on a space’s relevant functions, which will blend with the city somehow.

The word I keep coming back to is permeability. We need to break open the walls of the office to allow other elements in. This will allow the office to leak out into the city and the city to leak into the office. I think the next step is to determine exactly how that looks. We’ve begun talking about multiple environments in a workplace, but when we take that further, the discussion will be about the environments of the city and vice versa.

DH: What I find most exciting about your vision is the notion of choice –

GL: Exactly! Choice, something we don’t normally associate with going to work.

DH: Right, it’s empowering to think that someday we’ll have the choice to flow throughout the office (or even out of it) in an attempt to find the right workspace.

GL: I don’t think this change will come because employers are more enlightened, which is what we’re seeing with technology companies now. Anybody who’s involved in knowledge work knows what it takes to come up with good ideas. What makes a good working environment on paper is a diversity of opinions and backgrounds, a certain environment, and a certain mental mindset to even be able to think warm thoughts and come up with good ideas. Employers are going to give you the flexibility of choice so they can better harness your work, not because they’re warm and fuzzy. They simply want the best work from you.

DH: What will it take to convince employers that giving employees the flexibility of choice will produce the best work?

GL: Everything I’ve said so far is a mix of anecdotes and hypotheses. The real question is whether we can test any of this — what new styles of work, collaboration, and organization are emerging in cities? What kind of environments will be disrupted by these shifts?  What solo- vs. group work patterns exist, how are they evolving, and how can they be mapped, understood and enhanced? How can new ways of organizing work in cities make people more creative, productive and happy? And what are the benefits of doing so— better retention rates? Higher productivity? Greater innovation? And how do we measure any of this?

I’m putting together a team of architects, data scientists and researchers to explore some of these questions. I’ll let you know when we have some answers.

Part One: Greg Lindsay on the Future of the Workplace

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Earlier this summer, the marketing team attended an IIDANY Facilities Forum focused on the topic, “The Evolving Workplace: Change or Adapt?” Moderated by David Craig, Associate Principal at Cannon Design, the discussion featured insights on the evolving workplace and what this means for our industry from two workplace innovators, Greg Lindsay, Contributing Writer for Fast Company, and Bart Higgins, Director at ?What If!

We were particularly excited to hear from Greg as we had posted his New York Times article, “Engineering Serendipity,” on our blog. This post summarized Greg’s commentary on workplace policies by the likes of Yahoo! and Google, describing how a company can boost employee creativity and productivity by engineering social interactions.

Greg agreed to elaborate on some of his ideas for our blog, including explorations into what he calls “the blurring of the office and the city.” Read on for his insights into 21st century ways of work and places for work.

Deborah Herr: Gensler’s recent survey effectively pointed the finger at open plan environments for declining workplace effectiveness. Are you noticing a looming shift away from open plan or seeing any real trends that address these complaints?

Greg Lindsay: The open plan office is never going to go away, just like the cubicle is never going to go away. But what I find most interesting is the recognition that one size does not fit all. In the ongoing quest to squeeze every good idea and every last bit of productivity out of people, we’ve realized that working at one, generic environment for 8 or 10 hours a day is ineffective. Instead, we need to physically mode switch on a moment to moment basis to glean every last bit of efficiency out of people.

DH: Speaking of these modes, have there been any suggestions about what the “right” ratio would be for these modes? Is there a certain balance of “we” and “me” spaces that we should aim for in a single workplace?

GL: That‘s the $64 billion question. You’ve highlighted the absurdity of someone, somehow publishing research with the “right” ratio based on the number of hours we collaborate. Though it probably won’t be right, we will convince ourselves that it’s right enough.

I imagine the companies that try to do this are going to end up going in two directions. Either they’re going to oversimplify it and get an office with one really intense environment and one really collaborative one. Or, they’ll have eight different work modes in a single office. In this case, the office becomes a fantasy land of different working types, which I would imagine is good for sales, but difficult for most companies to implement. This is why I’m personally more interested in work and city relationships. This would involve encouraging people to leave the office to find different work modes and in the course of that discover something new – whether it be a new idea or new people.

