Work has changed. Teams and their leaders have tried to keep up. The way organizations form and manage teams in the future will provide the foundation for high-performing teams. The issue is important because working in teams is no longer an option: business complexity relies on new levels of expertise and interdependence upon individuals’ strengths and diversity to create results. Work has become too unpredictable and constantly changing between centralized and decentralized models. As the correlating team dynamics shift from collaboration toward innovation, from tactical to strategic, and from transactional to relationship based work, management faces a challenge in how to measure and lead the moving targets. The default settings of “teams” must adjust, but how? To what? Where will teams actually do their work? What will work spaces of the future look like, if we have them at all?
Read Brady’s latest white paper that answers these questions here.
IBM, Yahoo, and Best Buy, among others, have felt the sting of criticism in recent years for requiring remote workers to come back to work full-time at company offices. Critics said these past innovators failed their teleworkers, who preferred the autonomy outside the office. Plus, research by organizations ranging from the London Business School to Gallup have suggested that teleworkers are more productive and engaged than their office counterparts.
Remote work is far from an all-or-nothing proposition. The recent retrenchments may in fact mark the start of the next wave of virtual work. Applying the lessons from their initial efforts, companies are training employees to get the most out of a technology-enabled world which allows team members to contribute from home, from co-work environments in the office as well as from traditional workspaces.
Remote Work Won’t Go Away
The pullbacks by Big Blue and others probably don’t reflect the future. A wide range of studies find remote work is increasing.
The Society for Human Resource Management says 60% of employers in 2016 were offered telework options compared to 20% in 1996. The federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics also found the share of people doing some or all of their work from home grew from 19% in 2003 to 22% in 2016. As long as statistics show that workers get more done at home — and appreciate the added flexibility — companies will look for ways to make it work.
The key is results. As the critics noted, IBM, Yahoo, and Best Buy all pulled workers back into offices as the companies stayed stuck in prolonged slumps. They weren’t getting the overall returns in company growth and profitability they needed, a function of much more than worker productivity. Their moves suggest that the most viable remote work programs require company cultures focused on a variety of business metrics — and that balance employee choice with overall company strategy.
Crafting a results-oriented workplace depends on establishing clear goals that everyone embraces. A good place to start may be the “Balanced Scorecard” popularized by Harvard Business School professors in the early 1990s. The approach calls for setting objectives based on a company’s strategy, in collaboration with employees. Work is then tracked using rational, measurable performance indicators that are agreed upon upfront. This allows employees to see how they’re contributing to the big picture.
Not every company is well-suited for this approach. Before launching any virtual work program, a close examination of your company culture and processes is recommended. Draft a change management plan based on a shared vision for strategic results. Bring together departments like human resources and information technology to scrutinize how the processes will work.
Above all, a commitment to connectedness and respect will deliver results in a remote work environment far better than barking orders and monitoring activity. If your managers work with their direct reports to establish clear expectations based on common goals, they will have less need to see them. But how do you get to that level of understanding and agreement?
Step 1: Build Understanding And Trust
First, managers and employees need to get to know each other. Each should grasp the other’s strengths, weaknesses, and work style before they’re opposite each other on a Skype call. In some cases, managers will learn their employees would rather work in the office, because they enjoy the workplace and its social nature. This “getting to you know you” step is especially important with new employees, so they get a sense of the company culture.
It’s also essential that a common language and vision be established before remote work commences. For large projects, start with in-person collaboration and team building, so the full group contributes to and understands the plan for the work to be completed.
After this groundwork is complete, offer employees choices — in how they communicate, where they work, and even when they work. That degree of autonomy breeds employee trust and their performance, in turn, will build management confidence.
Step 2: Communicate – The Inverse Proportion Theory
So what frequency of communication is appropriate once the foundation for remote work is in place, and everyone has agreed on clear goals and performance measures? It’s a case of inverse proportionality. The farther apart employees work, the more they need to communicate. This is especially true if remote workers are relatively distant from the office and won’t be visiting on a regular basis.
