Posts tagged workplace strategy
(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.

Expert Series Part II: Can trading desk design affect productivity of the trader?

by Bruce Wells, Director of Marketing & DevelopmentimageLast month, I shared some thoughts on what furniture manufacturers are (or are not) doing to deliver productivity benefits to high pressure, high performance employees (traders) in dense, open plan trading room environments. I concluded that for the most part, the limited list of trading desk manufacturers have primarily developed their products to accommodate the IT personnel who service the product. Additionally, a single direction trend to compete on cost has resulted in value engineering to the point where the bulk of the market for trading desks is essentially mature and commoditized. As a result, many trading desks are being specified at a baseline quality level with little to offer in terms of end user benefit (beyond a 60x30 worktop with the same cable and technology management features that have been in place since the 90’s). Though adjustable height work surfaces that allow traders to stand while working is a significant contributor towards enhancing productivity, the reality is that height adjustability was introduced into trading desk design as much, if not more so, for the IT servicing benefit.

In the past few years, our efforts at Innovant to position ourselves apart from competition in a maturing, commodity-like market were focused on dominating the higher end of the market; essentially attracting clients seeking a sophisticated, tailored aesthetic with high quality detailing. It has paid dividends in terms of revenue, but working with more quality- and performance-conscience clients has also provided Innovant’s team with significant insight on design considerations that may deliver productivity benefits to the traders.  

One “high” hurdle question that has been raised is “Can the furniture and technology support at the desk quickly morph the personal environment for the trader from open, interactive and collaborative to closed, concentrative and focused?” The grid-like, high density space planning of most trading floors combined with multi-tier monitor arrays has all but killed the line-of-sight communication and collaboration that the trading floor was intended to deliver in the first place.  

I offered an idea to a friend of mine who trades at a prominent Wall Street bank, “What if the entire trading desk, complete with CPU, phone and display technology could rotate in situ somehow?”  We used business cards on a tabletop to represent the footprint of a trading desk in a common cluster and started rotating them at different angles to see how possible visual sightlines could open up across a room, or how privacy could be accomplished by “cocooning” to achieve better focus.   He loved the idea, but it became clear that the conflicts of rotating rectangles created big problems in terms of practicality. The answer may lie in a radical rethink of how a trading desk is engineered, opening up the concept of separating the raceway, technology supports and displays into free standing elements that can move independently of one another. My colleagues in the Innovant rendering department will be the first to help me conceptualize this. Stay tuned.

Expert Series: Can trading desk design affect productivity of the trader?

by Bruce Wells, Director of Marketing & Development

imageFor decades, trading desk manufacturers have attempted to leapfrog each other’s product value by building what I have always called “the better mousetrap.” Predominantly, this has involved a never-ending development cycle to improve the performance of IT and cable management as technology changes from year to year and client to client, which ultimately results in faster, more efficient moves, adds and changes. This design evolution, however, has mostly effected the efficiency of the IT and facilities support teams that keep the trading floor functioning.  

One noticeable design evolution, for which I believe trading desk manufacturers deserve significant credit, is the development of multi-screen monitor arm products. These now ubiquitous products directly improve user productivity. However, my experience tells me that monitor arm selection for the trading room continues to lie in the hands of IT as they are the ones tasked with installing, relocating and servicing the product, not the traders.

So, can we say that trading desk design development over the past two decades has had a direct impact on the productivity of the traders themselves? No doubt, some in our field will take offense to this question. Designers and engineers of leading trading desk manufacturers take great pride in their work, seeing their efforts as sophisticated, unique and forward-thinking. These meticulous efforts are all undertaken in the name of delivering ROI and garnering respect amongst IT leaders and facility management in the financial marketplace. 

Over the past 18 years I have been involved in the development of four highly successful trading desk product lines that have been deployed worldwide by many of the most prestigious financial institutions. But when a marketplace design consultant recently asked me, “Can you help me understand how trading desk design directly impacts trader productivity?” I had to acknowledge the reality that this has not been the focus of trading desk manufacturers because our “client” is largely facilities and IT, not the end user. Most trading desks, irrespective of manufacturer and internal design, are essentially the same in: height (including adjustable height), depth, legroom, width, etc. – all predetermined by industry norms or client standards.  Additionally, notwithstanding noticeable variances in workmanship and design quality, all trading desks are fundamentally made of the same materials. With such limitations, what can be done in trading desk design to boost trader productivity without sacrificing the impact on those who service the trading desks and the technology within them?

