Adapting your office for improved workplace wellness

Adapting Your Office For Improved Workplace Wellness

Forward-thinking companies understand that their main goal is to create a phenomenal workplace for their people. The heart of every office is its people; they are the wheels that keep the company in motion. For this reason, it’s important to nurture a workplace culture and office environment that is conducive to their success. By keeping employee’s wellness, performance and personal goals, companies will be able to cultivate a positive workplace that gives its employees a sense of purpose and facilitates their success. 

However, as the office has historically been a place associated with stress, it can be difficult to imagine an office environment that actually does the opposite. So, how does one begin to create an office environment that promotes deep thinking, innovation, creativity and collaboration? Thankfully, organizational psychologists have created a better way to understand human performance by blending opportunity, motivation, and ability.

 

Performance: Three Major Factors

When it comes to performance, there are three major factors at play including opportunity, motivation, and ability. Opportunity is about how accessible a person is to amenities or resources. Motivation is the measure in which a person wants to perform a task. Ability pertains to whether or not the person can perform the task at hand. With this in mind, the question becomes: how do workplaces provide opportunities and keep employees motivated while also catering to their abilities, all in the confinements of an office space?

According to organizational psychology, there are ten key design elements that not only support performance factors but also positively impact the atmosphere of any given workplace environments. These design elements include:

  • Sensory Variability and Change
  • Noise Control
  • Thermal Temperature and Comfort
  • Colour
  • Access to Daylight, Views, and Nature
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Crowding
  • Employee Engagement
  • Ergonomics and Human Factors
  • Choice

In the next section, each of these key elements will be elaborated upon to show what they mean for the workplace. 

 

Sensory Variability & Change

Employees prefer sensory variability and change. If an employee is faced with a lack of visual stimulation, such circumstances can affect their ability to stay alert and dull their senses. In addition to this, human productivity can be hindered by workstations that are all the same height and remain neutral-coloured. To avoid productivity loss, try to have moderate levels of visual complexity, spatial variability, materials that offer a sensory experience for the mind, windows that offer views to the outdoors, and access to daylight.

 

Noise Control

Believe it or not, noise can be a major issue in the workplace environment. In many instances, noise in a workplace can even enable or disable productivity in the workplace depending on the work being performed. To eliminate this loss in productivity, allow employees access to a space with acoustical separation and a door when needed.

 

Temperature & Thermal Comfort

Thermal comfort requires the right amount of humidity, airflow, and temperature. To provide physical comfort in the workplace, you’ll need to be operating on all of these cylinders. If you happen to hear about temperature issues in the workplace, it’s likely that humidity and airflow are the culprits. The ideal temperature in the office is 70 degrees, as this temperature is associated with reduced sick leaves and a higher accuracy on tasks. If an employee has control over conditions in their workstation, it increases their productivity.

 

Colour

How certain colours are perceived depends on life and culture experiences. Brighter colours tend to be associated with task accuracy and higher focus. Blue is meant to cool and calm. Pink is intended to lessen burden, discouragement, loneliness, and aggression. Red is commonly associated with ambition and vitality. Orange eases emotions. Yellow helps people feel alert and clear-headed. Having your workplace a certain colour can significantly affect how your employees approach their work.

 

Access to Daylight, Views, and Nature

People tend to enjoy being surrounded by the great outdoors, which can offer an endless amount of sensory change and variation. Biophilia, the bond between other living systems and humans, is important to offer when people are indoors. It can also be beneficial for workers to spend time outdoors (even if it’s brief) during a workday.

 

Indoor Air Quality

Since most Americans spend at least 90 percent of their time indoors, it’s important to make sure the air quality is healthy. The health of a company’s workforce can affect productivity, sick days, and health insurance costs. Going beyond simple ergonomics and human factors, the workplace should make good health a priority.

 

Crowding

Whenever an employee feels crowded, they often feel stressed. Sadly, this feeling can impact how they feel in the workplace. Although the idea of space varies depending on gender, individual preferences, and cultural background, any level of discomfort can cause a significant amount of stress on an individual and impact their work output.

 

Employee Engagement

When it comes to worker satisfaction and employee engagement, there’s a direct correlation. In short,  ensuring your employees are engaged and motivated will facilitate innovation and productivity. 

 

Ergonomics and Human Factors

Workplaces should aim to be designed around and for individuals who are looking to be flexible, comfortable, and support long term productivity. Why? Well, workplaces should consider the limitations and needs of the individuals who will be occupying them. “Human factors” is a term utilized in workplace psychology that touches on topics that include human-computer interaction, human capability, product design, the reduction of human error, workplace safety, and ergonomics. So when it comes to “ergonomics” and “human factors”, the terms are utilized synonymously.

 

Choice

The workplaces of today require high levels of collaboration, concentration, and everything in between. A well-designed workplace must provide opportunities for choice to be made by employees and customers alike. From here, both parties will have an easier time determining how (and when) they shall utilize your workplace for the benefit of your company.