Successful work-from-home programs also leverage the variety of communication vehicles available from email to Slack to GoToMeeting, letting teams use the tools that work for them and are most effective. But it’s important to stay disciplined about frequent meetings, because that’s what keeps employees and managers trusting each other.
Step 3: Make The Workplace A “Magnet”, And Design for Collaboration
Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace Report”, based on data from 195,600 U.S. employers, found that while workers enjoy the autonomy of remote work, they also desire to feel part of something larger — something employers obviously want as well.
Productive remote work, somewhat paradoxically, depends on well-designed physical workplaces. The office needs to be a magnet, so virtual workers feel excited about about visiting with its cool and inviting feel. Inside should be a variety of workspaces that match the diversity of your workforce and their work styles.
Consider at least three to five options, blending everything from sheltered rooms and open spaces to stand-up areas and lounges. Employ a mix of quiet zones and active rooms. Vary the lighting and furniture. Every space should be designed so it’s easy for employees to connect their laptops, phones, and other devices. The food, drink, and educational areas should also encourage conversation.
The Delta Sky Lounge is an excellent model for how to serve the needs of a variety of users. With a similar approach, your workplace can transform from the closed offices and cubicles of the past to a vibrant space that promotes collaboration and an egalitarian feel.
Step 4: Be Sympathetic To Those Stuck In The Middle
As noted above, the biggest risk to a successful remote work initiative is related to people, not technology. And middle managers are the linchpin — from collaborating with their direct reports to maintaining communication. Since they may also be the one most skeptical of the advantages of a remote work program, facility management and other workplace design stakeholders will need to engage them carefully.
In many cases, it’s simply because middle managers are not used to remote work since they’ve never had the opportunity to do it. They may suspect they’ll be held responsible if things don’t go well, which contributes to a fear of change.
It’s important that the C-suite invests in middle managers to help them through the process and emphasize how it will benefit them. Training on managing to results rather than effort will be necessary in many cases. Also, it’ll be important for middle managers to understand that it’s relatively easy to adapt quickly to the technology that serves as the foundation for successful remote work.
Remote Work Research With Millennnials
(Editor’s Note: Read Donnelly’s recent article for FacilityExecutive.com on designing the workplace based on the influx of employees from the millennial generation. His advice? Stop!)
(Virtual) Work In Process
As remote work continues to evolve, examine whether it makes sense for your company to re-evaluate your program annually. There are many pitfalls to sidestep that otherwise will have lasting implications across all areas of your business. And, just as you shouldn’t start a virtual work program hastily, you shouldn’t end one without a close review, either.
Originally published in Facility Executive.
Women architects understand the challenges associated with their profession, but what makes it worse are the biases they encounter from a male-dominated discipline. While times are changing, women in architecture and construction have had to overcome reservations that their gender might in some way limit their knowledge, competence, expertise and creativity.
The challenges women in the industry face are not limited to the politics of the architectural office environment. They extend to construction sites as well. Here, their trials become even more complicated. The primary issue is not necessarily overt and unacceptable comments by just a few workers. Those occur less frequently as the industry learns to accept increasing numbers of women in a previously male-dominated world. The bigger problem involves a patronizing attitude and mindset from executives who mean well, but mistakenly feel that gender must be a factor in how they respond when the expertise they seek is rendered by a female representative.
Professionalism v. Gender
A New York Times article on this very subject sums up the quandary facing women architects. Its title: “I Am Not the Decorator.” The Oct. 2016 piece surveyed several female architects about the challenges they face, including those on construction jobsites. Among the responses were:
• “Every new jobsite means a contractor who will assume I am the assistant, decorator or intern.”
• “Many subcontractors seem very surprised when I give them solutions.”
• “Every single day I have to remind someone that I am, in fact, an architect.”
These experiences are not uncommon. Despite having the same educational credentials and proven-track record of working with clients as their male counterparts, some women find a pink hardhat waiting for them when they arrive at the job site (I happened to have been one of them). In addition, women with professional certifications have been called “baby” or “sweetie” by executives who should know better. Their comments and actions are not necessarily mean spirited, but they are patronizing — the ultimate denigration of the architect’s professionalism and expertise. They occur because some executives or managers think they should emphasize the obvious: the architect happens to be a woman.
