Tuesday, June 30, 2015

6 Ways to Cultivate an Active Work Culture by Design

What is an Active Work Culture?

First what is an active work culture exactly? We believe one looks, feels and behaves like the energy and enthusiasm filled organization it truly is. We feel an Active Work Culture is where coworkers do their best work together while feeling engaged, healthy and motivated by a sense of shared purpose. You will also see people from active work cultures out volunteering in their local community giving back or participating in events sharing a common purpose with other like minded businesses. 

You might see people running at lunch, playing pickup volley ball games, playing horseshoes together, or attending onsite Yoga classes or taking healthy living and cooking classes at your local COOP.  Perhaps they work in a green sustainably designed building conserving energy while providing healthful indoor and active interior environments?  

Why is it important to organizational success?

Your team of people by far are your greatest asset. Without your committed team members your business likely couldn’t exist. Those same team members form your largest direct cost expenses. Labor and administrative costs are your greatest direct operational cost with salaries and benefits as compared to rent, debt service, marketing and advertising, equipment operation and maintenance. 

While the most costly, you and your people provide the greatest opportunity for innovation, entrepreneurship and productivity to power your business forward.  Two main factors obstructing success lie in increasing worker disengagement and the rising obesity epidemic.
The passion problem really is a big deal for business. The latest research tells us 65% of workers today are dis-engaged at work.  So how can organizations succeed when the engagement numbers are so low? Conversely, what would happen to an organization if more of those disengaged 65% became more engaged and passionate about their jobs and work? Greater engagement seems to be linked to productivity and business effectiveness as well as improved morale. All good things to aspire to.
As architects and business people we know space matters. The workplaces we design for you merely are means to the ends of your organization or business goals and vision. We also know well designed, beautiful and well implemented offices can’t turn around organizational dysfunction and pervasive malaise.  It’s a beautiful well-designed Band-Aid on the larger problems. 
But employing well thought out design thinking and strategies to create more engagement, choices in work areas, access to privacy, healthful and active movement can help if part of a bigger vision. Another factor like disengagement is in all of ways. It's our growing waistlines.
The obesity epidemic impacts us all. During the course of the last year like you we have been reading and seeing how “sitting is the new smoking”, how “Nature Deficits” impact morale and wellbeing and the rise of technology addiction disrupting our relationships at home, work and play. We are a for the most part, growing heavier and less healthy nationally.  In the Annals of Internal Medicine recent research shows “the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise.”
You can see with the most current graph above courtesy from the CDC website, about 30% or more of adults in the US generally self-report as obese compared to 10-15% a generation ago.  Recognizing these trends last year we wrote about theSeven Faces of Wellness in Office Design, an integrative framework we use to show others how interdependent wellness is with people, place and programs at work. We believe passionately the search for wellness reaches well beyond the physical, to the social, emotional, spiritual and sustainable to name a few of the Faces.
With the stakes so high with so much direct operational costs being people related, the rise of disengaged workers and our rising waistlines with the obesity epidemic, how does one create active work cultures by design?  No surprises here. We think it takes hard concerted work upfront, and an integrative approach to design and operations and an expansive definition of wellbeing. Here's how.

6 Ways to Cultivate Active Work Cultures by Design: 

  1. A 360 degree shared vision: Foster Top down and bottom-up driven / buy-in of the active work culture you seek to build together. Design it yourselves, your way matching your vision and values.
  2. Believe and tell your brand story: Rally around visible (physically and digitally) authentic and shared purpose, mission, and core values
  3. It’s Physical: Integrate active design & sustainable design principles into workplace design – front of house, back of house operations, common areas, outside spaces. Research tells us Healthy movement encouraging, energy efficient resource wise workplaces help workers improve well-being while increasing productivity. Provide sit to stand optional workstations with supporting ergonomic accessories to enhance worker health and comfort. Provide access to stairs sized to be suitable to be places while de-emphasizing using elevators. Provide access to fresh air through operable windows and natural ventilation high windows or skylights. Building in access to daylight and views outside with adequate solar shading to reduce glare on screens. Use healthy low or now odor Volatile Organic Compound (VOC's) interior materials with floor coverings, interior paint and stains. Create your own or tap into a nearby network of outdoor trails, walking paths, streets, parks, work courtyards providing access to daylight, fresh air, and natural vegetation.
  4. It's Social and It's Private: Provide a range of interior and exterior spaces near open work areas with workstations where workers can be social, collaborative and interactive whether out in the open informal lounge areas with low seating and high top bar height tables for creative collisions.  Conversely, for enhanced privacy, provide a range of small to larger spaces with options for more focused heads down work, team rooms, project rooms and scalable meeting spaces for groups of various sizes. 
  5. It’s Operational: Integrate active and well-being focused programs year round in and out of the workplace. Build your own workout spaces or participate in on or off-site wellness activities with nearby gyms or wellness centers. Serve locally sourced food from statewide or regional farm to plate programs in onsite cafeterias or break areas. Create a culture where it's ok and encouraged for workers to move around the office to differing work areas suiting the work to be done whether alone or with others, not relying on line of sight management, but focus on achieving performance goals.  Devise off-site work policies and procedures using local coworking hubs, worker homes as third places. Even go as far as providing access to coworking hubs as a salary benefit to attract and retain workers. 
  6. Giving back: ‘Doing well by doing good’ in your local communities and while supporting shared national and international causes. Reinforce internal and external efforts, morale by providing "bragging walls" in  high traffic hallways, break areas highlighting company wide achievements helping others.

