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Renovating Office Space for High Performance

Yesterday’s commercial spaces may not provide the flexible, high-tech, or green features so in demand today. But there are plenty of reasons — and multiple ways — to add them.

Currently there is a great deal of importance placed on converting older, pre-existing commercial office buildings into high-performing work environments.

The goal is to deliver high performance by integrating technology and making work areas flexible and collaborative, while meeting the needs of a diverse workforce.

Why are these performance changes so relevant now, and what types of changes are required? The answers to both questions relate to the new ways people work today; new understandings about how to support worker health and well-being, the value of environmental sustainability, and the fact that most workforces comprise a more diverse set of individuals than in years past.

Considering these factors, there are a number of ways to enhance the workplace that a real estate director should consider when making the decision to renovate for high performance.

Flexibility is Required

Today’s high performing commercial work spaces are ultra-flexible, allowing people to work the way they want, when and where they want. They also encourage more collaborative, open, and creative work flows, preferred by the growing millennial workforce.

Older commercial spaces were often not designed to be flexible and tend to be characterized by hard wall construction, long corridors, and private offices fixed along the window lines of the building. Older office environments also tend to promote more hierarchical, private work flows along well established channels, patterns that are in stark contrast to the collaborative, creative and open work environments so valued today.

In addition to collaborative open spaces, high performing designs also include strategically placed quiet work areas. The key is to create spaces allowing employees to move around and work in the areas that suit them, at times that suit them best.

Flexible design also contributes to providing an optimal work-life balance, another feature of high performing work spaces. As the typical work day has evolved away from a traditional 9 to 5 schedule, employees value office environments built with the flexibility that lets them work anywhere, anytime. They don’t have to sit at one specific workstation but are able to move around within the space, or even work from home.

Conference rooms like this at Embraer Engineering & Technology Center in Melbourne, FL allow for ample natural light and transparency in the workplace, speaking to the newer generations in the workforce.

Renovations adding this sort of flexibility involve removing hard walls separating spaces and adding more movable partitions to allow for an ever-changing work environment. Designers want to create open, collaborative workspaces, and break areas that flow into work areas, encouraging chance encounters between employees that can translate into more creative, innovative and productive work. Closed offices are often moved to the center, away from window lines, opening up the natural light to the space. White boards are installed for use in brainstorming, while wheeled furniture and partitions, and high-top tables for impromptu meetings reinforce the collaborative, innovative feel.

Integrate The Technology

Technological advancements over the last 15 years must be considered in any new renovation. If an existing commercial office space wasn’t built to handle the technological tools its staff requires, the decision to renovate can be an open and closed case. Adding this functionality begins by bringing the spaces, both mechanically and electronically, up to current standards. The technology also needs to be integrated across work areas in terms of both design and construction, while allowing for remote connectivity.

Wifi, workspace and conference room access to cloud-based, internet, teleconferencing and AV tools are examples of the sorts of technology and integration that promote collaborative work.

Address Well Being

High performing commercial spaces emphasize employee well-being. This means including environmental features designed to make workers feel more creative and more productive. Many of these design trends are based on research findings about work environments. They indicate that workers exposed to more greenery tend to be more creative. Workers with access to natural light tend to sleep better, which makes them more productive and focused at work. And high air quality enhances employee health and well-being.

Related to this concept is the trend toward developing commercial work spaces with more of a comfortable, residential feel. Work areas, break rooms and furnishings should be designed to deliver this atmosphere within the space.

This break area at the Boeing Company Campus in Charleston, SC offers a comfortable, laid back atmosphere in which employees can refresh and recharge before returning to their workspace.

More Generations of Workers

High performing work spaces directly address the mix of generations that make up the modern work force. It’s not uncommon for an organization’s employees to span three and even four generations, and these generations tend to prefer different work environments.

Baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer, sometimes even coming out of retirement, to work alongside cohorts from Generation X, Millennial and even Generation Z eras. Baby boomers in particular, familiar with more traditional office settings, may have a more difficult time focusing in the open, collaborative spaces craved by millennial workers. Therefore, it’s important for commercial entities to consider these work preferences within their designs.

High performing spaces offer areas to suit the preferences of each generation. The key here is creating a variety of spaces that support these different ways of working. Collaborative open spaces balanced with closed spaces like phone rooms, quiet work areas and conference rooms help deliver both private and collaborative environments that employees require.

Where To Begin

Collaborative office spaces, higher technological integration and flexible work environments are all part and parcel to building work environments that deliver high performance, both in how they address worker needs and how they foster innovation.

These commercial real estate trends are evident across the board, whether for high-tech manufacturing, research and development, laboratory, office, or retail settings. As such, we continue to deliver innovative solutions for these groups on a daily basis.

For more information on how to build and design higher performance into your commercial work space, contact us today.

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Posted In: Integrated Design, Thought Leaders, Trends
Tagged In: office , work, workplace , commercial
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Carol Ebeling is director of interior design for BRPH. She is behind the interior design strategy on some of the world’s largest manufacturing, aviation, and commercial facilities for Fortune 500 clients including Boeing, GE, Harris Corporation, Northrop Grumman, and more.

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