Ultimately, I think the larger notion of “the office” is reaching its functional limits. The struggle to come up with new ideas, push faster and move farther has exposed us to these limitations. The innovation we strive for requires face-to-face, high bandwidth communication, but we still try to do it in an environment where you see the same people day after day. These two trends are in inevitable conflict.

DH: The idea of the office reaching its limitations would alarm a lot of people in my industry. We will have to wait and see, but I can hardly imagine the day when someone may say, “You don’t need to be sitting at your desk for me to realize that you’re being productive.”

GL: Well, it’s a question of, “What is your desk?” I don’t think the desk will ever go away. Desks will be around as long as we’re typing on a device. Instead, it becomes a question of, “What is your desk that is not your desk at your employer?” I think this question will lead us to all sorts of fascinating answers – it will be a desk at someone else’s office, or a temporary desk in a co-working space. Rather than choosing between two or seven environments in one office, you might have two or three environments in your employer’s office with multiple workspaces located across the city. It will be interesting to see how this network of workspaces evolves, which is separate from the ongoing design evolution of desks and chairs.

To me, the more interesting question of what should alarm Innovant is the notion that people find the office to be so ineffective that they’re willing to take their laptops and work in sub-optimal conditions just because they can. If people are willing to shed the productivity-enhancing elements of the office in favor of choice, we are failing them somehow. Perhaps we need to balance this by designing better environments for work outside of the designated office.

DH: You’ve mentioned technology as having a significant role in the evolving workplace. This was obvious at NeoCon 2013 where a lot of big industry players focused on technology as a way to mitigate some of the problems of open plan environments. What sorts of tools or technology do you see contributing to workplace effectiveness?

GL: One longstanding problem that people are interested in solving is the need for systems that track employees down when they’ve been encouraged to wander. I’m dubious that furniture or office equipment makers will be able to design software that can iterate fast enough or function as well as the offerings from software companies.

This is why I’m interested in the potential use of social networking or GPS tracking systems to figure out who’s nearby. At some point, I imagine that as a function of employment we’ll all have an employee badge app on our phones or we’ll wear badges that contain these functions. A recent New York Times story described retailers using smartphones to track people’s movements through their stores. Eventually, we’ll do the same for the office – or we should. Once you do that, you can perform all sorts of interesting big data analysis of who’s actually working and where. I imagine that this would be the grail for a lot of companies since the org chart is the barest approximation of who’s actually working together. Once you understand what’s really going on, you can start rearranging the office in real time. It will be interesting to see how an office manager of the future might intervene on the fabric of an office to either support employees or shake things up a bit.

Please check back for “Part Two” of this interview, which will be posted next week.

Expert Series: Storage as Separation

by Julie May, Strategic Account Executive

Making the change from cubicles to open plan office environments is a major shift for any organization. Two of the biggest concerns we hear from clients are:

“We need to make sure that our employees have as much storage as they do now.”

“Our employees are used to having privacy. They sit in 6’x8’ cubicles with 60”H privacy panels.”

These are understandable concerns.

There are many factors that drive organizations to move into densified, open environments (see previous post, "Expert Series: The Changing Workplace" for common factors). Under these parameters, the application of multi-functional solutions help address many of these concerns. 

One effective solution that Innovant has routinely provided to address these concerns is the use of storage elements that serve multiple purposes: create division, provide extra surface space, and establish additional informal meeting spaces.
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Face-to-Face Storage as Separation: The personalized storage cubby units that sit in the center channel of a double-sided benching cluster do not take up any additional real estate. They provide plenty of above-work surface storage for books, binders, and personal effects, while also providing separation between colleagues. This separation helps provide a sense of privacy, while sitting low enough to meet LEED Daylighting requirements.

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Side-by-Side Storage as Separation: The bookcases and storage units pictured below are at 42”H and divide colleagues that sit side-by-side, while minimizing the overall footprint of each user position. Storage can be configured with different components depending on the client’s requirements. These units can also function as informal meeting areas.

These types of solutions help maintain privacy and provide storage, while also keeping the open plan “open” and conducive for collaboration. As Innovant continues to evolve with the ever-changing workspace, these types of storage solutions are flexible and easy to modify, which enables users to replace their storage units with new solutions in the coming years.