 

Considering the information above, there’s plenty of ways companies can adapt their offices for improved workplace wellness. If you haven’t adapted your workplace place yet, these tips are an excellent way to get started. For more tips on how to promote wellness and wellbeing in your workplace, get in touch! We would be happy to provide you with a complimentary design consultation

What is Biophilic Design?

Designing a workspace in a way that connects to the natural environment is known as biophilic design. The concept of biophilic design includes the use of indirect and direct nature as well as place and space conditions.

The name biophilic is relatively new. However, the idea of connecting buildings to their surrounding environments in a natural way has been noted in architecture dating back as far as the building of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Today, biophilic design is used at the scale of buildings and entire cities in many different types of environments.

The idea of biophilic design continues to proliferate in architecture circles because of its proven benefits to the health, economy and environment of its users.

 

The Beginning of the Biophilic Idea

Modern biophilic design can be said to have its roots in the biophilia hypothesis. This is an idea that is defined by seminal theoretical biologist Edward O. Wilson as the human instinct to focus on life and processes that imitate life. The hypothesis is based on the idea that humans focus on life and its ancillary doppelgangers as a technique of survival. In higher forms of thinking, human beings also focus on these processes as a means of personal fulfillment. For instance, enjoying oneself in a nature preserve is a form of the biophilic hypothesis at work. Owning a pet or buying a house that stands close to a waterfront are also forms of this hypothesis.

 

The Kellert Principles

Stephen Kellert is known as a father of biophilic design because of his widely accepted principles and framework around the idea. Below is a short summary of his biophilic framework.

The Direct Experience of Nature

The direct experience of nature designs that have quantifiable contact with common features of nature such as light, air, water, plants, animals and natural landscapes. Contact with these features usually corresponds with a heightened sense of space and connectivity within the environment.

The Indirect Experience of Nature

The indirect experience of nature speaks of a design coming into contact with representations and images of nature. These may include pure images such as photographs or professional paintings; natural materials or colors placed within the building design; natural air and light simulations; simulations of natural shapes within the design of a building; “information richness”; biomimicry; natural geometries; invoking natural changes within the Patina of Time and otherwise evoking nature in a project’s structural design.

The Experience of Space and Place

Biophilic design can also enhance well being through the spatial relationships between a design and its surrounding environment. The concepts that are used to flesh out this idea include Cultural and Ecological Attachment to Place; Mobility; Transitional Spaces, Integration of PArts, Organized Complexity and Prospect and Refuge. It is the job of the building architect to understand which of these concepts is the best fit for a project or landscape because each of them is usually meant to be experienced and considered individually.

 

Bringing Biophilic Design to a Municipal Scale

Timothy Beatley, an internationally recognized municipal planner and green urbanism author, is an important voice in scaling the idea of biophilic design from buildings to entire cities. Beatley believes that the primary objective of biophilic municipalities is to cater to the residents of the location so that they choose to actively participate in maintaining the biophilic nature of the landscape.

In keeping with this idea, Beatley designed a framework of ideas to help architects build cities around the biophilic notion. The dimensions forming his framework include Biophilic Institutions and Governance; Biophilic Attitudes and Knowledge; Biophilic Activities and Biophilic Conditions and Infrastructure.

 

The Benefits of Biophilic Design

On all scales, biophilic design has been shown to have certain benefits for environments as well as building occupants. Below are just a few of the benefits that are considered most relevant.

  • Health benefits – Medical professionals have found that biophilic elements in an environment may speed up recovery in mental health cases and in cases of physiological stress. For instance, a study conducted by Catherine Ryan, et al. found that aromatherapy use on post-surgical patients reduced the need for morphine and other painkillers by 45% and 56%, respectively. Other studies have found that simply having plants indoors increases pain tolerance and improves stress resistance in patients. It has been found that the presence of water also helps in restoring mental health. Simply putting patients in outdoor facilities helped them increase physical activity, reduce depression, build social capital and even avoid conditions like asthma and infant mortality rates.
  • Environmental benefits – It can be argued that building up the environment with biophilic principles allows for better management of potentially destructive environmental elements such as stormwater runoff. Biophilic designs can even turn these elements around to be helpful to the environment, as in the case that excess greywater is utilized to water greenery. Building vegetative walls also help to reduce the instance of polluted water in an environment; plants are natural biofilters. Building these “walls” with enough durability can even reduce carbon emissions and the temperature of an environment.
  • Economic benefits – Although the initial implementation of biophilic elements has an upfront cost, these costs are more than negated through the environmental and health benefits mentioned above. There are also direct benefits. Experts predict that New York City could save up to $470 million by implementing biophilic designs. Surprisingly, incorporating biophilic design could also reduce the expense of crime in the city by a whopping $1.7 billion.
  • Municipal resilience and sustainability – Beatley has stated that biophilic design helps cities better withstand municipal stressors, especially climate changes. His ideas are beginning to be used in building designs and recognized by watchdog organizations such as the Living Building Challenge and the WELL Building Standard.

 

Biophilia vs Biophobia

Just as biophilia exists, so too does the idea of biophobia. The suffix -phobia refers to a fear of something, so biophobia generally means a human’s fear of animals and nature, especially a fear that is inherited in some way.

