How Ideal Workspaces Can Transform Your Office Culture

The physical space we work in every day has a significant impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. Companies that have invested in redesigning their offices to maximize health benefits have seen a huge impact on their employees, from improvements in individuals’ moods and productivity to increased collaboration and a sense of belonging.

With these benefits, investing in physical space is gaining traction globally. While some office spaces may inherently fair better than others – for example, a space with many windows – one can use healthy design metrics to make the best out of any given layout.

To understand in more detail how architects design to improve employee wellness, let’s look at what makes or breaks a workspace and what elements create an ideal space for employee creativity and energy. We can then examine how creative solutions can transform a workplace and revolutionize office culture.

What it takes to feel well at work

What makes a ‘healthy workplace’? For starters, there are some fundamental tangible elements:

  • the physical properties of materials used from construction through furniture selection to ensure clean air and resilience
  • the quantity and quality of light
  • the control of reverberation, and the integration of speech privacy detailing

Beyond materiality, light, and sound, there are also many intangible architectural moves that are critical to human physical and mental wellbeing – including but not limited to, versatility, spatial choreography, effective detailing and design ingenuity.

Spatial choreography can most easily be understood in terms of the experiential journey, but there is much more than sequence involved for a truly healthy workplace. Designing a considered sequence begins with creating an office entry that allows pause from the outside world. This means a welcoming and enveloping space, ideally incorporating reflective, non-glare lighting, natural materials and offering a clear next step directly into a place of active welcome design, where one can be met by a concierge or colleagues.

From there, the sequence transitions to a social, energizing area, such as a cafe, or another communal space. The idea is for this phase in the spatial journey to stimulate the employee, so natural fragrances such as coffee and fresh fruit, and areas for casual interaction play a key role.

This area of the office ideally leads into a wide variety of microenvironments, including areas to settle for a short face-to-face catch-up, to remove coats and belongings, to read or focus on deep work, to collaborate and hold meetings.

Creating versatility in an open space

Microenvironments can easily be achieved using separate rooms, but permanently walling off these rooms would lock an office plan into one fixed design. Many designs aim to create versatility within large rooms by employing furniture, biophilia, or walls on wheels to create spatial definition. With such versatile dividers, environments can be arranged to suit and accommodate employees’ changing needs throughout the day and can change usage from heads-down work areas to spaces for wellness and team-building activities.

For example, a large space typically used for meetings or presentations can be transformed with ease to allow for afternoon yoga, tai chi, morning meditation or lunch-time art sessions. Similarly, a café can be altered to accommodate group cooking, barista learning or a professional lunch and learn seminar.

Bringing the outdoors in with plants and natural light

The biophilia hypothesis indicates that humans seek out connections with nature and other living beings and that these connections improve our wellbeing. Not surprisingly, numerous surveys indicate that natural daylight is the most important aspect of workplace design and that employees with plants around their offices experienced a 30-60 percent reduction in stress levels.

Light has a direct impact on our mental wellbeing, so much so that doctors recommend a minimum of four hours of sunlight per day (these requirements are also captured in the WELL standard). This is in part because light releases hormones like serotonin, which helps to balance our mood. A lack of serotonin is widely understood as the cause of seasonal depression.

As an architect, maximizing access to natural light and working with light to enhance the spatial experience is critical. One way to maximize occupant access to daylight is to use windowed areas as communal spaces where employees can come and spend time throughout the day. If enclosed offices must be assembled along the perimeter of a floorplan, transparent and translucent glass walls can be used to ensure daylight filters through to reach the rest of the space.

In addition to natural daylight, artificial lighting can be integrated to define space, and some modern offices do employ lighting systems that change color temperature throughout the day to reflect the movement of the sun. This helps align employees’ natural circadian rhythms, which regulate sleep-wake cycles and can minimize fatigue during the day while improving the quality of sleep. The conscious use of light can further reduce stress through non-glare installations, and when combined with biophilia, reflected light can subtly reduce the stress through our parasympathetic nervous system.

Biophilia – introduced through the integration of natural materials, patterns, and plants, brings a design element critical to mental wellbeing in the workplace. If space for potted plants is limited, an option is a creation of “living walls” or “vertical gardens,” which feature an array of plants planted vertically against a wall or within another structure. Vertical green walls can be built on wheels so they may be moved around the office.

Fostering a Sense of Community at Work through Campus Design

A sense of belonging in the workplace and friendships with colleagues both contribute to employees’ wellbeing. It’s therefore important to design spaces where employees can not only collaborate, but make friendly conversation with coworkers without distracting others. Doing so helps satisfy the human need for social interactions, which can, in turn, create a great sense of wellbeing and inspire creativity.