Summering Up:

Cultivating active work cultures by design fosters high-performing active mission driven organizations based on our experiences over the years. We feel this can be done by others by integrating active design thinking strategies into daily operations, building and workplace design all in concert with wellbeing focused programs. Doing so requires company-wide 360 degree shared visible values where leaders and team members walk the talk together. It's hard work and it takes time, requiring generational thinking, not bottom line investor driven short term values.
Do you know of any examples of active work cultures around the world walking the talk of their mission, vision and core values? Maybe you work at one such place? What's working? What's not? 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Arocordis Design In the News - "Are Alternatives to Old Fashioned Offices Better?"

     Last week the Burlington Free Press featured us and our work in the Thursday Innovate Section in an article about three emerging modes of work, values driven workplace design, co-working and distributed first organizations with no physical office.  Check out this Are Alternatives to Old Fashioned Offices Better?by Sally Pollak with photos by Sally and Ryan Mercer.
     The article grew from a lunch and learn sponsored by the Vermont Technology Alliance we presented at recent work with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and National Life Group, both of Montpelier, VT. Along with us, Adam Bouchard from Agilon, a distributed first company, also co-presenting, we sparked an interesting conversation of the new emerging territories of work, workers, and workplace.   Read on for more from Sally and Ryan.
     Do you work with one of these three modes currently? Or a hybrid combination? Is it working for you and your organization?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Passion Purpose Meaning: Work, Workers, Workplace - A Point of View

See this recent presentation we loaded up onto Slideshare. It's from our lunch and learn we gave on behalf of the Vermont Technology Alliance held at the Community College of Vermont at Winooski school site. We co-presented with Adam Bouchard, CEO of Agilon a distributed work first workplace headquartered in Chittenden County and on the Web. They are an innovation team which provide software as service and apps designed to power companies forward.
   If you're in the C-Suite, an human resources or facilities design professional or facilities manager you will find this recent presentation valuable in enhancing your leadership efforts on the path to building and sustaining an active and great work culture.
     What are the secrets to designing great offices and workplaces while cultivating active, engaged cultures? In this presentation we share best practices to help energize your workplace, improve attraction and retention all the while telling your brand story, connecting to greater sustainability initiatives and more.
     Your people are your biggest expense and your greatest value. By taking care of them by providing offices and workplaces aligned with best practices in workplace design, organizational thinking and strategies you will improve morale and your bottom line. Consider tuning your office and workplace design to the DNA of your business;  harnessing your mission, purpose and core values in its very design. We call this the values driven design framework. We learn together about your DNA, what makes your company go and your vision for success, your mission and core values.
      We take that information and identify best practices in workplace design strategies to optimize collaboration and an innovation mindset while providing much needed private, focus spaces, meeting areas and individual work areas. We then apply our findings to your site and building design, building system selection, levels of energy performance, internal space layout, technology integration, choice of furniture, finishes, colors, materials, internal branding, messaging and storytelling.

Let us know about your thoughts on the slideshare ideas.

And then:
 Some trends we think we think you may want to pay attention to:

  1. Get your people moving: Providing a wide range of sit to stand options at workstations and work areas, to battle the rising obesity epidemic at work. This helps keep your teams moving.
  2. Choices at work: Provide a wide range of open to more private work areas matched to differing modes of work needing to be done by your people. This includes small one to two person phone booths or huddle rooms, to informal backyard areas, front yard areas, high top worksurfaces shared by a workgroup, as well as individual workstations.
  3. Bring nature near. Numerous studies show the presence of indoor plants and so call living walls, access to views, natural materials and more promote worker wellbeing and enhance productivity. Balance interior planting with access to outdoor work areas or "work terraces", walking paths for exercise and walking meetings.  See item 1. Get your people moving.