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Room for Everything: The Shape of Hybrid Office Interiors

Room for Everything: The Shape of Hybrid Office Interiors

Two years into the pandemic aftermath, the hybrid workplace continues to shape the way businesses operate. And businesses, in turn, are shaping their offices to fit the new hybrid workplace. Return to the office (RTO) is surging, but employees are pushing back against full-time RTO. What’s clear is there is value in in-person work, and there’s equal value in remote work, and offices are being re-shaped to accommodate both workstyles.

As reported in FastCompany.com, business-social media company LinkedIn is one of the many businesses adapting their office interiors for hybrid work. Their architects, NBBJ, created a “postures matrix” that guides furniture and layout choices. Design decisions are made based upon the time spent in a particular space, the type of work done there, and the associated ergonomic needs.

The postures matrix showed that the most social places are close to doorways and entries. As people move deeper into the space, work areas become increasingly quieter. Options for heads-down focused work, living room-style conference rooms, and “buzzy” co-working areas provide something for everyone, depending on their needs on any given day.

Like LinkedIn, other businesses may be trying to re-shape their existing offices to make them more hybrid-friendly. Some are concerned that they will need to expand their office footprint, and their budgets are not prepared for additional real estate costs. Luckily, there are design strategies that can support a hybrid redesign without the need for additional space:

  • Convert paper documents to digital documents via imaging, and reduce your document storage area. Imaged documents are productivity boosters, whether staffers are in the office or working remotely. And many of the imaged documents do not need to be retained as paper, freeing up room for interior re-design.
  • Exchange traditional filing cabinets for a high-density filing system, and save as much as 50% of your storage floor area. While imaging will reduce the need for much document storage, some paper docs need to be retained. Keep them in a high-density filing system and save even more space.
  • Add touchless smart lockers that guide in-office traffic while enhancing design aesthetics. Employees without dedicated workspaces need secure storage for personal items in the office. Touchless smart lockers’ customizable finishes make them a design feature, and they can be set up in work areas to provide sound separation and guide traffic. No extra space required.

For many companies, the traditional office is fading away and the hybrid workplace is taking its place. Office interiors will need to be revised to support hybrid work, but these smart moves help keep the costs manageable. Talk to a storage expert to find out how to do a space-saving cost-saving redesign.

 

Photo © NABCREATIVITY / AdobeStock

How a Hybrid Workplace Grew a New Corporate Culture

How a Hybrid Workplace Grew a New Corporate Culture

While the rest of us have been obsessing about what hybrid workplaces are doing to corporate culture, one D.C.-headquartered office has been quietly getting on with the transition. And in the process, they’ve created a hybrid-office proof of concept: With good planning, good design, and employee input, corporate culture is even stronger and more positive than before.

Journalist Rasheeda Childress recently reported on a national association’s shift to a hybrid workspace. The association was looking at new office space when the pandemic hit, and like everyone, they flipped to remote work. In conversations with employees, leadership realized that that a permanent shift in office life was in the works.

Based on employee input, the association established an updated set of criteria for their new offices, with flexible scheduling in mind. Now the association’s new space includes reservable “hoteling” offices as well as dedicated offices, with an overall space reduction of more than 15%. To address corporate culture, they established new employee designations designed to remove manager bias regarding staff productivity. Employees were classified as “resident workers,” in the office at least 3 days per week, or “teleworkers,” in the office at least 1 day per week.

The association’s director has discovered that connectedness is the secret to the organization’s successful transition to hybrid. He reports that his staff interactions have radically increased; he and his staff have to “wander around” to find the person they need to speak with, and in the course of the search, have serendipitous conversations with a dozen other people. Staff events, like a weekly free lunch, ensure employees have frequent interactions with people outside their team bubbles.

At NOS, we’ve been promoting the value of connectedness for some time. Digitization is part of the connected-culture picture. Document conversion gives teams access to documents wherever they are. Teams stay connected whether they’re in-office or working from home. Everyone is included, and everyone’s work is optimized.

Productivity and effectiveness rely on connection, and document accessibility supports connection. If your employees are telling you they want the flexibility of a hybrid workplace, consider this association’s path: Listen to employees’ ideas, work with designers to create flexible physical space, and provide technology and opportunities that promote connectedness. Your corporate culture will change for the better.