Large companies with enough real estate can apply these principles through the creation of a multi-floor or multi-building campus – as we have seen with large technology companies in Silicon Valley. When it is safe to do so, these campuses can even be opened to the wider neighborhood or city residents, allowing employees’ loved ones to visit for lunch or stop by during work hours as needed.

In one campus-style office currently under construction, an internal courtyard garden was incorporated that is open to both the global workplace campus employees, and to all members of the public. In this example, the campus’ entire ground floor is designed with active facades to add to the dynamism and transparency at the street level, and programmed with restaurants and places that are open to campus community employees and the wider community as well.

Keeping people at the heart of the design process

Employees perform their best when they are part of a safe, growing community that values their whole being, and where individuality and creativity are nurtured.

In sum, the goal is to create every workplace with people at the heart of the design process To design spaces that support people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing, inspire creativity – and in turn directly increase business performance and profitability. If that isn’t worth investing in – what is?

 

Portions of this article originally appeared on the Work Design website.

 

The Sundance Company                                                                
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

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The Sundance Company                                                                
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

How to Improve Your Time Management Skills

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Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

How might people best prepare themselves to become better time managers? Doing so first requires figuring out where to focus. Taking a deeper dive into your current skill levels is the only genuine way to answer this question. There are three steps you can take to prime your improvement efforts.

Build accurate self-awareness of your time management skills. This can be accomplished by using objective assessments like a microsimulation, seeking feedback from others like one’s peers or boss, or establishing a baseline of behaviors against which gauge improvements.

Recognize that preferences matter, but not how you think. Self-awareness of one’s preferences or personality related to time management, such as multitasking or being proactive, can deepen an understanding of where you might struggle as your change efforts go against existing habits. But remember that skills, not personality, are the most malleable personal attributes and provide the greatest ROI on self-improvement efforts.

Identify and prioritize the skill you need to improve. Although this sounds obvious, the key point here is to avoid self-improvement that is an “inch deep, but a mile wide,” where efforts are spread too thin across too many needs. It is best to prioritize your skill development, focusing on the most pressing skill need first and then moving on to the next.

There are a number of evidence-based tactics for enhancing time management skills. Below are some examples. Again, it is critical to understand that tactics are for developing your underlying skills, which will ultimately improve your time management. Simply implementing these tactics is not the end-goal.

  • Developing awareness skills. Effectiveness is different than efficiency, with effectiveness being about doing things well and efficiency being about doing things fast. Both are critical. Pursuing efficiency for its own sake is counter-productive.
  • Find your peak performance time. Break your typical day into three to four time slots and, over the course of a week, rank-order these slots from your most to least productive (most productive is peak performance).
  • Treat your time like it’s money. Create a time budget that details how you spend your hours during a typical week. Categorize time into fixed time (“must do’s”) and discretionary time (“want to do’s”).
  • Try timing-up. Record how long you’ve spent on tasks with very clear deadlines, rather than how much time you have left.
  • Evaluate how realistically you assess time. After finishing a project, evaluate how long you thought it would take and how long it actually took.
  • Take a “future time perspective.” Think about how the tasks you are doing right now will help or hurt you in the future (e.g., how do today’s project tasks impact next week’s tasks?).
  • Avoid “sunk cost fallacy.” When you think you might be spending too much time on an activity, step back and evaluate its importance (e.g., how valuable is the outcome, who will be affected if it’s finished or not finished, etc.)
  • Developing arrangement skills. Unfamiliar but important tasks often have steeper learning curves and more unpredictable time requirements. Developing arrangement skills is not about organizing your work to better control your life – it’s about taking control of your life, then structuring your work around it.
  • Prioritize activities and obligations. It’s not enough to simply list out your tasks, to-do lists, and meetings.
  • Avoid the “mere urgency effect.” Urgency and importance are related but distinct concepts; urgent tasks require immediate action, whereas as important tasks have more significant and long-term consequences. Tasks that are both urgent and important should be done first.
  • Use a calendar app. Record due dates for tasks and appointments — and do this immediately when they are planned or requested. Label or color-code entries (e.g., work, school, life, etc.).
  • Schedule protected time. Make calendar appointments with yourself to ensure uninterrupted time to dedicate to your most important projects.
  • Reduce underestimation errors. When forming plans, ask a neutral party for feedback about your forecasted time requirements.
  • Try half-sized goals. When struggling to attain a goal that seems to be too challenging, set a less difficult version of the goal.
  • Developing adaptation skills. These skills are tested and developed in situations that naturally involve high pressure and sometimes even crisis – the challenge is to handle such situations without getting upset, anxious, or distracted.
  • Try “habit stacking.” Tie your time management behaviors to habits you already exhibit (e.g., track daily progress every evening when you sit down for dinner).
  • Use short bursts of effort. When tasks seem overwhelming, put forth maximum effort for 15- to 30-minute intervals to help avoid procrastination.
  • Experiment with time-tracker or checklist apps. Remember benefit must exceed cost when using these tools. Gains should outweigh the time spent using the app.
  • Don’t be a “reminder miser.” Reminders should have detailed explanations or descriptions, not one or two words that fail to describe the task’s importance, expected quality, and so forth.
  • Create contingency plans. Think about best case/worst case scenarios when you outline possible outcomes of your plans.
  • Seek to reduce time wasters. Create do-not-disturb time slots and block social media sites during critical work time.

