How are you building your ship?

How are you building your ship?

By: Jill Mendoza

Getting the work done verses the experience of doing the work.

When you consider building your ship or planning your workplace environments by introducing open office plans it may be for various reasons; to gain space efficiencies, increase the feeling of connectedness, or to make employees more productive. Whatever the driver is for your business, there is growing evidence indicating these agile programs are only successful when you have a strong business reason to put people in the open.

The traditional way of planning for “getting the work done” was considered, for the most part, just a real estate decision, or in some cases, a desire to increase collaborative work styles and at the same time decrease overall square footage required. A recent Wall Street Journal article opens with the statement: “Business are beginning to design office spaces that are increasing the amount of square footage per employee when shared work settings are taken into account.” The articles notes; the amount of space an average assigned workstation hasn’t increased but the average “seat” has increased from 142 square feet in 2016 to 165 square feet today. “Seats include workstations and other office spaces like conference rooms and living room-styled seating areas.”

This trend is challenging the traditional thinking and the business reasons behind these new planning efforts.  Organizations are considering the experience of doing the work just as important, if not more, than getting the work done.  This requires the planning process to be centered more around the leadership styles, the values and the belief system of the organization.   In a recent Forbes article the president of Aileron, Joni Fedders, discusses a different new way of thinking about Leadership. ” Good leadership, says Fedders, means empowering people so that they can be confident in their competence, and learning to serve so that individuals take responsibility while knowing that they are supported.”

As design professionals and leaders, we are learning it is no longer enough to design spaces to support the work being done from a qualitative and quantitative perspective.  In many ways, knowing the numbers and how to deliver a certain aesthetic are table stakes in our industry.  Clients want to build their ships differently and they want an authentic interior environment that reflects who they are as an organization.  They want to know how their workspace can foster the “art of independence” Joni talks about, where employees understand the purpose of the organization and can take their own initiatives to grow, learn and share.

What we are truly seeing is not just a shift on how we design the work environment but more a shift in leadership styles.  Moving forward, interior environments will most likely have more influence on the quality of the work experience when business leaders and design professionals clearly understanding what it means to empower people so that they can be confident and how this can be translated into a “new way” of building those ships.

The quote in the photo above is from Antonie de Saint-Exupery, Author of the Little Prince.

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