Construction management requires an environment of professionalism on every jobsite and that environment includes the licensed architect. That means an individual’s contribution is based on expertise, personal conduct and people skills, and is recognized and accepted exclusive of gender, which neither requires nor deserves recognition.
The increase in women joining the ranks of architects presages more appearances on construction jobsites, which should make their presence less extraordinary for executives. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards headquartered in Washington, D.C., reports that in 2016, “women accounted for 36 percent of newly licensed architects” and that “nearly two in five new architects are women.”
Architects, whether specializing in design or other disciplines, have undergone intensive study and experience before they can earn licensure. The NCARB reports that licensing of architects marks the culmination of more than 12 years of education and experience “from the time a student enrolls in school to the moment they receive the license.” Architects regardless of gender bring that experience and expertise along with creativity to the jobsite, and deserve respect for it.
At times, there may be a difference of opinion between the architect and executive over issues arising during construction. Women architects understand that they may have to handle resolution of such problems differently than their male counterparts. In a male-dominated environment, an “in-your-face” mentality is likely to be counterproductive especially if that attitude is expressed by a female. Yet the architect knows there will be times when she should stand her ground. When that happens, the challenge will be to state the case when necessary without being offensive. That’s good advice for both genders, but especially for women, who sense the pejoratives often associated with members of their sex who speak their minds. Diplomatic resolution is essential.
Build a professional relationship
Women architects understand the importance of looking past gender issues at the office and on construction sites. To move forward, construction management needs to develop productive working relationships with architects, regardless of whether the person on the other side of the table is a man or a woman. For those executives unaccustomed to dealing with the latter in an architect design capacity, consider the following suggestions:
1. Start with respect – Remember that standing across from you is a licensed professional who has spent years honing her design and other architectural skills.
2. Don’t be dismissive of her opinions – She is as much a professional as you are.
3. Don’t patronize – Please — no pink hardhats or affectionate terms such as “baby” or “sweetheart.”
4. Remember you’re on the same team – Construction management and architects bring so much to the table. Don’t allow awkward feelings about working with a woman architect to impede a project’s progress.
Regardless of the level of experience, architects and executives can learn from each other, especially when both recognize each other as knowledgeable professionals and treat one another with mutual respect. In that way, biases about gender should never get in the way.
Amy Hood, RA, LEED AP BD+C is a sustainability leader and senior architect with BHDP Architecture.
Originally published in Construction Today.
A Life Stage Strategy
Demographers like to uncover, classify, and name groups: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials. It’s what they do. But it’s not what corporate real estate, human resources, and workplace design people do. We deal with living, breathing, changing organisms called organizations — made up of all kinds of individuals, juggling all kinds of life events, needs, and desires.
The “perfect” workplace would understand this and be able, via sensors and other technology, to “see” how employees are interacting with their environment, then be amenable to modification in close-to real time. (See: “The office experiment: Can science build the perfect workspace?”, from Nature, 2016)
We’re not there yet. But we do know that employees at certain stages of life have typical requirements and expectations of work, and face predictable work/life challenges. Some of the more obvious, according to Rowe of Fidelity, are single employees who want ways to socialize at and after work, or new mothers who have specific needs such as mother’s rooms. And, these life stages do not necessarily align with arbitrary generational groupings.
Here are five distinct, easily recognizable life stages of workers, with brief descriptions of each and a list of workplace characteristics:
These groupings shown above are functional, characterized by action, rather than assumed generational preferences. Five groups may be too few. The list doesn’t include non-traditional workers such as parents entering or re-entering the workplace after raising a family or those seeking the flexibility of part-time work because of other commitments.
It also important to remember that life stages don’t have to be linear progression. As Rowe of Fidelity points out, some parents of grown children may have grandchildren living in the home. They may have the needs of older employees closing in on retirement as well as a young family. The challenge for a truly successful life stage approach to workplace design is dedicating the necessary resources to identify and understand the typical life stages that exist uniquely in each organization.
