Change for the Better

The management mantra of the last 18 months, “doing more with less,” is simpler said than done, especially when applied to the workplace. Companies may find it easier and cheaper to leave their office environments alone, but in straitened times, inaction is a common mistake.

A January 2010 study by The Conference Board shows employee engagement and job satisfaction at the lowest levels in decades, and many brand reputations have declined in the downturn. Affirming commitment to staff and company values isn’t a nicety, it’s a necessity when maintaining and improving productivity is at a premium.

Here, Gensler’s workplace, consulting and brand designers offer six inexpensive strategies to make your workplace look, feel and function a whole lot better. So that you really can do more with less.

Rearrange the Furniture

Sometimes transforming the workplace is a simple as aligning furniture with the way your people really work. Feeling hemmed in by a sea of cubicles? Disassemble your systems furniture and rearrange it to create a series of functional, friendlier spaces. A pair of workstations can be replaced by an open area with teaming tables to encourage people to meet, share ideas and brainstorm solutions.

Have an empty corner gathering dust? Some tack board and comfortable chairs can turn the little-used spot into a dedicated project area or a popular corner for casual gatherings. These moves tailor your office to getting work done better, at minimal cost.

Teach the Old Dog New Tricks

Offices by nature are high-use spaces. Over time, normal wear and tear leaves furnishings and their environment looking worn-out. With a little care, these elements can enjoy a second life.

Old cafeteria stools looking fatigued? Paint them a brilliant color and set them at high-top tables that promote collaboration. Task chairs becoming a bit shabby? They’re likely still structurally sound, so have them recovered with fresh fabric to give the entire workplace a new look. Desks can be resurfaced, window treatments refreshed, storage items repainted, all at a fraction of replacement cost. Salvaging items with life left in them benefits the planet and your pocketbook.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

Like hairstyles, tie widths and skirt lengths, color trends change. More than an aesthetic concern, color affects mood, attracts attention, signals direction, and much more.  If the colors of your office become passé and leave staff feeling listless, the good news is that your workplace can regain its competitive edge — with minimal effort and cost — by updating the color scheme.

Make a break room inviting by bathing a wall in a wash of green. Mark an intersection with a bold red hue. Define functional areas and departments with differing tonal shades. The small investment in a gallon or two of paint (you’ve chosen a healthier low-VOC product, of course) yields dramatic results.

Sometimes a Computer Is an Office

Today’s mobile workforce is making work less a place than an activity — one that occurs anywhere and everywhere. Fully enabling them is different than supporting in-office staff. When mobile workers visit the office, some only want a place to park their laptop and get down to business, but others are there to reconnect with colleagues and company culture.

Support mobile workers with an in-house coffee shop for easy plug and play; insert a row of first-come, first-served workstations; provide lockers for personal items; and allow staff to share these hot spots as their work requires. Designing features that benefit mobile workers also serves in-office employees by providing more interesting, creative and flexible ways of working.

Breathe Life into Dead Zones

With the reduction of real estate costs on everyone’s agenda, few companies can afford the luxury of unused or underutilized space. Typically, there are ways to better utilize square footage to serve the needs of your staff and fully reflect the brand you’ve worked so hard to build.

Lobbies, hallways and other transition areas can be repurposed to introduce energy and excitement, while reinforcing your brand in the process. Post employee accomplishments and photos around the coffee pot and generate some buzz. Turn an underutilized conference room into a library stocked with reference materials. Place images of your company’s work by the elevators and turn waiting time into learning time.

Brand New

No matter how stable or resonant the branding of your workplace may be, mixing things up will give your environment a visual kick-start that keeps employees and customers engaged. Inventive uses of brand vocabulary and graphics can transform the most mundane space at little cost.

Create powerful visual impact with a statement wall in your reception area. Collect candid shots of the team and bring some warmth and personality to meeting and team rooms. Show a product line’s evolution with photos in a break room. Any of these ideas will refresh your space and turn it into a potent communication of your company brand and values.

John Bricker, Jr., Beth Novitsky, Amanda Ramos and Jenn Richey (Gensler—New York)
Kate Kirkpatrick, Jen Liao and Erik Lucken (Gensler—Firmwide Communications)

Laurel Saville

Image Credits*
Jen Liao: Pages 1, 2a, 3a, 4a, 5a, 6a, 7a
Gensler Project Team, Panduit: Page 2 b-c
Nick Merrick/Hedrich Blessing,Gensler New York: Page 3b “Before”
Eric Laignel, Gensler New York: Page 3b “After”
Gensler Project Team, HNI Gunlocke: Page 3c “Before”
Nic Lehoux, HNI Gunlocke: Page 3c “After”
Gensler Project Team, EvensonBest: Page 4b-c “Before”
Christopher Barrett, EvensonBest: Page 4b-c “After”
Eric Laignel, Virgin Mobile USA: Page 5b-c
Gensler Project Team, Kantar: Page 6b “Before”
Timothy Bromiley (Gensler—New York), Kantar: Page 6b “After”
Eric Laignel, Limited Brands: Page 7b-c

*For detailed information, please roll over imagery on individual story pages

Erik Lucken (Gensler—Firmwide Communications):

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