Cities and counties dive into workplace design
As cities and counties embark on workplace design projects, getting buy-in from organizational leadership is essential. Listening to employee feedback, however, can prove just as important. The idea of change is often hard for employees, especially for those in government who may not experience frequent changes to their workspace. That’s why giving staff a chance to voice opinions during the process is often the key to gaining approval and boosting morale.
Seeking opinions from all level of employees and giving them a sense of ownership will always pay off. When the dust settles and the space is complete, employees are happier knowing that their voices were heard and made a difference in creating their new work environment.
Collaboration versus privacy
Your team is your most important asset, bringing ideas and passion to your organization. Creating the right work environment is essential to maximizing creativity and increasing productivity. From selecting furnishings to creating collaborative spaces, cities and counties need to think strategically about how to curate their work environment.
One trend that has caught on in both the private and public sectors is designing your office by thinking of the different departments as “neighborhoods.” These areas allow people to get up from their desk, engage with coworkers and collaborate on shared projects in a way that is appropriate for that department. It is possible that each neighborhood in an office could be designed differently, or exactly the same. Skip the predetermined, one-size-fits-all approach by letting the teams give you feedback on how they need to work.
Collaborative workspaces are not for everyone, however. While open offices caught fire more than a decade ago, the pendulum is now swinging back the other way. Some employees prefer or require privacy to excel at their jobs. Employers are finding that a mix of open and private spaces is best, allowing them to accommodate a range of workstyles.
Anticipating that employees need quiet places to work in an open office environment, most furniture manufacturers design pieces for sound absorption and privacy. Cities and counties can choose strategic placement of this type of furniture rather than building out and furnishing individual offices for those who work better with reduced noise.
Minimizing costs versus satisfying employees
With limited governmental budgets, designing office space that engages employees without breaking the bank can be challenging. A few considerations can help managers cut costs without sacrificing design or employee satisfaction.
One way to save money is to minimize your organization’s footprint. By limiting the number of private offices and embracing elements of the open floorplan, cities and counties can save on renting or owning space. And, with the decreasing need for things like filing cabinets and reams of paper, employees no longer need large workstations, allowing organizations to downsize.
Another source of long-term savings is investing upfront in ergonomics. When overlooked, employees can develop disorders like carpal tunnel, lower back injuries and tendinitis, resulting in decreased productivity and potential workplace injury claims. Installing sit-stand desks or ergonomically-designed desk chairs, for example, will prevent such injury from sitting in one position for eight hours. By proactively designing to accommodate workers’ ergonomic needs in advance, cities and counties can avoid retrofitting workstations – a potential costly endeavor.
Cities and counties can help neutralize the cost of an office redesign by selling their used furniture. Startups and nonprofits are always looking for ways to freshens their spaces and your old chairs and tables just might do the trick. And, this cost-saving measure will help you avoid sending your old pieces to the landfill, an added benefit.
Regardless of the challenges, the overall goal of workplace design is to create an environment that fosters employee engagement, productivity and overall satisfaction. Being both strategic and open about your planning will go a long way toward achieving that goal.
Christopher Leach is president and owner of Contract Furnishings, a commercial furniture dealer that helps companies create intuitive and productive workplaces. He can be reached at [email protected]