Written by GlobeSt.com reporter, Carrie Rossenfeld
FOOTHILL RANCH, CA—Space used to be a place to work; now, it’s a true representation of brand, culture, recruitment and vision for the future of an organization instead of simply satisfying the needs of today, Tangram Interiors account executive Stephanie Dickson tells GlobeSt.com. Tangram and H. Hendy Associates were part of the project team for a workplace renovation at Kawasaki Motors headquarters here.
The 120,000-square-foot project received the 2017 REmmy Award for Innovative Workplace over 50,000 square feet from the Southern California chapter of CoreNet Global. One of the key highlights of the project was addressing 250-plus workstations for which Kawasaki allowed employees to select from a set of seven different options.
We spoke with Dickson and H. Hendy senior designer Todd Shumaker about the new processes for creating today’s workspaces, which elements make for successful office designs now and the pitfalls to be avoided.
GlobeSt.com: What’s required of the design team and of the occupiers now that wasn’t required in the past?
Dickson: While the heart of design has always been focused around the human experience. I think today we are focusing even more on how spaces work for our employees and our clients. Beyond creating a branded space and providing everyone a desk we are looking at real estate maximization, where heads down work and socialization happen, and we are studying how people collaborate as well as utilize technology. Space used to be a place to work; now it’s a true representation of brand, culture, recruitment and vision. We are creating spaces for the future of the organization instead of simply satisfying the needs of today.
Shumaker: At H. Hendy Associates, we find it invaluable to go through a visioning process at the beginning of a project. We request that the client invite a cross-section of their staff, including leadership, managers and up-and-comers that will actively participate in a series of exercises to help define current workplace issues and future solutions. This includes defining business objectives and cultural identifiers, responding to various design/style images, selecting a series of words that define project success and an exercise defining what to keep from its current culture and what to change or enhance.
It is a very interactive and consensus-based session, and it reveals a lot about the group. Not surprisingly, these sessions find issues that were not identified previously, and help us create a design solution that is customized to the company’s specific needs and future growth.
GlobeSt.com: Which elements make for the most successful office designs now?
Dickson: It’s difficult to make a sweeping generalization about the most successful office designs since they are significantly different for each client, which is essentially what also makes them effective. For instance, the needs of an accounting firm and a start-up technology company are very different. Its employees are expected to carry out very different day-to-day tasks that require different working environments and different ways to socialize and interact. While some space requirements remain consistent across the board for most companies, we try to curate environments that allow for choice and control, the ability for each worker to choose their position, posture and place in order to best suit the task at hand.
Shumaker: Through our visioning process, we are seeing clients that desire a more transparent and collaborative work environment. One key aspect of this is ensuring that there is an appropriate amount of private meeting spaces available for heads-down focus time, brainstorming sessions, meetings and other functions that are key to that particular business.
We are also seeing more requests for outdoor and amenity-rich spaces that can be used throughout the day. These amenity spaces are also taking on more of a residential and casual look and feel. Easy-to-use and accessible technology must be incorporated for these to be successful and practical. Additionally, we are increasingly focusing on threading the “brand” of the organization throughout the workplace environment, which elevates pride and creates a sense of belonging within the organization.
GlobeSt.com: What are the pitfalls to be avoided along the way?
Shumaker: It is important that everyone in the organization is made aware of the changes being proposed. This message must come from the leaders of the organization, and milestones should be announced so all feel a part of the process and buy into the ideas being proposed. Incorporating change-management sessions, which train employees on how to most effectively use the space, is key as well. Steelcase has change management/customer experience tools and programs, and they can be custom-designed and implemented depending on client needs and the level of change being anticipated. This helps to get everyone on board and lessens the anxiety that can be created by change.
Dickson: It really is about open and clear communication with employees, but also with all partners involved. There are a lot of people involved when a new space is built out; from the general contractor to the broker to the project manager, architect, designer, furniture provider and, of course, the client. Each role plays a critical part in the completion of the project, so communication is key. Additionally, one of the biggest trends we see right now is that technology is sometimes an afterthought, even though it’s such a game changer in the way we work. Integrated technology can significantly enhance a space, but it requires that the appropriate questions are asked and ample time is left for planning.
GlobeSt.com: What else should our readers know about this approach?
Shumaker: You may never get 100% buy-in on change from employees or the organization as a whole, but projects implemented through change management are six times more likely to be successful.
Originally Posted on GlobeSt.com