Implications For Workplace Design
If we focus on employees according to their life stages, not their generations, what are the consequences for workplace design? First, flexibility and choice move to the fore. If you’re trying to create spaces that engage and empower people who are focused on everything from self-definition to balancing commitments (work, family, community) to workplace stability, environmental versatility is key.
Versatility doesn’t just mean providing different types of workstations and meeting spaces with various furniture configurations. It’s a business strategy that must be integrated across human resources, information technology, and operations.
The Perils Of Obsessing About Millennials
Because Millennials have been joining the workplace in force over the past 15 years, it’s natural for real estate and human resources professionals to focus on them. But, in addition to not being the optimal approach to workplace design, we think this emphasis on Millennials actually presents long-term organizational risks.
As we’ve noted above, the generational focus can obscure the fact that employees have lives, and life experiences influence how people engage at work. Also, fixating on one generational group has the danger of skewing workplace designs, making them more inflexible, and alienating other groups of employees in the process.
Consider the latest and greatest tech workplaces. We’ve all read the articles about the play areas and assortment of social spaces, the themed conference rooms, the gourmet cafeterias, the lavish perks, the design-your-own workstation, and work-from-where-you-want approach. (See this article.) There are a lot of good things happening in these spaces, especially all of the flexibility and data-driven elements. There are also limitations. These workplaces are built to recruit, retain, engage, and empower two primary kinds of employees: software engineers and ad sales people. They emphasize younger workers — how many 50-year-old software engineers do you know? And, they’re designed to capture and keep employees on site.
That’s fine when workers are primarily young, single, and interested in experimenting with their jobs and building a community at work. But what about 20 years from now when these same workers are more interested in stability and order and commitments outside of work such as family and community. How will these spaces work for them? And can they evolve as their workers do?
Our Research On Millennials
At BHDP, we realize that no matter how much we stress the importance of thinking about life stages, Millennials will still be a concern for our clients. After all, by 2020, they will account for half of the workforce. So, what did our research with undergraduates at the University of Cincinnati actually tell us about them and the key strategies for meeting their needs?
Common Ground In Workplace Design
While conducting our research to characterize Millennials, what struck us most was not how different they are from older generations of young people entering the workplace but how similar. They seek fulfillment at work, connection to a greater good, and a sense of community and collaboration, just as their parents did at that stage in life. Millennials may be more passionate and outspoken about these values, but those are difference of quantity, not of kind.
As Fidelity’s Rowe says, “With respect to designing spaces and amenities in the workplace, we observe that most individuals have the same essential priorities. They want places to collaborate, focus and socialize with colleagues. Flexibility and autonomy are universally important. Everyone loves an airy, naturally lit environment. They all want to learn, adapt and perform their best work.” Generational definitions can get in the way of this commonality.
Even the Millennials’ oft-noted familiarity with and immersion in communications, media, and digital technologies is hardly a unique generational trait. The rise of technology and the speed and ready access to information has impacted everyone, allowing all workers to stay connected like never before, unbounded by location. This is a fundamental change with huge consequences for the future of work. The rise of more agile, and mobile, workplaces — and the challenges and strategies for making them really function — will be the topic of our next article.
Donnelly is an architect, owner, and client leader with BHDP Architecture, headquartered in Cincinnati, OH. Established in 1937, BHDP designs environments that affect the key behaviors necessary to achieve strategic results for clients by thinking creatively, staying curious, fostering collaboration, and delivering excellence. Donnelly can be reached at email@example.com.
Are your facilities planned around Millennials’ and their perceived workplace design preferences? If so, are there recognized benefits or downsides? Are you a Millennial? What do you think?
Originally published in Facility Executive.
