Tag: Workplace

Changing Perspectives — Designing via Partnerships

Design Partnerships with National Accounts

As the COVID19 pandemic sweeps through our country and the world, corporations are busy determining their strategic approaches to business continuity, particularly as states begin entering into the restart phase and employees begin returning to the office.

As an architecture and design firm, we are uniquely positioned to assist our clients in the spatial ideation and implementation of social distancing protocols—ensuring policy is enabled and employees and businesses remain healthy and safe. It is particularly evident in times like these that businesses of today need more than just a design firm.

Traditionally, architecture and design projects have clearly defined beginnings and ends. Once a client occupies the completed project; photos are taken, hands are shaken and communication halts to the occasional ‘hope you are doing well’ emails.

At Workplace Architecture + Design, we have a different perspective to offer the businesses we work with:  we have the experience, knowledge, and talents to operate as more than just the typical designer-client relationship, but as true strategic partners.

As strategic partners, our projects do not come to a close with a handshake (we prefer ‘air fist bumps’ these days) —and our line of communication does not close either. A partnership places value on organizational and cultural engagement equally as much as the emphasis is placed on an individual project. The end product of a strategic partner is not simply the built environment, but instead, all of the elements that support that environment and effectively meet their business purpose.

Benefits For Clients

Workplace Architecture + Design serves as strategic partners for a number of organizations: working on projects across the country, and even dipping into international waters recently. Our services look at our partner’s entire portfolio of facilities, not just an individual building, in an effort to strategically resolve issues through careful planning and design. The services we provide as strategic, long-term partners are:

  • Portfolio Analysis and Optimization — We review organizational data and forecasted growth/contraction against facility layouts and capacities. This leads to finding and implementing select facility changes that allow for the best use of capital against spatial needs (i.e. individual projects that provide the most value for the money).
  • Development of Brand Standards — Blending all aspects of design (space allocations and size, materiality, design, and workplace strategies) with company culture (work flows, collaboration approach, branding), we help create a deployable guide for company-wide office design.
  • Negotiated Agreements — Working on behalf of our partner, we assist in the outreach and development of agreements directly with manufacturers to provide cost-saving solutions for hard costs such as furniture, flooring, and audio-visual needs
  • Best-of-Class Planning and Design — Our design team incorporates a deep-rooted understanding of our client’s needs and culture with creativity and immense talent to produce highly innovative and cost-effective results. Our connected knowledge with our client leads to faster projects, delivered for less money—on a consistent basis.

The benefits of becoming strategic partners with our team are immense: creating thoughtfully curated culture management (versus unpopular mandates), improved recruiting and retention, major cost avoidance and savings on all projects, and a sustainable and healthy built environment that embodies your company’s values.

One Example – National General Insurance

An example of one of our strategic partnerships is our work with National General Insurance Company (NGIC). Beginning with a complete analysis of the company’s Winston-Salem headquarters in 2012–an analysis that resulted in a strategic relocation to a nearby multi-facility campus—Workplace Architecture + Design has since become the company’s nation-wide architectural and design partner. Our work with NGIC has included:

  • The development of corporate design guidelines that have been implemented across the country and include: spatial allocation and design strategy, furniture standards, finish standards, appliance standards, and Audio-Visual standards
  • Projects across ten states — stretching from North Carolina and New York to Wisconsin and Oregon.
  • Rapid space planning and lease opportunity analysis

David Wolf, National General’s Vice President of Facilities, has seen the benefits of working with our team across the country. “We can rapidly deploy projects anywhere in the United States and know that cost controls and brand consistency will be delivered.”

FEATURED PROJECT: 450 Hanes Mill Road, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 

The fourth, and most recent, building within NGIC’s Madison Park campus, the work at 450 Hanes Mill represents a multi-phased project to meet the growing spatial demands of National General’s Winston-Salem location.

Beginning with an analysis of multiple expansion options—including additions, new construction, and potential moving — the resulting renovation of 450 Hanes led to the most cost-effective strategy for a growing company. The building consists of approximately 81,000 square feet that include training facilities, open and enclosed office space, meeting rooms (of all sizes), both renovated and new restrooms to serve the population, and multiple break rooms. The project also included upgrades to the building’s mechanical and electrical systems.

The Inside Story of How Studio Creativity Thrives

By Rachael Schmid

The power of a well-designed workspace isn’t exactly news. But for the employee who shows up to work at a brand-new workspace, there are few things more impactful on day-to-day quality of life.

In the last 20 years, roughly 30,000 individuals in The Triad Region have had their workplaces transformed by Workplace Architecture + Design. Past projects include Inmar’s corporate headquarters, Biotech Place in Innovation Quarter, Collins Aerospace’s Oak Plaza campus, the TW Garner Food Company headquarters on Fourth Street, and many more.

That one company has directly impacted the working lives of so many individuals locally is significant, economically a the company and regional scale. The desirability of workspaces continues to be a major factor in employee retention and recruitment nationwide.

That some of the city’s biggest and most innovative companies have entrusted their needs and aspirations to Workplace for embodiment puts this firm in a unique position: to share how business is, and will continue to be, done day-to-day in Winston-Salem.