Contact Aura Office Environments and speak with our design specialists on bringing a little more nature to the scene for your next office redesign!

Employee Fulfillment & Overhauling Your Space Design

As we move towards the future, individuals want to know that they’re more important than machines and are searching for work that taps into the human experience. So when an employee is searching for such an experience and leaning towards meaningful work, much of what they’re looking for is a space that will not only keep them motivated but make them feel like an individual with a meaningful job that won’t be easily replaced. Thankfully, employee perspectives, scientific support, and bright spots in the space design industry have been studied to improve the employee experience as a whole.

 

Work Evolution & Employee Value

We’re on the brink of a new era in which we are looking for a higher sense of purpose and meaning in our work. With both of these circumstances being a core narrative of our workplace, office space design has tapped into neuroscience and psychology to advance a positive change in the space planning of the future. Automation and artificial intelligence are looking to accelerate the new world of workplaces, so office space design is focused on making employees have a sense of meaning and purpose in their engagement practices.

 

Space Design & Employee Experience

To feel fulfilled at work, one must be in an environment in which our sense of purpose and our intrinsic motivations are being tapped. This feeling can be generated by two main neurochemicals, dopamine, and oxytocin, in which the brain will release to reward behaviours to be valued for our own survival. A brain is a powerful tool and extensive research has proven that brain chemistry will motivate us in several positive ways. When certain chemicals are released throughout the workday, workers will feel more satisfied with what they’re doing. Employees who feel fulfilled are more likely to spend 3+ years with a company than those who don’t feel fulfilled. 

 

Growth, Impact, & Relationships

The three major factors that contribute to a fulfilling work life are:

  • Growth – A challenge in which we overcome.
  • Impact – The act in which a goal is getting results.
  • Relationships – A connection to others and a sense of importance.

With employees having their work-life boundaries increasingly blurred together, employees want to search for opportunities that allow them to pursue and explore what gives them purpose. They want to have meaning in their work, so having an office space design that encourages them to do so is incredibly fulfilling. If an employee can’t feel fulfilled or find purpose in their line of work, it’s likely that they’ll be looking elsewhere. That’s right, some employees would not only look elsewhere for a fulfilling job, but they’d be willing to take less pay for it.

 

Providing Some Structure

Although personalization is difficult to scale and the search for meaning can be a highly personal endeavour, a bit of structure in the office space design and space planning can assist employees on their journey to more fulfilling work life. Having a setup that offers reverse mentorship planning, stretch assignments, innovation labs, rotational opportunities, or rewards for milestone experiences, it helps employees have a meaningful and deeper relationship with their job. By offering space that allows employees to understand the impact they make on the company, they’ll be more excited to help the business grow–and coworkers who experience other’s success will also be more inclined to work hard for the benefit of the company. By building an office environment that lets employees know they’re part of a team, they’ll be more than willing to assist a company in its growth.

 

Space Planning: Don’t Forget Culture!

Culture plays a bigger part in the workspace planning process than one would realize. Between a company’s purpose, strategy, and overall employee experience, evolving the workspace design is important. What’s usually defined as “how things operate at this establishment”, workplace culture can support and reinforcement for employees who are searching for a greater meaning in the work they perform. Although culture is more of a matter of doing (as opposed to saying), businesses looking to evolve their culture must focus on issues such as:

  • Paying attention to behaviour that touches on growth, impact, and relationships.
  • Highlighting leaders to signal and model behaviours to other employees.
  • Tapping into the influencers who energize the surrounding individuals to create a purpose-driven culture.

Businesses that successfully tap into employee sentiment nurture employees that believe fulfillment is possible at their jobs. However, much of what happens after receiving such information relies on you and how you improve on such data with your office space design. By understanding that much of this information is rooted in employees developing/growing, making progress, and having a sense of belonging, businesses can foster that information into their workspace planning.

 

Leaders & Followers

When it comes to modeling and signaling behaviours for a fulfilling experience at work, leaders are incredibly important. They can be powerful allies in the influence of what fulfillment looks like. Pairing a great leader with precision workspace planning, a business can be unstoppable and employees will feel fulfilled at the end of the workday.

In consideration of the information above, there are plenty of ways your company can tap into employee sentiment to overhaul your office space design. If you don’t have such programs put into place yet, these tips are an excellent way to start. For more tips on how your company can achieve maximum effort from your staff, contact Aura Office Environments for more information on how we can help you.

The Landscape of Office Design is Changing: Are You Ready?

When it comes to the design and architecture of the future, change is vital. Occupants require change and designers must redesign environments to meet those expectations. Our workplaces have transitioned from windowless rooms filled with cubicles to inviting workspaces that rejuvenate and inspire. Before we look forward to the future of office environments, let’s look at where we started.

