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Archive for July, 2015

Tech’s Influence on the Workplace

It’s tempting to generalize workplaces in the tech sector as amenity-rich, open-plan spaces filled with Millennials collaborating. Although there are plenty of workplaces that support this generalization, tech workplaces offer numerous lessons that can benefit other sectors. Beyond space and programmatic considerations, four tenets highlight today’s tech workplaces: strength of story, design empathy, technology presence, and hackerspace.

Strength of story = quality of experience

Purposeful connection to a memorable workplace can no longer be quantified by offering perks through amenities.  The experience of first impression, a surprise/”wow” factor, and how the story unfolds with meaningful spaces are ultimately the lasting experience that differentiate a place where people want to thrive from a typical workplace.  This goes beyond the company’s brand, and is of utmost importance given the strong market pressures on recruitment and retention.  We ask WHAT stories a company wants to share, whether it’s for new recruits, clients/customers, partners, colleagues, or even friends and family.  Spaces need to be designed to be interwoven with these stories.

Every company has examples.  There’s always lore about how the company is founded, defined or strengthened.  From the founders coming from Wall Street to Main Street with a cause, or an idea budding out of helping others, or a team retreat at the zoo, or a night of bar-hopping ending with a mutual phrase and bond, these stories are passed down from each generation of staff. Often times these stories are told through casual tours, and broadcasted through social networks.  A quick Tweet or Instagram announcement leads to even broader exchanges that feed into the pride and uniqueness of place.  These authentic stories connect us and inform the cultural pulse and soul of the inhabited space.

Design empathy – building a meaningful experience of place counts!

We hear more and more from tech companies that employees are seeking positions that go beyond compensation and benefits.  Alignment of core values and purpose between the individual and the company are paramount given the increasingly blurred line between our personal and professional selves. With clients seeking designs that are empathetic to their staff, we’re seeing more personalized workplaces that go beyond functionality and efficiency.

Best practices include:

  • Focus on basic convenience needs like access to electrical power wherever you need it – not when.
  • Design for the senses by enhancing lighting, aroma, and audio. This includes introducing lighting conditions that are space-specific, controllable, and that contribute to character of space.
  • Introduce non-invasive creative breaks, such as visual interest features at various distances that allow eyes to look away from screen, relax, and re-focus.
  • Appropriately scaled places to stretch out so the body is not locked and stationary.
  • Pet-friendly environment that encourages social interaction and stress relief.
  • Calming areas for recharge such as nap rooms, meditation rooms, and outdoor space, as well as services like massage programs.
  • Creating spaces that go beyond work activities and are inclusive of flexible social uses. This can include spaces for both large industry events and intimate team gatherings, or individual sanctuaries that allow a person to escape the assigned workstation.  These multi-functional spaces are fluid and programmed to adapt with changing needs throughout a given day.

Technology omnipresence

Individual mobility has now been established and well defined in this sector. Laptops and smartphones are default tools, so certain work functions and interaction can ideally be anywhere and anytime.  Within the workplace, the drive now is for the environment to be automated, to understand individual and group needs, whether for a presentation, training, or collaboration.  This is an extension of the Internet of Things, where data can be collected to improve and anticipate future needs. Think the Quantified Self – but for workplace. For now this is most relevant to facility and workplace planners, where having solid data to right-size the environment directly saves cost on maintenance and construction.  The next step is for the same data set to influence the flexibility of space and environment.  For instance, understanding the best design solutions to address inherent conflicts in an open office – the introvert/extrovert dialog, visual/acoustical disruptions, tailoring the plethora of collaboration solutions to fit the users, and finding adaptable methods within construction and furniture solutions that define workspace. Though this trend is more commonplace in the tech industry, it is making its way into all workplaces as companies seek to better inform their decisions about space.

Hackerspace

The pressure of tech spaces to perform and evolve parallels the speed of change in the tech sector.  Shorter leases and subleases are frequently signed to address the low vacancy rate in a booming market, the unpredictability of growth and the uncertainty of the business model.  Three-year leases or subleases from past tenants that have outgrown the space are common.

We see an increase in designing spaces with the expectation they will change within a year or two of moving in.  In most cases, it’s not a symptom of poor planning, but rather, the speed gap between the tech evolution versus our own design, manufacturing and construction industry.  Decisions made eight months ago during programming and design may not be applicable at first day of business.

With these pressure points, the need for spaces to be inherently hackable are both desired and often required—and with the pace of business speeding up in all industries, this situation isn’t relegated to the tech world.  How can design adapt and be customized to an individual, group, or organization’s needs?  And address it in a way that’s fast, invisible and intuitive?  These ephemeral parameters lead to solutions that are hacked from multiple disparate resources, such as residential retailers, bespoke shops, and local makers.

So what’s next?

