By Joseph T. Yacovone, LEED, AP
Senior Managing Director, Cassidy Turley
As companies embrace creating open workspaces to enable greater efficiency and foster communication, the most popular term floating around is workplace strategies.
Everyone – from architects, to developers and owners, to tenants, have their own interpretation – yet what does it truly mean? The simplest answer is the ability to realign a space according to how a company wants to work to maximize efficiency.
Offices have four major space functions for collaboration (conference room), socializing (cafeteria or lunch room), individual focusing (offices) and learning (library/research room). The idea behind work place strategy is to create a flexible, multi-functional space that addresses each aforementioned area, but utilizes streamlined and more cost-effective footprint.
Although technology and media companies seem to be the poster children for newly modeled office design, the concept is not industry specific. Businesses including traditional financial firms, powerful cosmetic companies and large defense contractors are all looking to increase efficiencies and decrease the amount of workspace required.
Workplace strategies can succeed for any industry requirement – the customized plan is modified to meet the needs of that particular group. The financial industry tends to cling to the more traditional corner office model, so the plan used reserves open office or benching areas for more junior staff, with large conference rooms adjacent to corner offices (which most likely will be smaller than the previous norm). Smaller, lounge-type rooms or, deal rooms encourage collaboration, socializing and learning all in one, versus three, spaces.
Cosmetics firms are also looking at open and mixed-use spaces as a way to pool resources and connect team members. Cafeterias double as a meeting or event rooms; designed in inviting ways with smaller tables and larger communal tables.
A client in the defense industry comes to mind as one of the most vivid examples of how changing physical environment can boost morale, productivity and reinvent a corporate image. Through strategic planning, space efficiency was increased by 3 percent (a large number in context).
It was achieved by literally taking down walls, moving away from the outdated idea productive work needs to take place in a dedicated office. Instead of the office being a hive of worker bees, it became a central location for motivated staff to work together, share knowledge and address questions. In addition, large conference rooms were outfitted with sophisticated technology for global interaction.
Flexible room design empowered the company to use the space for multiple purposes including lectures, classes, meetings and breakout sessions.
Every company can incorporate a work place strategy by breaking down and understanding exactly how they run day-to-day business. Easy and inexpensive modifications range from incorporating flexible design in conference rooms so tables can be reconfigured from one larger table to individual smaller ones.
Even looking and questioning the role walls play in an office can be a solution. Walls are not merely dividers they can also be conversation or brainstorm igniters with a simple (and cost-effective) application of whiteboard paint.
Ultimately, workplace strategy is about increasing productivity – whether it be through bottom line impact of decreasing the space per employee or through increased production and productivity through creative design solutions.