 

Open Offices of the Past

If there was one style that was utilized tirelessly throughout the decades, it was the advent of the open office. This idea was created roughly in the mid to early 20th century as a way to develop spacious workstations. The open office removed borders and other walls to improve interactions between coworkers and improve company morale. Although this setup sounds ideal, it did have quite a few challenges. When this design became popular during the mid-1900s, the setup had more resemblance to a factory with long rows of desks that were packed with workers. Although the open office wasn’t necessarily a failure, it did set the groundwork for what was to come.

 

The Cubicle

Many individuals think cubicles should belong in a museum. However, the cubicle was designed with one goal: empowering employees. It was a rebuttal to the open office layout and it was an answer to many of its problems. For starters, the cubicle allowed workers some privacy in their workspace. Instead of employees being stuffed into tight spaces with one another, employees could have their own dedicated space. In addition to this, the cubicle allowed personalization to one’s workspace. It optimized productivity and had a promising future that was envisioned by Robert Propst (the cubicle inventor) who viewed cubicles as “Action Offices.”

Sadly, the cubicle became cheaper and smaller with many workforces expecting the massive growth of new workers. “Cubicle farms” became the new normal in the workplace. Pop culture offers a dismal characterization of the modern office as a windowless area that’s stuffed with cubicles. Worse yet, early cubicles were actually made with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that tended to make workers sick. It was clear something had to change with workspace design–with that change being right around the corner.

 

Biophilic Offices

In recent years, the occupant’s health in their work environment has been a major concern for designers and architects. Since the average American spends at least 90,000 hours working throughout their life, it’s important for designers to create buildings that promote wellness and health.

As mentioned earlier, the offices of the past have been notorious for not meeting the standards of the human health code. Cubicles weren’t the only part of the office that was making employees sick, though. In some instances, employees would also get sick from the building itself (appropriately called “Sick Building Syndrome”).

Thankfully, biophilic office design made the workplace a much healthier environment. Its philosophy is rooted in keeping nature as the center of a building’s design and has received fantastic reviews for its numerous health benefits, including lowered blood pressure and reduced stress. For commercial environments, the biophilic office designs are quickly becoming the industry standard. It should also be mentioned that material selection is another major factor in biophilic office design. Illnesses such as SBS occurred due to the fact that toxic materials were utilized for interiors. Today, architects have intentionally selected new materials that contain no to little VOC properties. One of the materials most commonly utilized for biophilic office designs is reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood brings vivid textures and a rich appearance that allows employees to connect with nature in ways that most materials cannot. In addition to this, reclaimed wood enhances employee wellness, encourages interaction, and relieves stress. Since reclaimed wood utilizes little to no VOC products for its finish, it won’t make anyone sick.

Biophilic office designs are perfect for promoting flexibility in the workspace. A far departure from the “cubicle farm” or open office designs, flexible workspaces are created to remain modular. This means that employees are capable of modifying their surroundings so that their space can be utilized for a number of purposes–from private meetings to solo work session or formal presentation. Perks such as multi-furnishings, adjustable surroundings, and mobile furniture allow employees to get the most out of their workspace.

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Looking into the future, there’s a lot in store for the future generations of employees. Between managing the growth of your organization and automation becoming the method in which many jobs will be performed, the future of office occupancy is looking bright.

In consideration of the information above, there are plenty of ways companies can adapt their office environments for the betterment of their workforce. If you haven’t adapted your workspace yet, we hope this will give you an idea of where the future of office design is headed. For advice on how your company can achieve maximum effort from your office space, contact Aura Office Environments and learn how we can help.

The Benefits of Leasehold Improvements For Growing Business

In the business world, change can come at you pretty quick. When rapid growth happens at the ground level, sometimes productivity and employee efficiency aren’t the first thing your office will need to worry about. Sometimes, the first priority is your office space itself. When an office environment becomes too small, or inefficiently houses your staff and limits the achievability of your company culture and goals, there are a few options.

Continue reading “The Benefits of Leasehold Improvements For Growing Business”

Adapting Your Office For New Workplace Strategies

You always want to design office space for today, as well as the future. One constant in the business world is the evolution of your organization. You will have departments going through creation periods, dissolution periods, and modifications along the way. The organization you create today, will not be the same a few years from now. Realizing change is inevitable can assist as you design your office space.

The idea of having a future proof office design is possible. New departments and initiatives within an organization cause workplace strategies and will spark a need for a change of how employees work. The leaders in design understand this, which is why they want to tap into your vision, to share your insight on where you see the company going. Understanding the long-term vision is what makes the discovery-centric office design approach valuable.

 

Considerations to Make When Embarking on an Office Design

As you embark on an office design for your organization, you want to consider a lot of variables. The goal is to create something which suits your needs now but will also be adaptable to the future. Quality design for the office allows for growth, allows you to maximize every inch of space. Flexibility and the ability to evolve is crucial.