“From the Inside, Out”

Architect Paul Meyer sits in an ergonomic chair by a large, glass window. He knows it’s not normal for people to think about the architect. That’s partially the point.

“I don’t ever want to push our intentions onto any of our projects,” he says. “Our profession is to design a space, a building, a community for the people who work and play there, right?”

Except many of the employees at project sites do know Paul. He gets to know every department. What are their specific needs? How do they work? How big are their meetings? What do they think looks nice? By the end of a project, he’s spent weeks working alongside the client’s employees.

“It’s really a connected way to design any space, from the inside—from the users of that building—out.”

Workplace’s “inside, out” approach is, in large part, a strategic response. Every company has a different mission, a different culture. Deep analysis on the front end saves a lot of time, money, and misunderstanding on the back end.

But Workplace’s success as a design firm also points to something deeper: Winston-Salem companies are looking to workplace redesign as a way to express and preserve what makes their mission and culture unique.

At the TW Garner Food Company headquarters on Fourth Street, passerby who peek inside the front windows can see a full commercial test kitchen, where the recipes for Garner products (including Texas Pete hot sauce and Green Mountain Gringo salsa) are actually developed.

But some of the best design details are visible to employees only, like ‘The Four Garners’ backsplash in the breakroom—the same image found on the back of every bottle of Texas Pete, representing the company’s four founding brothers.

“The Four Garners is one of our earliest trademarks,” says President and CEO Ann Garner Riddle. “It represents unity and brotherhood, which started with the first four Garners and has moved down through the years. It’s very important to us.”

Companies like TW Garner seem to understand that what makes people want to work somewhere isn’t primarily the bells and whistles. It’s a culture of connection—connection to the brand, the mission, and the community.

“We’re a family-owned company,” Riddle says. “If you come to work for TW Garner, you’re a part of the family.”

“Define, Then Design”

Workplace president Alicia Hardin pulls out a stack of massive binders. She’s ‘the numbers person’ at Workplace as well as the principal designer.

Over Workplace’s 20-year history, Hardin has developed highly detailed processes for assessing design problems. How many conference rooms do we need? How many square feet should each workstation occupy? She has formulas, spreadsheets, and multiplier factors for all of that.

“It’s like the word problems in school that everyone hated, but I liked,” Hardin says. “Design is solving problems, and we’re all about defining the problem before we design.”

When it comes to Workplace’s larger clients, like Collins Aerospace, a ‘playbook’ of design processes is crucial. Collins has taken Workplace all over the U.S. and the world for projects—Seattle, Miami, the Philippines, and most recently Kansas. What enables a nine-person design team to partner with an international company is the binder in Hardin’s hands, a highly refined programming tool that helps the team “define, then design.”

Collins employees have seen the fruits of Workplace’s strategy in the upgrades to their space at the Oak Plaza campus off of Germanton Road. In the 150 building, which houses upper management, HR, and legal, one of the first things employees see upon entry is a large, glass backdrop etched with patents—a recognition of innovation strived for and achieved right there, on the campus.

These investments in the Winston-Salem facility are affirming. The presence of major corporations like Collins Aerospace is, of course, crucial to the local economy.

The now nine-year partnership between Collins and Workplace is likewise affirming, showing that local companies and local talent have what it takes to secure and retain big business. To, on a global scale, set themselves apart by working transparently and smart.

“They have truly turned into a business partner,” Collins Director of Facilities Robert Vanderpool says of Workplace. “They are honest, trustworthy, accountable, and innovative—all key factors you look for in a business partner and friend.”

“The Massive Brain”

At this point in time, The Workplace team is the most collaborative it’s ever been. They often refer to themselves as “the massive brain.”

“Because of the way we work in our dynamic, when we all join forces to work on a project, we’re able to get it done well,” says Interior Designer Maria Katsoudas. “It’s really fun to get everyone’s take, and that’s what really makes a project shine when we can all contribute to it.”

The brand-new Workplace office, located on the 8th floor of the newly renovated 500 West building downtown, reflects that spirit of collaboration—a spirit which more and more companies are embracing in workplace design.

Within an open layout office, a group of workstations huddled together to form a low-walled maze. It does somewhat mirror a brain.

Hardin gave the team free rein to design their own workspace. Katsoudas says the idea behind the design was to make a conversation easy between coworkers, whether it’s a quick question or a spontaneous brainstorming session.

The Workplace office shares a floor with Flywheel coworking—also intentional. The Workplace team hopes to learn from and support new businesses that outgrow their Flywheel home.

When it comes to workplace design, startups are very different clients for the firm. Decisions are often between spending on the workplace versus spending on product development. Their priorities are different, and their spaces have to be designed to flex.

Startup and growth-stage projects remind Katsoudas of Innovation Quarter’s first projects, like Biotech Place and Inmar’s headquarters. When those projects were about to hit the docket, Katsoudas was a Workplace intern. The team needed another designer, and she was hired full-time.

At the beginning of January, Katsoudas celebrated her tenth anniversary at Workplace, a testament to how the ‘interior’ life of a company—the day-to-day experience of employees—really is everything.

