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One Size Doesn’t Fit All - What Are Your Office Space Transformation Goals?

by Donna Chaney / June 16, 2016



Navigating the latest trends in teleworking, mobility, and open office concepts and deciding what's best for your organization can be a challenge for an organization’s management team. However, before considering the details, the management team must stop and ask: What solution best fits the goals of our organization?

Options, Options, and More Options

Open offices. Mobility. Teleworking. Huddle rooms. Getaway booths. Touchdown stations. Even rustic lodge break rooms with gas fireplaces. There’s a hundred other buzzwords out there related to office concepts that are all the rage today. They conjure images of fun and innovative workplaces, akin to the renowned Google or Facebook campuses. After all, who wouldn’t want to work in an office with an employee work lounge that looks like a neighborhood Starbucks? But when reality sets in and you start to think seriously about planning space for your organization, how do you really navigate the options and decide what the best fit for your organization is?

Start with Office Space Transformation Goals

Before you start to think about how many days a week your employees can work from home, or run out to pick up the latest issue of Progressive Architecture to pore through pictures of chic offices, there is a critical first step that you need to accomplish. You must identify the goals of your project.

As obvious as this sounds, many organizations either miss this step entirely, or don’t take the time to ensure that there is consensus with the desired outcome. In addition, many organizations try to accomplish too many goals with their projects. Any of these – not identifying goals, not getting organizational support, or expecting too much – could result in a very disappointing outcome.

There are a variety of reasons for doing an office space transformation project. Some of the more common goals include:

  • Reducing space
  • Reducing real estate and maintenance costs
  • Reducing the office utilization rate (the square footage per employee)
  • Resizing the office to accommodate anticipated future personnel or workload
  • Updating the space to attract or retain talented personnel
  • Aligning the space design with the actual work of the organization
  • Designing a space to encourage collaboration
  • Accommodating updated organizational policies, such as teleworking or mobility

Identifying Goals

There are many ways to identify your goals. The first, and perhaps easiest, is whether you are responding to a directive or mandate. In the current economic climate, many organizations facing budget shortfalls need to cut expenses, and real estate costs are one of the largest target areas. If this is the case in your organization, your primary goal is to reduce your rent and possibly real estate maintenance costs. Other common examples of goals driven by organizational mandates are reducing the overall square footage, reducing the office utilization rate, or resizing the space to accommodate future personnel or workload.

Another way to identify the goal of an office space transformation project is to first start with the results – what you hope to accomplish when the project is complete. Say, for example, your employees currently work in individual offices and rarely interact, except when they are filling their coffee mugs in the morning or attending meetings in the conference room. That may be okay if their work is largely heads-down, focused, and concentrative. But if you want to establish a more collaborative environment with a stronger sense of community, the result of your project – your goal – would be an office with a mix of space types that support concentrative work but that also encourage teamwork and communication. Asking, “What exactly do we hope to accomplish with this project?” often leads directly to the primary goal. The answer could include implementing a culture of collaboration, improving work productivity, enhancing work-life balance, or attracting and retaining top talent.

Why Identify your Goals?

Identifying your goals will help you to establish direction of the project and whether any additional work is required. Some examples of questions you may come up with, and the possible next steps, include:

  1. If the goal is to reduce space but the size of the workforce is not expected to change, does your organization also need to define and implement a mobility/telework policy? If you are not anticipating a more mobile workforce, do you need a new policy on workspace sharing?
  2. If the goals are to improve the utilization rate, increase office efficiency, or enhance collaboration, productivity, and communication among employees, do you anticipate any resistance from your personnel? What type of change management plan will be needed to overcome this resistance or help introduce the space changes to the workforce?
  3. If the goal is to reduce costs, have you done a cost-benefit analysis of the project to determine the break-even point? (This is the return on investment of the project – the point at which the reduction in rent equals the project costs.)

What if you Don’t Identify Your Goals?

In one of our recent office space transformation projects, an organization with multiple offices and divisions situated in separate locations planned to consolidate its operations in an existing building with sufficient space for the entire organization. As part of this consolidation effort, it hoped to achieve some efficiencies by sharing administrative services that were duplicated across its divisions (such as human resources and secretarial functions).

However, the management team members in charge of the project never clearly defined these goals at the outset of the project, nor did they communicate them to the division managers to obtain feedback or gain their support.

When we began the project, it became clear that there was no clear understanding of the goals. Although the management team was well-intentioned, the resistance from the division managers indicated that they did not believe that their very different work functions could be consolidated, nor did they believe that their divisions could function with shared administrative services. They simply could not accept the idea that they would succeed in the new workspace envisioned by the management team. Project development barely got started and then came to an abrupt halt!

Had the management team initially articulated their goals to the division staff and gained consensus from the employees at the onset of the project, they would have had a much better opportunity to have smooth project planning process. Instead, by not clearly articulating their goals at the onset, the planning process was delayed by months until a consensus was reached. The final outcome was success, but the initial disagreements still proved costly in terms of trust within the organization.

Final Thoughts

Once you have clearly determined the goal or goals of your office space transformation project, you are still at the beginning phase of the effort. But accomplishing this initial step will make much of the remaining steps easier and more straightforward. All of these steps, including introducing the plan, gaining consensus among the managers and workforce, identifying the potential challenges and opportunities, establishing a clear project plan, and assessing the success of the effort, require a clear understanding of the project goals.

After all, if you can’t articulate why you are doing the project or what you hope to accomplish, it won’t matter how many issues of Progressive Architecture you read.


Tags: Open Office Design

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Donna Chaney

Donna Chaney

Donna Chaney has been with Fentress since 2001 and provides senior project management, analytical, and program support. She has experience developing communications and operations strategies, analyzing and presenting data, and performing quantitative and qualitative analysis and research. She also supports the company’s business development and marketing activities and provides technical writing and editing support to other company projects. Donna has a bachelor’s of science degree and a master’s degree, both in business administration. She enjoys reading, cooking, exercising, and spending time with her children.