  1. Office Size – You need to consider the actual size of your office to start with. If your organization were to double in size five years from now, is there enough office space for everyone? If the answer is no, you may want to re-think even the location of where you set up shop. Why spend on a design and build out an office today, if it is not going to allow for growth? Before you even get into the design, think square footage.
  2. Space Planning – You want to plan space and make sure you can adjust on the fly. The layout of your office today may make sense for current departments, current initiatives. As change arrives, though, you need to have space to make the changes necessary. One way to do this is via a shared space, rather than space you dedicate to a team. Office design continues to become more flexible. Fewer private offices exist. The goal is to get everyone out in the open, with collaboration. This also addresses the need for extra square footage, as folks don’t take up as much space in the workplace.
  3. Adequate Input – You need to get input from everyone when going through space planning and office design. Allow each employee to have an active involvement in the design process. Get their input on what will work best for each style. If you allow employees to be a part of the Aura discovery-centric office design process, it is more likely they buy into the approach. While you do not want employees to have full control over each decision, you want their voices heard to meet their individual needs.
  4. Plan for Additional Future Growth – Do you have any idea on what your employee base will be in 12 or 24 months? You may not be able to predict many years out, but having a budget and thought on where the headcount stands in a couple of years time is possible. Share this information with Aura, your commercial interior design professional. The more information and preparation, the more future-proof the design.
  5. Dedicated Space – If you were able to add a new department to your company today, do they each need a desk which is permanent? Do they all need to sit near one another? Would it benefit them to be close to other departments as well? There is a lot of remote work happening in the current environment. Many folks will compress work weeks, all in the spirit of achieving a better work and life balance. The trends are awesome, but it also means they may not need a space 100% of the time.

 

Understand the Workflow of the Organization

Do you have a good sense of the workflow of your organization? Have you done a value stream map, to see where hand-offs occur from one group to the next? The workflow of your organization, getting products or services to clients, should get a boost by the design of the office. If the two are not in sync, chances are there will be a waste in the efficiency space. Employees who need to collaborate all the time should be near one another. If you were to add a new product or service into the workflow, plan for that in the future. Make sure integrating that new department into the space works.

 

React to the Company Initiatives

What are the workplace strategies you have set? Do you intend to expand your work from home offerings or allow employees to compress work weeks? Do you see trends where you want to add further spaces where employees can share information openly and collaborate? You want space planning ready to react to any company initiative you roll out. It may even be a marketing or sales initiative, a way to get employees to think differently. All factors can contribute to alterations of space planning. The more preparation put into it, the easier it will be to adapt for what you seek.

You need to have an office design which can adapt and evolve over time. Setting up a bunch of cube walls and offices is not going to cut it. It is all about adapting to your millennial employee base, offering the space to collaborate and share, create efficiencies and knowledge transfers. Office designs which include space planning for today and the future equate to big net gains. Working with a company like Aura and their discovery-centric design planning approach allows for revelations before any cube walls go up, to prepare for what’s to come.

Attracting & Retaining Millennial Employees With Your Office

It is always important to cater to your workforce with a quality office design. When folks wake up for work daily, you want a sense of excitement on where they head. Dreading walking into a boring office with out of date technology and designs will lead to lost employees. Attracting and retaining millennials is more important than ever. The work done towards retaining millennial employees has a lot to do with office design, as much as it has to do with whether they get a promotion.

 

The Millennial Numbers to Back-Up the Push

There exists a lot of numbers to support the effort to cater to the millennial generation. A millennial is someone born between the year 1981 and 1996. Over 70 million millennials exist in the world, and they are all the age where they are in the workforce. They make up the largest generation of working individuals today, so making sure the office design suits them is crucial. These are young minds, tremendous visionaries, and tapping their knowledge occurs by placing them in a setting sparking creativity.

 

Losing Employees is Costly

It is very costly to lose employees. Millennials have no concerns with switching companies, jobs. The days of individuals staying at one company for several decades is a thing of the past. It still happens, but far less than with prior generations. Millennials seek engagement and where they find it, they prosper and prove to be productive contributors to an organization.

The cost of losing an employee, all that knowledge, multiplies when you factor the spend on recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new talent. The time and effort to get the new employee at a foundational level is always a struggle.

 

Retaining Millennial Employees With an Office Design

You can do a lot with your office design to work towards attracting and retaining millennial employees. Millennials are unique. They want a different office, catering to their asks, which usually conflict with the make-up of older organizations.

Retaining Millennial Employees With Technology – You can do a lot with technology to work toward attracting and retaining millennial employees. Millennials want a connection to the Internet at all times, with the constant ability to communicate with employees. Remote millennial employees need the ability to video chat, to use tools like Slack, Skype, Teams, and others to collaborate. By giving millennials technology, always-on Internet, and the ability to connect and work from anywhere, you increase engagement and retention.

Design With Culture in Mind – You want an office design that takes company culture in mind. Millennials seek out the open, college style design. These employees do not want to be stuck in a cubicle. Instead, open space and wall removal are key. It drives company culture as well, showcasing commitment to collaboration and innovation. You want to engage millennials. Give them a reason to show up and commit their whole self to your company, each day. You know what culture you want to showcase, now match it with an office design that exceeds expectations to keep millennial talent.

Work with the Remote Crowd – A remote employee can provide a lot of value to the organization. Millennials want the ability to work from anywhere. If they are away from the office, why do they have to be completely unavailable? Make remote employee arrangements possible and show your company culture of flexibility and commitment to working from anywhere, at any time. Over 4.3 million employees work from home at least 50% of the time. With many of these millennials, making this an option helps keep talent.

