When the workday ends, Siemens employees clean out their workspace, leaving no computer, phone or drawerful of personal items. Tomorrow, employees will probably work in a different part of the office – or even telecommute – depending on day-to-day needs. Welcome to the 21st-century office and the world of alternative workplace strategies, which have gained enormous traction during this recession because of the pressure to cut costs.
Siemens, a long-term tenant of The Alter Group’s Concourse at Quadrangle in Orlando, has relocated from 70,000 SF of space to 55,000 SF in Quadrangle/3850, and established visionary workplace strategies that cut real estate costs and integrate with the new world of mobile technology. The German-based engineering giant’s Quadrangle office is one of seven Siemens locations in the United States that have been revamped using an innovative open concept design. The new paradigm is based on the assumption that only half of a company’s employees are actually working in the office at any single time. The remainder are in off-site meetings, traveling on company business, or on vacation. Consequently, Siemens’ new facility contains just 77 workspaces for every 100 employees. Managers typically don’t have private offices in this design concept.
Siemens has branded its concept as NewWoW – New Way of Working. The design has transformed Siemens’ traditional office culture into one of increased collaboration and interaction. The open plan design includes a variety of workspaces, cafes, informal meeting spaces and think tanks for employees who need a bit of privacy from time to time.
“It’s the shift from ‘me” to ‘we,’” said Justin Mardex, strategy director for M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, the San Francisco architectural firm that directed Siemens’ redesign. “It’s a transition from being seen working to your work being seen.”
Each employee has a storage locker to stash their belongings when not in use. The concept, which Mardex said is growing in popularity, can be described as “activity-based working”, “workplace mobility” and a “free-address approach. “Presenteeism – as opposed to absenteeism -- becomes less important when you have office environments like this,” Mardex said. “A lot of times, it’s driven by real estate and by an exercise in efficiency. At Siemens, it’s really a culture of change.”
According to Cathy Davidson, Siemens’ general manager for building strategy solutions, the program is the result of high-level discussions about employee recruitment, growth, performance and retention. Employees hired since the change tend to be more collaborative and team-oriented. An additional advantage is that the new design accommodates a predominately paperless workflow because employees scan images and reports into their computers.
“As long as you evaluate from a performance point of view, where you work really isn’t important,” Davidson said. “This really is about changing the way we’re working. It’s not just about changing the space.”
The phasing in of the NewWoW concept by Siemens was eased by the fact that when the base building was originally designed as a speculative office building, it incorporated many architectural and engineering elements that provide enormous flexibility for future occupants and their interior designers.
Our plans for the Quadrangle/3850 building included not only above-average bays — 40’-0”x42’6” — but also placing columns very deep from the perimeter with clear ceiling heights of 13’6”. Those features deliver a feeling of openness and airiness further augmented by a windowline which is more than 80% glass standing 9’6” high to grant almost every single occupant with clear lines-of-sight and an abundance of natural light.
“The majority of employees welcome the change,” Davidson said. “There is a lot of appreciation for the new environment. After the Orlando installation, one employee said ‘Even given the opportunity to work from home, I’d really rather come in because it’s such a great environment.’”
As Vice President of Development, Ed Quant plays a major role in coordinating land and building development activities and services for The Alter Group’s portfolio in the Southern United States. He also is responsible for managing tenant improvements and procuring permits and approvals from local, state and federal public agencies. www.altergroup.com