November 6 2017 | 3:45 – 4:45
Corporations spend an average of $750/person on wellness initiatives and only achieve a 15% participation rate. Insurance and program costs continue to escalate faster than profits. For many companies this is the third largest expense and one that is unpredictable and out of control. The corporate journey to wellness faces challenges of multiple siloed stakeholders, complexity of options, C-suite disengagement and employee resistance. Tying this together into a coherent facility strategy makes the challenge even greater. In this presentation you will learn how Kaiser Permanente used a facility strategy as a catalyst for culture change and a means of connecting the different silos. You will also receive a workbook developed by more than 60 experts and stakeholders as a tool to take a company through its journey to total health.
- Discover how to connect the dots between the different stakeholder groups and an integrated facility strategy.
- Deepen your understanding of how to take a company through a comprehensive assessment and strategy narrative to develop their own road map to total health.
- Strengthen your ability to lead your organization through a process of discovery and to arrive at plan of action.
Brady Mick, Samantha Delabar, and Meredith Payne of BHDP Architecture discuss how design strategists and business leaders must learn to effectively work together to transform workplace design.
For the past half century, design often referred to an individual who asked a few questions about a problem, went away for a period of time, and returned with well-crafted ideas to present as solutions to clients’ problems. Referred to as the master-design model, many architects and interior designers today developed their technique using this process. However, with the ever-increasing advancements in technology, the problems of design are entirely too complex to expect any one person to create the “perfect” solution. Here’s where charretting—the planning and design process where participants work collaboratively to find solutions—can play an important role. Its definition involves any interaction in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem. The structure of each design project comes with a different set of stakeholders on the design side. However, more progressive design firms are expanding their definition of charrette to include stakeholders on the client’s side as well. In practice this form of charretting is a “graphic conversation” between designers and those who are intended to benefit from the design.
The Foundation of Charretting
It’s common knowledge among doctors that no two heart attacks are alike. This is one reason why they need their patients to play critical roles in deciding the best treatment plan. For comparable reasons, the design process calls for the same level of teamwork. Collaborative sessions are key. The intention is to link the genius of professional designers as closely as possible to the end user’s need, aspirations and behaviors. Getting the right people in the room to define, arrange, and conceptualize a future place to inhabit higher value work is the wisest and simplest answer. Each side (design strategists and business leaders) comes to the table with a unique set of knowledge and expertise to help carry out the charrette. Usually, those representing the client side don’t draw, nor have they been trained to consider a space in terms of work settings. That’s up to the design strategist. On the other hand, what business leaders bring is their intense knowledge about the heart of the company, the office space needs, assigned and unassigned desks, future expansion plans, and other basic elements of what should comprise their office.
Another foundation of charretting is the use of storytelling scenarios to steer clients into the design process. Start by encouraging company executives to recount stories about special events, important meetings, late nights, and other dealings that have transpired throughout the years. Engage in active conversations with leaders so they can understand how a decision like, “Does everyone get an assigned seat?” impacts the outcome. In the end, conversation is translated from the business need to people behaviors, and ideally efficient space is created.
The Five-step Process for Implementing the Charrette Model
- Clarify the strategic intent. Here, the focus is on bringing to life the words most often used when describing workplace needs. Yet, many clients provide only one word descriptions like: fun, innovative, collaborative, and productive. Go one step further toward clarifying these terms by developing word pictures. For instance, “fun” might be two people sitting in a comfortable spot—having just finished a heap of work—and they’re relaxing. “Innovative” evokes an aura of discovery and shared visions—perhaps depicted by two people having an aha moment during a work session. “Collaborative” could be three or four associates discussing the merits of a new system. And, “productive” might be a meeting wrapping up or someone collating a final presentation.
- Provide visual cues. Abundance comes to mind when describing this phase. A full spectrum of space types must be provided for a client’s options. Visuals go beyond furniture types and room shapes. They require envisioning how each setting might perform when people are inserted. For example, through identifying how many work behavior types are in play and picturing how a spontaneous meeting might play out, the value of a design option can be immediately explored and graphically represented. What about meetings of between eight and 20 people? Is this a spacious conference room, or is it wiser to break it down into a neighborhood of work areas? Once these visual cues are discussed, the design elements are added in to see how they affect the space.