In the coming weeks I will be posting some personal conclusions from my experiences within the niche world of the trading floor. I will also discuss some of the exciting new furniture designs and workplace strategies being deployed outside of the financial sector by some of the fastest growing companies in the world.  I can tell you from recent experience that these bold moves will inevitably draw attention from Wall Street.

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.

Expert Series: The Changing Workplace

Innovant is proud to announce the launch of its “Expert Series,” which will feature blog posts written by our very own industry experts. We’ve invited our sales team, engineers, and senior management to share their thoughts on all things related to workplace design.

Tune in each month for insights on the evolving workplace, product design, office tips, and more – all from Innovant’s team members at the forefront of workplace strategy and design.

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First up is Julie May, Innovant’s Strategic Account Executive. Her first post will be published in two parts. As an introduction to her upcoming account of storage used as separation in the modern workplace, Julie describes the factors contributing to the evolving workplace. See her breakdown the common factors below: 

Real Estate Efficiencies: Many companies are reducing their real estate portfolios and are looking at the most efficient practices for working with less space. Corporate real estate and facilities ask how they can give their employees the tools to be productive, collaborative and focused, while reducing their allotment of space per person. The average square foot per person has dropped from 225 sq ft in 2010 to 176 sq ft in 2012, with prediction of being reduced further to 100 sq ft per person by 2017. (*Data sourced from CoreNet Global.)

Sustainable and Corporate Responsibility Corporate Programs: In 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.

Multiple Generations: “Collaboration” is a common word used in planning meetings to discuss strategies for boosting employee productivity. With multiple generations existing in a single workplace, studies have been conducted that show contradictory results: 1) Collaboration between multiple generations is effective in increasing productivity. 2) Younger generations like being in an open environment and older generations struggle to focus. 3) When done right and with the right worker types, the open plan can be productive and a successful platform for multiple generations to share information, develop mentorships, socialize and connect.

Workplace Tools: What works for me, as a salesperson, doesn’t necessarily work for, say, an engineer or accounting person. Each department and worker type has different requirements for work, which means that “one-size-fits-all” doesn’t necessarily work for every organization. Developing effective tools for different worker types is becoming more common and easier to manage for facilities.

Please check back next week for Julie’s insight into how “Storage as Separation” fits into these new work environments. 

In a recent  New York Times  article,  Engineering Serendipity , Greg Lindsay deliberates workplace policies by  Yahoo  and  Google  and describes how companies can use social media as data to plug organizational gaps.    By bridging these gaps, he says, employers are able to “engineer” serendipity (“regarded as close kin to creativity – the mysterious means by which new ideas enter the world”) amidst employees.     
 In addition to Lindsay’s assertion that social media is one method for helping employees serendipitously “generate good ideas,” he adds that physical space that “maximizes ‘casual collisions of the work force’” can also breed creativity. This idea is supported by the discovery of  Sociometric Solutions  that “employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four.” Thus, not only are companies like Yahoo banning employees from working from home as a way to bring people together, they are also housing employees in environments that encourage “chance conversations.” Lindsay explains that “we get a particular intellectual charge from sharing ideas in person.” 
 In the end, “the message [is] clear: doing your best work solo can’t compete with lingering around the coffee machine waiting for inspiration – in the form of [interaction with] a college – to strike.”

In a recent New York Times article, Engineering Serendipity, Greg Lindsay deliberates workplace policies by Yahoo and Google and describes how companies can use social media as data to plug organizational gaps.  By bridging these gaps, he says, employers are able to “engineer” serendipity (“regarded as close kin to creativity – the mysterious means by which new ideas enter the world”) amidst employees. 

In addition to Lindsay’s assertion that social media is one method for helping employees serendipitously “generate good ideas,” he adds that physical space that “maximizes ‘casual collisions of the work force’” can also breed creativity. This idea is supported by the discovery of Sociometric Solutions that “employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four.” Thus, not only are companies like Yahoo banning employees from working from home as a way to bring people together, they are also housing employees in environments that encourage “chance conversations.” Lindsay explains that “we get a particular intellectual charge from sharing ideas in person.”

In the end, “the message [is] clear: doing your best work solo can’t compete with lingering around the coffee machine waiting for inspiration – in the form of [interaction with] a college – to strike.”

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