Photo © fizkes / AdobeStock

Healthcare Facilities Managers and the Statute of Repose

Healthcare Facilities Managers and the Statute of Repose

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has come to mean one thing to the average consumer: healthcare privacy. Medical information is kept strictly private, far from the prying eyes of journalists, employers, and neighborhood gossips. Many healthcare providers have come close to eliminating paper documents in their practices. Even if they use paper forms, the forms are imaged into an electronic healthcare record (EHR) with advanced crypto-security.

Healthcare facilities managers are concerned with HIPAA only insofar as they need to ensure sufficient storage space for paper documents, and adequate operational resources for the organization’s IT needs. But facilities managers, like healthcare professionals, generate a sizeable number of paper documents even when a building’s design originated on computers. And those documents have risk management implications just like patients’ documents.

Unlike patient documents, FM documents are generally very public. Drawings, permits, project schedules, punch lists – all are public, and subject to a legal doctrine called the Statute of Repose. The statute of repose is similar to the statute of limitations; it sets a limit on the amount of time a design client can hold a design/construction professional liable for errors. If there are any complaints or legal actions, all the supporting documents will be needed.

As a facilities manager (i.e., the client), you’ll want to retain all construction-related documents for at least the duration of the statute of repose, if not for several years beyond, as required by risk management policies. That’s a lot of paper, and it takes up a lot of storage space for a number of years. Plus, the paper documents have all the usual vulnerabilities of paper: fire, floods, pests, and pilferage, as well as loss or misfiling.

Imaging a healthcare facility’s documents offers the same advantages that come with imaged patient documents: compact storage, security, and information accessibility including authorized search and sharing. If there is a need to refer to any of these documents, they can be retrieved with electronic speed, much faster than a laborious hunt through numerous flat files.

Healthcare facilities managers are focused on the needs of their healthcare organization and the patients it serves. But when they include their own document conversion needs along with those of the other departments, they will gain efficiency and effectiveness that makes them even better at their work. And they are managing risks during the period of the statute of repose.

Labs: No Two Alike, Except for These Three Things

Labs: No Two Alike, Except for These Three Things

“There is no one-size-fits-all,” says Gensler Research, regarding lab design and adaptive reuse. Like people, each lab has its own unique purpose and form. A lab, unlike typical office space, may have to take into account ventilation, vibration, volatile chemicals, greater-than-usual utilities requirements, or dangers to workers and the general public, to name just a few of their special challenges.

But no matter what type of lab yours may be, from analytics and QC to biohazard or R&D, these three operational elements help any lab fulfill its mission.

Storage cabinets and casework – Cluttered labs are unsafe labs. Whatever the science specialty, whatever the experimental design, every lab needs to protect items from contamination, damage, loss, or degradation:

  • Equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Documents
  • Electronics
  • Test and experimental supplies
  • Researchers’ personal items

Your current lab storage may be perfect for your processes today. But once a research phase comes to an end, the layout and type of storage may not fit the next phase. Labs outfitted with modular casework can reconfigure their storage to suit the new functions, rather than scrapping the existing storage – a benefit to the budget and the environment.

Data management – The essence of scientific investigation is the collection and management of data. Paper documents may be the only option in some labs, especially if electronics interfere with experimental processes. But data on paper takes time to access and analyze, and paper itself is a fragile medium. Document imaging converts paper-based data to electronic data for fast, easy use. Moreover, it preserves the data in a secure form, controlling accessibility and preventing the loss of invaluable information.

Equipment and materials management – Labs’ budgets can skyrocket when expensive equipment is lost. Time-dependent research can be wasted when materials can’t be located in inventory. And hand-written inventories are notoriously error-prone, not to mention an expensive use of researchers’ time. RFID asset management systems take the burden off researchers by automatically tracking quantities and whereabouts of these vital components. Equipment is easy to find, and there’s never a shortage of essential elements.

All three of these design and operations technologies contribute to safe and efficient lab functionality. Just as important, they have a positive effect on your lab’s bottom line, saving time and money. It’s not theoretical; it’s proven. Talk to a storage and organization consultant and review the options.