- Create an intimate design experience. Each senior leader (client side) should be paired to work with one design strategist. Make sure these are one-on-one sessions—and the use of tracing paper is mandatory. There, a scripted conversation is written based on the design/business strategy. Most often it is the design strategists who become responsible for the graphic representation of ideas. Often they ask clients to take a “day in the life” approach to assist their process. What activities normally make up a day’s work? The tricky part of this endeavor is that the strategist must remain focused on capturing the developing vision of the senior leader—and must allow the process to steer itself toward the best physical conclusion. True magic develops when the client becomes comfortable enough to pick up a pen and add to the work being created in front of their eyes.
- Connect the sketches to the real world. Help leaders link the pictures to their workplace through a look and feel image exercise. Using this step helps strategists avoid asking the client to employ the “red and green dots” method—where leaders use these colored stickers to indicate what they like and don’t like and what their personal preferences are. Instead, the goal is to find images that seem to come closest to representing what’s been sketched.
- Allow leaders to present their ideas. Each leader should be given presentation time to share ideas with other leaders. Since they have played an instrumental role in the creative process from the start, leaders are more likely to be comfortable discussing the merits of their charrette results—including what they believe is mandatory and what isn’t. Ideally, the end goal is for each leader to cross-pollinate his/her idea with others in such a way that the whole team can evolve shared ideas into a cohesive concept.
There are two points of challenge with charrettes that, if conquered, seem to drive more successful outcomes. The first stems from whether or not a designer will leave his or her ego at home during the charretting process, and that’s not being stated with malice. Designers should have a strong sense of self-worth and that awareness should be revealed through a potent degree of pride toward their work. However, for charretting to succeed, an attitude of collaboration is essential. In other words, designers need to be willing to share their central role—as the creator—with the other stakeholders. If this can transpire, the charrette likely will undergo an energetic, agile session full of prompts that are intended to unite the designer with the end user’s need. Keep in mind that it’s hard to avoid the uncertain, esoteric graphic conversations that kick off most charrettes. But, they’re normal. It takes the awkwardness of those initial ambiguities to arrive at the right solutions.
The second challenge is trying to get business leaders to realize and accept that they can be creative in design (even if just for a short period of time). By assuring leaders they have this ability, it supplies the confidence needed to produce their ideas through the process. As a result, business leaders shed their expectations that a designer has to ask all the questions, then leave for a few weeks, and return to present the “big reveal.”
The Relevance of Charretting in Today’s Workplace
BHDP’s client data support why charretting is significant. Throughout the firm’s 80-year history, associates have interviewed clients and learned time after time that assigned work cubicles in the United States are more than half empty at any given point in a workday. These findings suggest that America has moved from the more production-oriented assembly line work to the understanding that people don’t need to be at their desks to get their work done. Although office design is shifting away from assigned to more collaborative spaces, some managers still vie for assigned seats whether they use them or not. For this reason, the change is occurring more slowly than some would like. In the end, coming to realizations about available space demonstrates the value of the charrette. By making a design experience alive and active, it becomes a more visual, results-oriented experience.
Believe in the Charrette
In the world of modern design, the industry paradigm is being shattered and designers are learning to yield the pen. Once design strategists and business leaders work comfortably on the same piece of sketch paper—that’s when workplace design will transform offices away from rigid, assigned spaces and more toward collaborative, productive areas. Since the open workplace evolved out of 20 years of increased collaboration, it now calls for replacing the master-designer model with a process like charretting—allowing stakeholders to share in a graphic conversation to create results. It makes good sense because those who have a stake in the outcome are more likely to believe in it—and believing in it means defending it and taking action on it.
About the Authors
Brady Mick, Samantha Delabar and Meredith Payne are design strategists for BHDP Architecture. BHDP Architecture, an award-winning international firm, headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, with offices in Columbus, OH; Raleigh, NC; Pittsburgh, PA; and Atlanta, GA was founded in 1937. Today, the firm is recognized for intelligent, innovative, and inspiring solutions in architecture, planning, interior design, project management, and strategic consulting. The firm also offers custom facility management, location tracking tools, and analytic support via AVUITY, its independent technology services consulting practice. Recently named one of the Fastest Growing Architecture and Design Firms of 2015 by Interior Design Magazine, BHDP serves five core markets: Workplace, Retail, Higher Education, Science, and Integrated Industrial Design.