We are frequently asked to forecast and pick a handful of trends as prescriptive solutions.  Often these prescriptions discount design value and objectify design to commodities that can be bought off the shelf.  We see companies associated with the tech sector trying to do this.  For instance, furniture manufacturers are strategically changing their marketing from products supporting work functions (i.e. workstations and collaboration solutions) to inclusive built environments that support individual and group dynamics (i.e. designs addressing introvert/extrovert).  The increased emphasis on ancillary furniture are examples of this, too; it’s an extension of creating workplaces that evoke home and hospitality.

That the tech sector catalyzes workplace trends is a testament to its anthropologic tendency to create responsive, empathetic designs.  Because of the multiple convergences of culture and demographics, coupled by the speed of evolution and risky business model of constantly seeking out unrealized solutions, design solutions cannot be quantified.  Our design solutions are increasingly qualitative – calling on our creative talents to understand our clients beyond their brand, and adapting our processes to create an environment that offers them purpose and value.

The story originally appeared on the Perkins + Will website.

 

About 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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Global Burgers

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Nine Office Design Tips To Help Boost Creativity

Design isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s about creating a space that functions beautifully and inspires those in it. Pioneering modernist architect Le Corbusier said a house should be “a machine for living”. Similarly, an office should be a machine for productivity. Key to that is nurturing creativity.

And it doesn’t matter what industry you work in – designing your office space so that ideas can flow freely can have a huge positive impact on overall output. So here are nine ways to use design to boost creativity in your work environment.

  1. Communal Areas: Collaborating is a great way of generating ideas. To let that happen, you have to provide a space where groups are able to think more openly. Comfortable couches allow for relaxed, non-judgmental teamwork, which is where the best ideas can be generated and shaped. A great example is Pixar Studios, designed by the late Apple chief Steve Jobs, which has a traffic flow that encourages impromptu meetings and (one would hope) the natural birth of ideas.
  1. Be Organized: Giving employees the space and order that they need to function is essential for nurturing creativity. Studies have shown clutter can increase stress and impact on performance. Provide modular storage space to reduce clutter and make it easier for staff to stay focused.
  1. Shhh: Create a space where people can spend time doing concentrated work. With the buzz and chatter of an office, a desk is sometimes not the best place for getting through heavy workloads. By creating quiet spaces you give people a chance to get on with the graft. And when people just want to get away from it all – even work – it helps to have dedicated relaxation areas too. London based agency Essence Digital fully embraced the importance of dedicated calm areas, including a relaxing open space for employees to focus or just chill out.
  1. Feels like home: Creating an office where your employees feel comfortable will allow them to come up with their best ideas. Encourage personalized mugs, photos of family or treasured mementos – those small things can make a huge difference (as long as it doesn’t spill over into clutter – see point 2). Providing a shower so staff can cycle to work or exercise during their lunch break can give people their own space, be it physical or mental, to come up with ideas and think outside the office walls.
  1. Make a stand: Movement encourages physical and mental wellbeing. As well as traditional office areas, introduce ways for people to work in different ways, including standing up. Café-height tables for individual work and meetings can make people more energetic, allowing them to generate ideas. Denmark is taking a lead in this area and has just made it mandatory for employers to offer their staff sit-stand desks, and numerous UK companies are also now following suit. We recently designed a dedicated stand up meeting space for the team at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, with the aim of making meetings more energetic and day-to-day tasks more efficient.
  1. Color me happy: Offices don’t have to be plain and grey, especially since different colors have been shown to stimulate different parts of the mind. According to color psychologists, blue helps productivity while yellow can help increase creativity. Consider adding splashes of color in areas relevant to specific work – for example, if you have an existing break-out space, add a splash of bold buttercup to get those creative juices flowing.
  1. Let the light in: Natural light has also been proven to have fantastic benefits, helping to boost creativity and energy levels. According to a paper by Franta and Anstead in 1994, natural lighting mitigates ailments such as eye-strain, Seasonal Affective Disorder and headaches, while enhancing productivity.
  1. Clear branding: By aligning creativity with a clear goal you encourage it to be focused in the right direction. Clear, consistent and simple branding will bring purpose to ideas. Gently reinforce your logo and company colors throughout your building to make sure your people consistently come up with things that work. Coca-Cola’s London headquarters is a great example of this: the impressive office includes a wall of 5,000 recycled drink bottles and vintage Coke memorabilia.
  1. Engage your team: Comfort is a matter of preference, especially when it comes to small details. So probably the most important thing when designing office is to talk to the people who are going to be working in it to figure out what will be best for them. If you’re redesigning an office, speak with your employees about any proposed changes – it’s crucial they feel involved so they stay engaged with your company. That way they’re more likely to align their creativity with your long-term vision.

The story originally appeared on the Management Today website.

 

About 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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Fourth of July 2015

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