 

Create an Office Space Strategy

You need a strategy to tackle your office space. The plan should incorporate short and long-term goals. What millennials want today may not be what they want a decade from now. When you go through your office design process, think ahead. Be sure you end up with an office space strategy that can evolve over time. Millennials are the young generation now, but that will change. The focus for millennials is on their career more than ever. Giving them office space and planning a strategy that drives forward engagement will allow for better retention.

 

Remember to Craft a Culture

Employee seeks out a company culture more than they do the appearance of office space. Let your culture and space speak for itself and attract millennials, retain them. Think about the best campus locations in the world. Google and Apple are top-tier. Employees long to work in settings they create. The campus environment, the feeling that everyone works and functions as one cohesive unit, is a key driver to engagement and retention.

The discovery-centric office design strategy Aura delivers helps you craft the culture. You want your office space to scream what your company is all about, in a positive light. From the interior design to the open spaces, to even beverage stations and technology offerings, you want it all to tie together. Create your office space in such a way where it is a destination for millennials, where they’ll feel like they miss out on growth opportunities by leaving. Put millennials in a place of constant engagement and they will stick around, thrive.

What you do as an organization to design an office space towards attracting and retaining millennials starts at the discovery stage. Think about your workforce and where the company stands today, as well as where you want it five years from now. Craft an office space strategy with a focus on your core millennials. By catering, you will not only retain the best talent, but you will attract it as well. Be a destination employer and watch the very best seek out your office as space where their creative juices can be on display.

Does Your Office Convey Your Brand Effectively? Consider These Best Practices

Have you ever gone for a walk around the office to analyze if it has met your expectations? When you think about your company, your brand, does your office design represent what you are selling? If you are a modern company with high-tech aspirations, do you have a modern office that showcases those traits? If the answer is yes, good for you! The majority of organizations, though, will find that their brand lacks representation in their office design.

The office environment plays a big role in conveying a brand. Employees need to buy into the brand the same way customers do. Employees, though, need to buy in with the basis of the office design, where they work every day. Customers get more exposure to commercials, marketing campaigns. Employees spend time in conference rooms, offices, open areas within the office. Your brand should have as much representation in the office as it does on a commercial for customers.

 

Enter a Discovery Phase to Act on a New Office Design

You need to take action when it comes to a new office design that represents your brand and your company culture but remember, it is not always a matter of changing things up.  You may need to go through a discovery session with a design & space planning firm to understand the needs of your company, where things may lack from a design space, and how you can improve. A powerful tool as part of this is the Aura Office Periodic Table of Office Design. Looking at each of its categories can help you better align your brand with your office design.

Style – Think about the style of your office and what lifestyle your brand represents. Do you have a brand that aims for a more retro vision, or is the gears more in the modern space? Do you cater to the millennial or urban crowd more than the traditional? Figure out what style works best.

Atmosphere – When you think about your brand, what is the atmosphere that comes to mind? Is it a bold brand, playful, vibrant? Figuring out the proper adjective can help with the design of an office to nail the feel. If you have a brand that is social, for example, you want an office design that has employees working in a very collaborative, open space.

Environment – What is the environment you expect from your office design? Is your brand one that will cater to the professional or the creative individual? Is it a cozy brand or a sophisticated brand? Think through the environment you seek with the office and how it meshes with your brand’s message.

Areas – What areas need to be a part of the office design? If you are going for a social atmosphere, areas that immediately come to mind include lunchrooms, lounge areas, and more. If it is more of a professional environment, having a reception and conference area will likely be a key need.

Features – What features would you expect in an office design? Again, for the social or unique settings, you want something like a rock climbing wall or pool table to get people in a creative mindset? If it is a sophisticated style your brand screams, going with glass walls or an exposed ceiling may be the way to go.

Texture – It may seem trivial to think about texture, but it says a lot about your office. It is as basics as whether or not you have shiny leather chairs or informal chairs at each cubicle or work station. The minor texture change can say a lot about the branding of a company.

Lighting – Lighting can make or break an office design. Does your brand aim more for the bright lights? Would lamps mesh better with the style, atmosphere, and environment you aim to achieve?

Furniture – Furniture is another key area that is very dependent on style, atmosphere, and environment. The furniture needs to meet the needs of employees, think ergonomics. You also have to have the furniture mesh with your brand as well.

It is the office design process of Aura that allows for the connection of a company’s brand, and the way the office looks. The design is not how it looks in the end, it is how it feels, how it works day to day, and how it meets the needs of employees, as well as clients and customers. By talking through the design using the periodic table, you will discover what will engage employees. Involve everyone at all levels, to give an opinion before you put any design thoughts into action.

 

Identify Your Company’s Culture

Do you know what culture of a company you want to set? Are you the type of company that is going to push the envelope, have a culture where engagement is important and employee retention high? You need to figure out the identity you seek. Branding your office around that identity and driving forward company culture is pivotal as part of the designing process.