Why does improving time management remain such a persistent, perennial goal for so many of us? The irony is that we need to become better time managers of our own efforts to improve time management — to prioritize our developmental efforts. This path begins with turning away from the alluring quick fixes and instead toward assessing and building our underlying time management skills before another new year’s resolution reaches its dissolution.

Portions of this article originally appeared on the HBR website.

 

The Sundance Company                                                                
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

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The Sundance Company                                                                
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

How To Ask A Great Question

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Krista Tippett has interviewed hundreds of personalities on the air in her 20 years as a broadcast journalist. On her popular podcast On Being, the 59-year-old US National Humanities Medal recipient has an acuity for orchestrating deeply satisfying conversations with a range of subjects—politicians, scientists, artists, theologians, and taxi drivers (“mystics in disguise,” she calls them). Part of Tippett’s appeal lies in how she manages to project a felt kinship between her interviewees, who are often several time zones away from her recording studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The secret to rich encounters, Tippett says, is knowing how to frame a good, generous question. It’s a skill that’s been diminished amid the combative tenor in American politics and social media, she observes. “A lot of things that presents itself as a question are actually tools or weapons to incite, or corner, to catch or at least entertain,” she said during a talk at Google’s headquarters last year. “I want to point out how powerful a form of words a question is. Questions elicit answers in their likeness; answers rise and fall to the questions they meet.”

What makes a good question? Tippett, who met with Quartz in New York this week, explains that it’s less about fulfilling the interviewer’s agenda and more about putting the subject at ease.

“I’ll start with a list of all the things that I’m interested in, but I realize that many of those questions fall away,” says Tippett, who exudes the precise warmth and liveliness in person that one might imagine listening to her radio programs. “What I get interested in are questions that will be interesting to them [the interviewee].”

But framing a pleasing question isn’t about flattering the subject’s ego or pandering to their politics, Tippett notes. It’s about deep preparation—getting to know a subject’s mindset by reading and reflecting on their writing, lectures, and interviews they’ve given.

This studious preparation is meant to set the stage for the subject to willingly shed their usual script. “If you ask a question that’s interesting to them, they’ll often start thinking out loud in real-time. They’re excited and forget they’re being interviewed,” Tippett says. “Maybe they’ll even say something that they haven’t said before—and you have this moment of surprise and discovery.” It’s a tip that applies to any type of dialogue—conceivably even a job interview, in which a prospective employer, playing the role of the interviewer, might want to learn about a candidate’s sensibility beyond what’s listed on their résumé.

In On Being, Tippett’s Peabody-award winning program about human spirituality, Tippett often begins an interviewing by inquiring about her subject’s childhood and spiritual formation. In a 2018 interview with New Jersey senator and former presidential candidate Cory Booker, Tippett says, “I am curious about how you would begin to talk about the religious or spiritual background of your childhood, however, you think of that.”

Booker rewards Tippett by telling anecdotes about his upbringing in northern New Jersey and speaks about politics as “manifesting love” and his own frailty—talking points that would perhaps normally be stricken from his political rhetoric.

“We’re taught that listening is being quiet and waiting for your turn to talk,” says Tippett. “I think questions are often very transactional, but the real adventure occurs if you muster curiosity.”

Tippett’s strategy is a counterpoint to the formulaic line of questioning that shapes so many conversations today—including professional interviews. Tell me about your greatest achievement and failure. Where do you want to be in five years?

These generic questions require no preparation for the interviewee, but, as Tippett predicts, they also often yield generic answers. Imagine how the quality of job interviews might improve if we reframed them as authentic conversations between humans.

Portions of this article originally appeared on the Quartz at Work website.

The Sundance Company                                                                
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

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The Sundance Company                                                                
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

The Top 100 Websites in the World

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The Sundance Company                                                                
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.