Originally published in Workplace Design Magazine.
Have you noticed that the office environment is changing? Few people go into an office at 8 a.m., sit at a desk, stay for eight hours (with an hour lunch break), and come home. Instead, we see the rise of the mobile workforce. Technology coupled with demands of children and aging parents have revolutionized the way we work.
When employees are in the office, they need to meet. These meetings often are not planned as the statistics show: 33% of all meetings are unplanned — but quickly finding space is challenging.
One company stated that 60-70% of their meetings in conference rooms are ad hoc.
There is also the challenge of not having enough space to meet even though 20% of meetings rooms that are booked are not being used at any one time.
Organizations tend to not have the right combination of meeting space. One survey found that 73% of meetings involve only two to four people, yet more than half of conference-room space is built for meetings of seven or more.
It’s clear: Employees are wasting valuable time every day looking for the right meeting space.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
What’s keeping organizations from making better use of meeting spaces? First, most companies don’t use room scheduling tools because of high cost and large quantity needed to implement. Instead, many organizations rely on programs like Outlook to book rooms. We know, however, that’s not the primary purpose of Outlook, and thus it’s difficult to schedule ad hoc meetings using that software.
Another problem? Lack of visibility of meeting room usage. Who is using the rooms? When are the rooms used? How many people are in the meetings? This data would be beneficial for any company, but most organizations do not even attempt to gather such data.
Then there’s the problem of rooms that are booked but not used. “Aspirational” meetings are often scheduled, but they never materialize. Others are canceled at the last minute. Meanwhile, there are continued requests for more meeting space.
There are some great meeting solutions in the market, but these are often expensive to deploy, with upfront hardware and implementation fees. There’s a lack of return-on-investment.
Here are some tips for finding a conference room solution that is cost-effective:
- Look for real-time availability so that employees can book rooms on the fly.
- Consider an out-of-the-box solution that allows you to set up your own conference room kiosk without any cost of outside vendors or specialists.
- Ensure you have compatible tablets. Some solutions are flexible and allow any type from iPad to Kindle.
- Find an application that is compatible with your scheduling platform. For example, many work directly with Office 365 software.
- Consider a system that allows you to pair with sensor technology, so that you can know what conference rooms are in use and re-book them at any time, in real time.
Looking to get started with conference room booking technology? Contact AVUITY.
Some firms offer laundry service; others offer child care. When it comes to finding ways to recruit top talent in today’s competitive market, ideas abound. But one of the best (and most overlooked) recruiting tools is a workspace that’s hip and inviting — both outside and in.
Open office designs look great, but they create distraction and noise. You might want to live in an airy loft, but that doesn’t mean you should work in one with 200 of your coworkers. The original concept of open office designs was to promote collaboration and decrease costs for employers, who could fit more employees in smaller spaces and save on cubicle walls. But, as Google learned, the benefits of open collaboration are outweighed by the negative effect on performance.
How does a company attract top talent and maintain a productive office? Cool office space is an advantage, but functional work space is a necessity. Instead of open office designs, consider collaboration spaces that promote creativity and allow impromptu sharing of data through smartboards and surface projectors.
A flexible work environment, including allowing people to work remotely, is both a perk for current employees and a recruitment tool for prospective employees. This fact drives the need for collaborative rooms, because remote workers will be coming and going from the office space.
Huddle rooms, workspace pods, and phone booths are required for times that one needs uninterrupted silence for focus. Likewise, an impressive entryway and reception area are important and should be designed with the goal of helping the new recruit understand your product, work style and philosophy.
The new workplace experience — the kind that attracts top talent — also includes easy access to data in and out of the office, ease of scheduling office resources like AVUITY’s Conference Room Kiosk, sustainability initiatives, and modern, comfortable furniture.