The awareness of your company culture and how it links to your office design goes beyond employee perception. You likely will have customers and clients making their way into your office from time to time. When they enter the space, they want to experience your brand, your company culture from top to bottom. If you have a disconnect between the office design and the culture you push, there is a major problem there. Customers or clients may end up turning away from your product or service due to the impression the office space left on them. Do not let this happen to you!

Tenant Improvement Allowance Negotiations: What You Need To Know

Gym’s offer free trial memberships in order to entice new patrons. Beer companies offer free t-shirts or hats as a way to sweeten the deal when buying a case of their product. We all appreciate a good old fashioned consumer incentive, don’t we? Landlords also offer incentives along the same lines in order to attract prospective tenants to fill vacant office spaces, and navigating these negotiations is a hugely important aspect of lease agreements.

The most coveted landlord incentive is the tenant improvement (TI) allowance — an agreed upon amount the landlord is willing to pay for to renovate or retrofit the space for a tenants specific needs. Typically, TI agreements are inked with per-square-foot parameters, or alternatively, a lump sum amount – but key to understanding this incentive is knowing it’s decided during lease negotiations.

Lease negotiations often include talks about who ultimately gets to decide on a final design, who does the work, and who pays for it all; in this post, we’re looking at what you need to know about tenant improvement allowance negotiations.

 

Your Goals as a Tenant

Tenants negotiating a new lease agreement for an office space would much rather have the space fitted to their needs, without having to pay out of pocket to make the changes. Tenants negotiating their improvement allowance terms should be prepared to fight for two specific aspects of the deal:

  • Get an allowance large enough to cover the improvements you deem necessary to your business.
  • Maintain a high degree of control over the build-out process, including who does the work, and the final design.

These goals should determine the scope of your discussions with your prospective landlord, and you should expect to discuss in detail, how you’ll achieve this agreement, which will probably be structured in one of two ways.

A turn-key build-out is when the landlord agrees to cover all the costs of a tenant build-out project as part of the agreed upon lease arrangement. This style of deal sometimes means the scope of construction is agreed to, but how it comes to fruition may not be under the control of the tenant. Simple, but sometimes not  specific of prompt as envisioned.

Next is a stated dollar amount wherein the landlord will agree to provide a stated dollar amount for the prospective tenant group to use towards building out the space for their needs. This can mean construction costs, architectural, or engineering fees, resulting in the tenant remaining in control of the build-out process, knowing full well their budget, and the contractors and groups doing the work.

Both ideas have their merits, but like any deal, it’s all about educating yourself and finding ways to benefit from your negotiation skills.

 

Issues with Turn-Key Agreements

In short, with turn-key agreements, a landlord may agree to a set amount of money from which to complete a build-out, and then incorporate a level of contingency costs to prevent the real-life costs of the project from exceeding the estimate. What does that mean in plain english? Some landlords are notorious for cutting corners when given the green light on turnkey agreements in an effort to save their out-of-pocket expenses.

Let’s imagine you agree to a $30/square foot estimate with your landlord for a turn-key tenant improvement allowance deal. If the landlord is able to finish the space and only spend $20/square foot, they’ll eagerly accept that price, and deliver a turn-key space that is effectively worth $10 less per square foot, negatively affecting the tenant who thinks they’re benefiting from a $30/square foot renovation. The landlord spends less, negotiates a higher rent number to compensate for their spending, and effectively double dips and profits from this arrangement.

Secondarily, the nature of the turnkey arrangement is, the tenant forfeits control of the build-out process, leaving the hiring, design, and construction of the renovation solely in the hands of the landlord.

Pro Tip: head to the negotiation table with an extensively researched and documented work letter, detailing a specific set of construction plans so you know what you’re getting for the agreed upon price. Without these plans, what you see is often what you’ll get for your negotiation efforts.

 

Maintaining Control

Negotiating a stated amount deal is key to tenants maintaining control of the build-out process. With a stated amount deal, tenants may be able to negotiate the right to retain their own project manager and ultimately oversee the design and build phase of the renovations or remodelling.

Objectively, this is all about shifting control from the landlord to the tenant to ensure quality control over the process, as well as to prevent or intervene during any potential time setbacks to prevent holdover rent/lease fees.

If negotiated properly, a stated amount deal also guarantees the tenant group is able to proactively negotiate and select a contractor group that gets them the best value for the dollar amount agreed to in the terms of the tenant improvement allowance agreement. This guarantees any savings directly benefit the tenant, not the landlord.

 

Special Considerations

Amortization

It’s not necessary, but it’s always wise to negotiate the right to amortize new tenant improvement allowance dollars into the agreed upon monthly rent so you may add potential improvements down the road, should you need them.

Amount

Negotiating will be easier, and more effective if you know the scope of your desired build-out specifics  ahead of time. Bring with you an accurate price estimate for what you’re after so you can negotiate a fair stated amount deal, or an accurate turn-key budget that you collectively agree the tenant should co-manage.

