People like lists because they’re a quick and easy way to process a lot of information. The power of the list is that while each item on it is worthy of singular consideration, together they can transform both the design process and the results achieved. And when it comes to new approaches to workplace design, a list allows for juxtaposition of the various trends we’re seeing in workplaces. Here are nine points to consider in office space planning, design and execution:
- Don’t just hire an architect; hire a team. Integrating subject experts early on clarifies roles, deliverables and commitments, and provides the greatest opportunity for engagement, efficiency and creativity. The people you might not think to call to the kickoff meeting because they’re not needed until later in the project (furniture and logistics managers, for instance) have experience that might help build a project better, faster, cheaper. The design process should not be linear, but circular. (Think: Camelot’s Knights of the Roundtable).
- BIM is a facilitator, not a fad. Building information modeling (BIM) has been around since the 1970s, but its recent momentum is driven by its value as a lifecycle management tool. It is a shared knowledge resource to support decision-making about a facility from early conceptual stages through its design, construction, operational life and even its eventual demolition. BIM models are an upfront investment that can pay big backend dividends.
- Densification is on the rise, but it’s not free. Reducing square footage per person might save money but packin’ ’em in can also tax a building’s infrastructure and compromise employees’ ability to do their jobs—so much so that the cost of lost productivity outweighs the real estate savings. Offering employees a variety of spaces helps make up for trimming their individual footprints. And if these smaller alternative spaces can do double duty, it’s a win-win for employees and real estate.
- Health and wellness is the new sustainability. Employee wellness and wellbeing, and the work/life balance that supports it has become a business strategy that’s taking off faster than sustainability initiatives did at first. Overall, health and wellness is among employees’ top five concerns when considering whether to take or remain in a job; for younger generations, it’s an imperative. And the metrics support it: according to insurance giant AON, an investment in health and wellness programs returns $3.00 to $6.00 for every dollar spent.
- Feed the team. More and more frequently, companies and developers alike are building amenity spaces into their buildings that either provide food or support it. Just as people gravitate to the kitchen at a party, office cafes and cafeterias have become the heart of the office, whether they provide fully-catered meals, a place to heat up a homemade lunch or merely somewhere to eat that’s not your desk. As a bonus, cafés and lounges that double as work space help leverage your real estate, and if they’re rented out for special events, they generate additional income.
- Mobility is not going anywhere. Mobility may not be right for every organization or even for every department within an organization, but in some form or another, it’s here to stay. Mobility offers several benefits worthy of consideration, including reduction of the real estate portfolio, reduced carbon footprint, a larger talent pool to draw from and a perquisite that supports employee work/life balance. Instituting an effective mobility program, however, requires some critical thinking around entitlements, adjacencies, management styles and how performance is measured.
- There should be KPIs for everything. As Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.” But for everything that does count, there should be key performance indicators (KPIs). With all the big data out there, it’s hard to know what to measure. Benchmarking and consultants can help, but what works for others might not be right for your company. What’s important to measure is what’s most relevant to your business as determined by your own team of cross-functional experts. They may see things from different perspectives, but they can come to consensus on what’s important.
- Performance-based compensation is increasingly on the table. However, performance-based compensation only works for those who embrace team-based idea generation and problem solving, and collectively define excellence in mutually agreed upon and quantifiable terms. Performance-based compensation requires a true partnership based on transparency and a commitment that develops trust. Without that, it’s a gamble because while the house will always have the advantage, the players may eventually get tired of the game.
- Heed the need for speed. Time is of the essence in today’s competitive and volatile market, but speed can also shortchange the process. Practically speaking, there will always be times when truly emergent situations require fast, reactive thinking and action. But chronic, reactive planning can result in doing the same thing over and over again without breaking any new ground. While building time into a project, scheduling for thorough information gathering, piloting and testing and review can produce magic.
Fran Ferrone is director of Mancini – Duffy's Center for Workplace Innovation in New York City.