When it comes to physical location, the smartest firms look at office space close to public transit or urban historic areas slated for redevelopment. For example, in Cincinnati, the Over the Rhine neighborhood is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country and now attracts creative agencies, tech startups and other firms who know that place is as important as space.
In these ways and many more, flexible, functional workspaces become both an employee perk and a tool to recruit top talent. AVUITY can help.
Academic libraries support the research and educational activities of higher institutions through the sharing of information. However, today’s method of sharing information is constantly evolving. Because of changing technology, academic libraries struggle to meet the needs of their many stakeholders. The challenge they face is finding the balance between housing information while creating spaces conducive to today’s learners. Part I of this two-part article addressed how to find the library’s purpose in today’s learning environment, while Part II covers how to create spaces that include all stakeholders in any renovation or new design of an academic library.
Originally, a library’s first design was based on the technology, study habits and research methodologies of the time. As these elements continue to change, so, too, must the library to remain a relevant contributor to campus life. For this reason, discussions about redefining and redesigning a library need to include and encourage participation from those who use the library, including faculty, staff, students and external community members and program sponsors.
In 2012, with this framework in mind, the library at Columbus State Community College (CSCC) in Ohio underwent a renovation. During the planning of this renovation, key stakeholders were asked to participate in focus groups, surveys and one-on-ones to provide input into the redesign. “Our goal was to make the building accessible to these diverse groups for all their unique needs,” said Bruce Massis, director of libraries for CSCC.
In the process, CSCC officials discovered the stakeholders wanted a combination of technology and quiet study areas, so ultimately the library was renovated to accommodate this mix.
On the other hand, not all stakeholder requests can (or should) be honored. “That’s a bit of a stretch,” said Rebecca Lubas, associate dean, Claremont Colleges Library. “We didn’t completely ignore that suggestion though. We have a treadmill standing desk, and it’s enormously popular.”
Strike a Balance
One of the biggest challenges in designing or redesigning academic libraries is determining how much of the current collection will remain on the library floor. The importance of the browsing experience should be weighed with the value of the space occupied by rarely circulated books. While many alternatives exist for storing older resources, it is important to consider the desires of faculty who may oppose removing books.
“We go to the faculty first and tell them we’re considering removing these books from the shelves. Sometimes we keep the older material on the shelf because they still want it,” said Massis.
Current technology may alleviate some of these issues. Because CSCC is a member of Ohio’s Academic Library Consortium, OhioLINK, its students and faculty have access to a larger number of books and electronic resources than what CSCC can offer at its library.
Ultimately, the solution lies in the library’s intrinsic qualities and how it serves its key stakeholders. “It’s a matter of meeting expectations and recognizing that expectations will change over time,” said Tonya Fawcett, director of library services at Grace College and Seminary in Winona Lake, Ind. “When you come into a library, you expect to see books. You expect to have librarians to help you find the resources you’re looking for and help you understand how to use those resources. And you expect to have a comfortable place to go to be able to interact with those resources.”
Two additional groups of stakeholders need to be included in an academic library design or renovation. The first is the college administartors. Their role is to analyze the institution’s mission and vision to determine the library’s specific intent. For example, if the library is supposed to be more student-friendly than scholarly, the purpose of the library becomes more social. This core purpose is then translated into the library’s physical space through more group and collaboration areas.
The final group of stakeholders is the library staff leadership — those responsible for taking the lead in creating and sustaining an academic library’s mission. “Whatever the program is, what’s the end goal? Are we supporting students in their studying? Are we supporting faculty to improve their teaching or assist their latest research searches? We need to keep our eyes on the academic mission of the institution and make sure the library supports that mission,” said Lubas.
By ensuring the mission is reinforced in meaningful ways through technology advances and how people interact, academic library leadership can balance the requirements of all stakeholders.
Tom Sens is a client leader on the higher education team at BHDP Architecture, an international design firm that focuses on creating innovative environments and experiences tailored to the client culture and work process.