Landlord Charges

During your negotiations, get in writing what overhead charges your landlord seeks to charge you as part of any tenant improvement allowance deals. Landlords will charge ‘administrative’ fees for tenant improvement work to lessen the amount of money they need to spend on actual improvements, ultimately becoming a source of revenue for them.

Find out what fees and charges the landlord seeks to charge before agreeing to any deal, and consult a real estate broker or neighbouring tenants to make sure they’re sticking to local customs and norms.

 

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It’s easy to sit down at the negotiation table with visions of tenant world-domination on your mind. There’s an element of perceived power we associate with negotiating the best deal possible, and it’s important for any prospective tenant to consider – but it’s not always necessary.

Should your build-out entail a few minor walls being moved, a new floor, and a fresh coat of paint, it’s not that important the tenant group maintain total control over the job; it’s simple enough that it doesn’t matter too much how the work gets done, as long as it serves your business well. It’s when a build-out means structural changes, architectural considerations, and custom renovation features that control should be harshly fought for by the tenants.

Any way you spin it, maintaining control over your improvement allowance deals allows tenants to maximize the value of their deal, and minimize potential hiccups of interruptions in the future.

The Economics of Ergonomics: Selecting the Right Office Furniture

Every company has a goal of supporting its workforce. The support comes in the form of paying salary and benefits to employees, giving them office space, and even making sure their specific workspace meets their needs. Ergonomics often get a rush job when talking about office design space planning. You get companies that spend months designing an office, only to make a decision on office furniture in a day or two with minimal research and thought. Great office design is only as good as its furniture.

When you design an office, you need the full vision in mind. You have to understand how the design of the office will flow with furniture, with lighting, storage, etc. Without having the details in-between the book covers, you may end up with an empty space, one that does not fulfill its mission. Aura Office Environments combats that with the design-centric customer journey. Putting ergonomics front of mind can help you increase productivity and make the spend worth every cent.

 

Understanding Ergonomics

To do ergonomics right, you need to understand the concept. Ergonomics is one of the most misunderstood terms in office design space planning. Ergonomics is all about designing or arranging a workspace, inclusive of any system and products necessary, to meet the needs of each individual.

An easy example of poor ergonomics is a chair that does not adjust up or down. If you have a tall or short employee, the lack of adjustment of the chair will harm their comfort level. The chair may work great for one height of a person, but we are all different and unique. You need to think through an ergonomics approach so each employee is comfortable and effective.

 

How They Can Impact the Workplace

Ergonomics has a huge impact on the workplace via a variety of categories. Safety is top of mind, as well as comfort, and productivity. Diving deep into these three areas, you will see right it is pivotal to choose furniture that meets employee needs.

Employees should be safe when they are at work. If you do not have proper furniture for employees, though, safety may be at risk. The adjustable chair example is a prime one where you need that for employees of a variety of heights. You can run into back injuries and a slew of other issues when employees cannot adjust how they sit. If your office space involves some manufacturing and such as well, having segregation from that area with furniture can help to avoid accidents.

  1. Comfort – Every employee wants to work in a different way. You need to have furniture that helps employees be comfortable at work. Having proper desk spaces that allow for sitting and standing is a given. It is when you think outside of the box that you can do awesome things with furniture and ergonomics. Employees may use a combination of quality, comfortable furniture and new technology to drive collaboration at meetings. Having a few couches available for folks to sit back and unwind for a bit can help productivity, engagement from individuals.

No one wants to sit in their cubicle at work for hours on end every day. The employees want variety and they want different types of furniture where they can get a different view every now and then. The role of comfort is all about engagement and productivity and it can work.

  1. Productivity – There is no denying that you can increase productivity in the workplace with ergonomics. The economics of ergonomics title is all about using ergonomics as a way to increase the profitability of the business. How does this work exactly? Take two employees that do the same exact job. The first employee is stuck in a cubicle all day long in a chair they cannot adjust, with one single monitor they work on, in a weather noisy environment. The second employee has options of where they can work, with couches, chairs, their standard cube space. The second employee has two or three monitors available to them at any given time, in a quiet environment more suitable for focus, collaboration, and analysis. Which of the two employees is going to have a more productive day?

Studies showcase the economics of ergonomics as well. According to one such study done, a fast food provider made a decision to resign workstations to include the dimensions of the human body. The height and such were all taken into account. When the fast food provider did this redesign, they found that change drove a 20% increase in productivity. A steel company went through with a redesign of an observation pit. The reduction in waste and increase in productivity led to a savings of $150,000 in the first year alone.

 

Having Flexibility in the Design

There is no one size fits all when it comes to ergonomics. It is all about having a concept in mind when it comes to space planning. You want to have a general idea of the furniture you will choose, knowing that each piece has to encompass flexibility. No employees are of the same size; you do not hire robots! Every individual has their own needs and ergonomics help ensure those needs get met every day.

Ergonomics can help in the profitability space of each business. Having proper space planning can allow for employee positivity, safety, comfort, and engagement to all skyrocket. Work with the team at Aura to go through the space planning, design process. Ensure that furniture is top of mind so that ergonomic goals and associated benefits all get realization.