“We’re close-knit, and that’s really key for us to work well as a team,” Katsoudas says. “We tend to all have lunch together more or less every day.” She gestures toward a round table with an impressive view of the city, Innovation Quarter in sight.

“I have learned so much. The experience they’ve provided us here—it’s priceless.”

The power of “Design Fixation”

Your first design idea is always the one you feel most confident about. It may not be your best one but you fixate on it anyway. Thirteen professionals from the United Kingdom were asked how to work their way around this “design fixation”, and below are the ideas that they had.

What Is “Design Fixation,” And How Can You Stop It?

Items that can make design fixation worse:

  • Exposure to prior solutions that you may have had
  • Always thinking that your earlier ideas are a better design
  • Dealing with low budgets from your clients
  • Being a part of a workforce that places blame on people for mistakes made
  • Clients that have their own idea or like your first idea and push to stick with it

Items that help you avoid bad design ideas:

  • Use your coworkers to brainstorm and ask them to review your work
  • Morphological charts shouldn’t be your enemy (used to generate and organize potential solutions in your design)
  • Always notice the problem before it becomes one to begin with
  • Model making is your friend, especially in the design community, so don’t be afraid to make one or two or three or maybe a million

At some point though, you do have to realize your time will be better spent on coming up with the design, so don’t stay fixated too long…

Breakrooms, the Office’s “New” Hangout…

Office breakrooms have always been where an employee goes for coffee in the morning and lunch in the afternoon, but with their outdated designs, no one wanted to stay for an extended amount of time. Now, that’s a thing of the past, because breakrooms are also getting a face-lift when the design for the rest of the building is considered.

Breakrooms are being designed more frequently to look like kitchens that you’d see inside your own home. They’re now becoming a place where coworkers, in addition to getting their morning coffee and lunch, can now collaborate on ideas as well as sit and work instead of being stuck at their desk. The redesign of the office breakroom is starting to have an impact on employee morale in a positive manner.

So, as an employer, when redesigning your office space, remember to pay attention to the breakroom!

Balancing “We” and “Me”

This article, written by Steelcase researchers and published in the Harvard Business Review, really addresses the balance between the top two factors for productivity and satisfaction:

  1. The ability to do distraction-free solo work
  2. Support for impromptu interactions

Which are, of course, inherently contradictory.

Sound Matters

By far, the most informative, unbiased, and useful report EVER on acoustics in the workplace.  This universally relevant topic applies directly to the number one factor influencing employee performance and satisfaction – the ability to do distraction free solo work*.  Be sure to note the “mythbuster” on page 6 about cubicle partition heights…

*See Disproving Widespread Myths about Workplace Design for the top ten list of performance factors.

Designing a Workplace for Wellbeing

Two great design principles used to achieve the project goal: “How can our environment not just contain how work gets done, but be a catalyst [to evolve] the business?”  Seizing the opportunity to make a cultural and philosophical change interwoven with a consolidation of physical space – many of our clients have leveraged the same opportunity with great success.

How to Design a Workplace for Wellbeing: 2 Critical Factors

Make way for the Millennials

A more thorough article with great examples of specific space types – particularly the office commons as the new social hub of the workplace.  Our experience is consistent with the overall trend toward reducing square footage assigned to individual work-spaces and reallocating that square footage to these commons and other shared spaces.  However, beware the statistic on “average square footage per person” as there are many variations on how that is calculated, and the writer doesn’t elaborate.  Neither does this related press release from the source CoreNet data.

Some of these other statistics and calculation methods are described in:

“Space and Project Management Benchmarks: IFMA Research Report #34”, 2010, International Facility Management Association

“Workspace Utilization and Allocation Benchmark”, July 2011, with data updated July 2012; U. S. General Services Administration, Office of Real Property Management, Performance Measurement Division.

“A Unified Approach for Measuring Office Space: Fore Use in Facility and Property Management”, 2007 Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International and International Facility Management Association (IFMA)

Workplace Trends

Searching for the Holy Grail of workplace design?  Does it exist?  Probably not, or at least it looks a little different for every situation.  This article describes some changes in thought and direction that we have definitely been seeing and implementing over the last few years (Including opening a co-working space in Winston-Salem, Flywheel).  Schneider’s comments on transparency are true, but we are also seeing a trend toward transparency in terms of not keeping things behind closed doors…

Activity Spaces Defined

How can our building environments and spaces keep up with the fast-paced, ever-changing workforce? Gone are the days when private offices reigned supreme and when the water cooler was the only casual meeting place where you could share a collaborative conversation with a coworker. Today, you can have a video conference call while riding the subway on your way to your next client meeting.

Technology has changed the way we work and think. With a new techno-savvy workforce about to hit the market, our work spaces need to change too.  Knoll has provided us with a short illustrative video to inform us just what these spaces are and what they need to accomplish in order to make our work successful.

Refuge – ‘Get away’ space for focus or private one-on-one conversations

Enclave – ‘Get together’ area for a small group to exchange ideas

Team Meeting – Gathering space for a team project meeting

Assembly – Planned interactions and collaborative work

Community – ‘Town center’ spaces to encourage impromptu connections