Friday, July 18, 2014

In the News - Our Creative Corner article "Mission Driven Design and Vermont Business"

Recently we wrote an article focusing on the power of mission driven design to help accelerate not just Vermont businesses but others sharing similar mindsets.  Read on.  We hope it's helpful.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Introverts and Extroverts Together: Creating Balanced Office Designs That Work

Susan Cain's landmark book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world That Can't Stop Talking" andTed Talk, now viewed well over 8,000,000 times and counting, cracked open a much needed discussion in boardrooms, office coolers and coworking hubsaround the world. Plainly her work and words struck a chord.
Taking on an extroverted personae in today's business world has for too long been equated with being successful and powerful, while introversion being associated with quiet, overly sensitive, reflective, indecisive and less effective natures. Cain's research upends these cultural proclivities or dispositions glorifying the extroverted at the expense of the introverted.
And as Cain writes the loudest and most visible aren't always the one's with the best opinions, information or ability to make decisions on behalf of an organization or business. Often times it's the quiet, reflective, slow to judgement types which have the more accurate information and may in fact have better yet quieter leadership skills.
Unfortunately the last ten years has not been too kind to the quiet types. A perfect storm of new technologies flattening how we communicate within and outside the workplace, a devastating worldwide recession, real estate forces compressing individual work area from 200 square feet to just over 100 square feet or less has taken a toll.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ten Evergreen Office Design Ideas

A Front Yard Area at National Life Group 
With multiple generations at work spanning the rising Z-generation, Millennials, Gen-Y and Gen-X to baby boomers, paying attention to your office or workplace design and operation is more important than ever. Wny not embed design and operational strategies which seed collaboration, innovation and high performance over the long haul?                     

While it's not easy there are ways to design and conceive with these goals in mind. This kind of office design integrates work processes, architectural design, space planning, individual and group work settings, furniture along with technology, serving overarching business mission, brand and values. It’s hard work and demands constant organizational engagement over time to get it right and keep the physical resources aligned with organizational needs..But if you're committed to long term business success these evergreen office design ideas are well worth considering.

Consider the following ideas in the design of the enduring high performing workplace. We have adapted them from a number of sources as well as recent project experiences from our practice with small to large businesses here in Vermont, across finance, green energy, consumer products and insurance industries.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Collision or Cultivation?: Millenials and the Z-Generation In the Workplace

Preparing the workspace of the present and not to distant future for Millenials and the Z-generation should be a critical item on the short-list in the C-suite. Focusing on creating workspaces which engage the Millennial workforce and the Generation Z seems paramount given the older Baby Boomer, Generation X generations are beginning to age out. I read often in various news sources, journals and such how these two generations strongly value mission, brand and culture in conjunction with the physical workspace. Within the next five to ten years they will begin assuming leadership roles at work, so getting them engaged now is paramount to long term business success.
Millennials and the Z Generation want to be engaged at work and believe in what they're doing. They also want more autonomy at work and believe work is 24/7, not 8-5 as Rob Asghar from Forbes recently wrote. Their idea of boundaries vary differently from Gen Y, X and Boomers. Many of them have entered into the workforce at the nadir of the last recession, struggled to find jobs in their areas of study, least of all find a job at all. Harnessing engagement and belief in mission I believe will attract and retain key talent to help drive business success, build and maintain a strong #culturecode.
I have to wonder if the North Star for those of us passionate about the design and cultivation of work spaces, is to create rich branded and authentic environments reinforcing desired behaviors of collaboration, innovation and above and beyond contributions? A highly hierarchical, non-transparent, and entitlement driven work culture won't work for these two generations. I believe strongly you can't have a successful work space and workplace without cultivating a strong, yet intangible connection to mission, purpose and values. Our work follows this philosophy.
Authenticity follows corporate actions and programs supporting workers, giving back to the community and taking care of the environment. You need to walk the talk. In Vermont we have a very strong corporate social responsibility community #CSR pervasive in large, medium and small sized businesses for Vermont. I am a member of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, the largest and most vibrant such organization in the U.S.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Building Culture and Engagement Within Today's Changing Workplace

We often talk about the power of values driven design to help cultivate high performing workplaces. Without a clear sense of company mission, brand and values from you and your work community and team, it's hard for us help you design your workplace and connect it to your organizational DNA. With it we can help you design a work setting and resources to help power your organization forward.
After you move in, cultivating and sustaining your cultural DNA and engagement at work remains an organizational challenge, more so in today's open office workplace environments. Without some kind of guiding framework and principles, something we call Workplace Protocols; ineffective work, lack of team cohesion, unwanted noise and distractions and undue anxieties around behavior can sabotage best intentions and weaken your DNA. Rather than building and sustaining a strong high performing culture, internal systems and operational protocols, or lack thereof handcuff success.
Strong, engaged cultures with a clear sense of mission, brand and values help attract and retain committed team members and provide priceless motivation beyond the carrot and stick approach of benefits and financial incentives. Building such cultures are also very practical given what's at stake with workforce costs.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Forward Flexible Values Driven Workplace Design

Often when beginning work on workplace design projects with new clients I champion forward flexible values driven workplace design. It's a mouthful for sure, but simply put it means a workplace which adapts to change over time gracefully and meaningfully evoking company mission, brand DNA and core values. 
Easy to say hard to do. Let me explain.
The average square foot per worker shifted from 225 square feet in 2010 to 150 square feet or less according to August 2013 research from Core Net Global. Soon it is projected to dive below 100 square feet per person in the coming years. 
But is this steady decline in the ratio of workspace to workers reaching a point of diminishing returns, especially as the economy shows signs of recovery? Is too little individual space going to throttle the high performing worker and workplace?

With increasing density of workers out in the open numerous challenges arose with distracting noisy neighbors, phone conversations, music and more. Thus the rise in popularity of noise-canceling headphones symptomatic of larger issues at play in the workplace. 
Often these new downsized offices hamstrung workers by not providing enough quantity, variety and choice of small, medium and large collaboration spaces, places for quiet heads down work and focus team work.
Compressing your real estate footprint works only to a certain point. If not planned correctly, inflexible workplaces throttle expansion, growth and collaboration. The resulting inefficiencies cripple organizational work cultures stifling individual and team performance, innovation and collaboration.
Frankly I can't predict what the workplace will look like in five years only that it will continue to shift radically embracing technology and new modes of work we can't yet envision.
Here are some tips to make it through:
  1. Make Sure to Get Your Values Out in The Open: Want to attract and retain great team members? Be sure to put your values out there in the open. Whether signage, murals, wall color selection, material selection and aesthetics these are the tools by which you can tell your brand and company story. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Design Outside Spaces with The Sun's Passage in Mind

From LinkedIn...     
      Use the sun wisely when designing your new home, addition or renovation. Create outside social spaces on the sides of your home where the sun moves through the day and seasons. #VT #HomeDesign 
      Locate social spaces such as kitchen, dining, living room, den or library on the sunny side of your house and provide outside access through doorways helping bring the outside in and the inside outside. People need the sun, especially in the cloudy Northeast, as we don't have enough of it! Locate your TV room if you still have one on the north side or less sunny sides of the house. What do you think?less