Pilot furniture programs can go a long way towards decreasing uncertainty and increasing engagement.
As published in the Hauppauge Reporter
By Richard Neuman
Vice President & Long Island Market Lead
Project and Development Services
When considering new office furniture, accommodating each department’s unique requirements can make selecting the right furniture solution a challenging endeavor. Progressive new workspace environments have turned office design on its head, which is greatly impacting how employee’s function in their space.
Workplace design has developed into three styles:
Traditional: 20% enclosed hard wall offices, 80% open office with 8×8 workspaces and minimal benching.
Moderate: 5% enclosed hard wall offices, 95% open office with 6×6 workspaces and benching for visitors.
Progressive: No enclosed hard wall offices, 100% open office with 100% assigned benching workspaces and benching for visitors.
You’ve heard the catch phrases such as “open plan,” “collaborative workspaces,” “benching,” “sit/stand,” social and meeting spaces connected by “avenues” and “boulevards.” And most of these styles translate into less workspace per employee.
Besides the shrinking workstation, firms are now game-changing by switching to the “wireless workstation,” meaning no Electric or Ethernet. Employees now grab a long-term battery powerpack from a central power station, walk to an unassigned workspace and plug in the existing monitor, the sit-stand desk, and their laptop. At the end of the day, they disconnect the battery and return the pack to the central charging station.
With an emphasis on progressive open environments, employers are facing greater challenges to sell changing workstyles concepts to their staff and gain employee buy-in due to concerns surrounding privacy and noise levels.
According to Emily Strain, Workplace Strategy Leader at Corgan, a national architectural and design firm, “Previously, our clients were conducting temporary furniture mockups to understand options, aesthetics, and quality of various manufacturers. In a pilot space, which can last several months rather than weeks, the goal is to prototype several solutions, allowing employees to relocate to the space semi-permanently. Feedback is gathered to understand the impact on workflow and culture.”
Creating a pilot space for a client can cause several things to happen. First, it creates employee engagement. As companies embark on drastic workplace change, soliciting feedback from employees can go a long way. At a minimum, seeing and interacting with the furniture up close dispels inaccurate rumors and gives employees a basis for reality.
According to Strain, prototyping a new work environment can spur behavior change. “For clients who are actively seeking to change the way their employees work, pilot spaces can be a relatively inexpensive way to test out new ways of working. Increasing collaboration and spurring innovation are top of mind for most corporations.”
The furniture in your work environment, if done incorrectly, can be a hindrance to these goals. Prototyping creates an opportunity to tweak the workplace strategy, aligning it with the company’s work processes and culture, before making a large financial investment.
Strain adds, “A pilot space gives clients the peace of mind to test drive before they buy. For companies making a large investment in furniture, they want to make sure the product is durable and functional.”
Ideal candidates for furniture piloting have a few things in common. First, they are looking to undergo a workplace transformation, creating an environment significantly different from their current one. Second, they have adequate time in their construction schedule to design, order, install and gather feedback from employees. Last of all, they should be comfortable with disruption. Piloting a space is messy, as employees are displaced and disrupted. However, innovative solutions are often born from discomfort.
If an employer is willing to put in the time, energy and financial investment to complete a pilot, it can go a long way towards decreasing uncertainty and increasing engagement.