 

Photo © mast3r / AdobeStock

Three Ways to Shape a Safe Office Without Expanding Your Space

Three Ways to Shape a Safe Office Without Expanding Your Space

The ways we were accustomed to work were blown up by Covid-19 and the ensuing economic disruption. The 9-to-5 forty-hour work week now is the self-scheduled WFH get-the-job-done week. Surprisingly, productivity and employee satisfaction have risen dramatically in response.

However, corporate culture may be suffering. Businesses in which mentorship and hands-on training are particularly affected. From construction trades to consulting and sales organization, corporate culture relies on in-person interactions. Executives are announcing return to the office policies effective in the near future.

Still, concerns about surging Covid variants are making staffers reluctant to spend much, if any, time in the office. Facilities managers are asking if there’s a way to protect employees in the office setting without adding costly space to accommodate health protocols.

Here are three ways to help keep in-office teams safe without expanding the office footprint:

  1. Convert paper documents to digital documents via imaging, and reduce your document storage area. Imaged documents are productivity boosters, whether staffers are in the office or working remotely. And many of the imaged documents do not need to be retained as paper, freeing up room for social distancing and proximity barriers.
  2. Exchange traditional filing cabinets for a high-density filing system, and save as much as 50% of your storage floor area. While imaging will reduce the need for much document storage, some paper docs need to be retained. Keep them in a high-density filing system and save even more space.
  3. Add touchless smart lockers that guide in-office traffic while enhancing design aesthetics. Employees need secure storage for personal items in the office, and smart lockers provide touchless operation. Their customizable finishes make them a design feature, and they can be set up in work areas to provide separation and guide traffic without requiring additional space.

Security experts Kastle Systems report fewer than 28% of employees in the office in the first week of January 2022, in 10 major U.S. markets. Morning Consult’s survey shows 55% of employees being unwilling to return to the office if they felt unsafe. With the above ways to provide worker safety, your business can encourage a return to work without the added overhead of increased real estate costs.

 

Photo © Seventyfour / AdobeStock

The Just-Right Redesign: Hybrid Office Adaptations

The Just-Right Redesign: Hybrid Office Adaptations

Yes, the hybrid office is here to stay, and with it comes an opportunity to do a beneficial redesign of the workplace. The soulless twentieth century “cube farms” were dehumanizing, but so were the noisy, crowded open-plan offices that replaced the cubicles. Now designers have a chance to create the perfect balance between too claustrophobic and too unstructured. With some thoughtful innovations, the hybrid office can be the happy medium, like Baby Bear’s oatmeal.

Successful hybrid offices counteract the oversharing open office by providing defined work areas for individual heads-down tasks, and for collaborative team projects. But defined, enclosed areas don’t have to make a space feel crowded. Architectural glass walls and partitions retain an open feel while mitigating the noise interference of open office plans. Additionally, they maintain separation to reduce the potential for infections.

Lockers, too, provide attractive space-defining structures that complement other design choices. Like work spaces, lockers can be reserved for use when teams are in the office, and released for others to use later. Touchless locking mechanisms enhance health protocols, too.

A hybrid redesign is about more than the physical space, of course. Emotional welfare is a significant component of the new workplace. People crave sociability, and working in an office is fundamentally a social activity. When staffers are not in the office, they become anxious about their place in the social order. Providing support for the WFH component of a hybrid office demonstrates management’s trust in employees who aren’t routinely present.

And that support is often in the form of technology. Businesses are providing electronic devices – computers, wifi, cell phones – to employees for their WFH days. Just as important are the digital data resources. Paper-intensive work is now being converted to digital formats. Document conversion, or imaging, gives staff access to information no matter where they are physically located. An additional benefit: With fewer documents to store, storage space can be converted to work spaces, without expanding the office footprint.

The Great Resignation of 2021 has spurred much soul-searching at the C-level. The conclusion of many managers: Make the office a place where people want to spend time, make WFH a valued part of the hybrid workplace, and show support by providing productivity tools. A redesign to achieve these goals is a win for workers and financial stakeholders alike.

Photo © Dariusz Jarzabek / AdobeStock