COMPONENTS OF A FLUID WORKPLACE
Facility management is all about change. And the job of a facility manager is to aﬀect it quickly with minimum disruption to the business environment. Business has to get done. People have to work. And the work of a facility manager — adjusting for facility change — has to be accomplished quickly, smoothly and with the least inconvenience as possible. Accommodating company growth and an evolving work culture are two of the most pressing changes facility managers deal with today. The good news is with proper planning and anticipation, both can be managed with one solution—building ﬂexibility and mobility into your facility.
MILLENNIALS ARE CHANGING THE WORK CULTURE
Millennials approach work diﬀerently than their baby boomer parents, and it impacts facility design.
According to a Gallup Study entitled “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” the primary career motivation for millennials is not a paycheck, but meaning — they want to work for organizations with a mission and purpose.
They resist the bureaucratic, corporate structure of their baby boomer parents and the corner oﬃces their boomer parents worked so hard to attain.
Rather than working for bosses who command them, they want coaches who develop their strengths. While they place a high value on work-life balance, it doesn’t necessarily mean less hours. Rather, they seek more ﬂexibility and freedom in when they work, as long as the work gets done.
Millennials are multi-taskers who have grown up with and fully embrace digital technology. They thrive on laptop computers, smart phones and social media and are likely to have all three going at once. This may (or may not) create chaos for the boomer, but it’s harmony for the millennial. One thing it does mean: more power supplies to meet multiple devices.
Millennials prefer collaboration, connection and community in their work life. Sit alone in an oﬃce all day? No, thank you. They’ll roam the grounds like nomads — stopping to work at a desk, lounge area, outdoor picnic table or coﬀee shop. Where boomers separate work and social life, millennials integrate them. So, creating a facility that incorporates both work and social components is something to keep in mind in regards to equipping, furnishing and renovating a facility.
RAPID COMPANY GROWTH MEANS FREQUENT FACILITY CHANGE
Company growth is the goal of every business, and for facility managers it means job security as occupants are the lifeblood of a facility. However, a company’s sudden hiring frenzy can cause a time of stressful hair pulling for
unprepared FMs. So, too, can the need to renovate to meet the needs of this evolving workforce.
If an organization wants to shift to an open oﬃce concept, where will everyone be housed? Frequently, this means shuﬄing around the ﬂoor plan, adding work space and redirecting the ﬂow of power and data.
Fortunately, there are three solutions that can be built into a facility to create a ﬂexible work environment that meets the needs of the entire workforce. At the same time, they enable a quick and easy adjustment to rapid company growth.
Three eminent components of mobile design spaces are:
1. ACCESS FLOORING
In a corporate environment, technology can be a facility manager’s worst nightmare. Why? Because every new worker needs power and network connectivity, which means cabling.
In a traditional facility with permanent walls and ﬂooring, cabling is run over ceilings, down walls, through power poles or trenches cut through concrete ﬂooring. This can take the eﬀort of several of facility team members to accomplish.
Construction can be slow and unsightly. Everyone in the work space has to adjust, and productivity suﬀers. From a facility management perspective, constantly moving cabling and shifting equipment to add new people is usually not eﬃcient.
An alternative to traditional construction is raised access ﬂooring. This provides ﬂexibility for quickly changing technology and workforce needs. What would take days, if not weeks, for a team of 3 to 4 workers is now streamlined into a few hours for one or two people. Those one or two people can be members of existing staﬀ, not outside vendors hired at an additional cost. These factors are what make access ﬂooring so popular in an open oﬃce environment.
There are several types of access ﬂooring, and not all ﬂoors are the same. Post and panel raised ﬂoors are one option, but they’re not the most advanced type of ﬂooring on the market.
They usually require extra hardware to install, more time for assembly and provide less ﬂexibility for adapting to change.
A newer alternative is an adaptive cabling distribution ﬂooring system that lays over the existing subﬂoor and can be covered with traditional ﬂoor coverings. These systems typically come in 1.6-inch to 2.75-inch heights, so they don’t create a noticeably raised eﬀect.
How is a low proﬁle alternative diﬀerent than traditional options? The space under post and panel raised ﬂoors is open, so data and power cabling runs easily underneath, but they can become disorganized and messy. Newer adaptive cabling distribution ﬂooring systems have built-in channels that organize power and data cables beneath carpet tiles or traditional ﬂoor coverings. System components pop open for easy access to make changes. The solid, sound-dampened system looks and feels like a normal ﬂoor.
Since the adaptive system’s free-standing components don’t attach to or damage the building subﬂoor or walls, it can also be picked up and moved. So, an adaptive cable ﬂooring system allows for quick changing of cabling to accommodate the ﬂoorplan design as it changes, rather than forcing the ﬂoorplan to accommodate the location of existing power and data sources.
2. DEMOUNTABLE WALLS
Even in an open oﬃce geared toward millennial needs, a business still needs closed oﬃce space, including conference rooms for private conversations and meetings. However, these rooms do not have to be permanent — especially if the company is growing and frequent changes in the ﬂoorplan are needed.
Standard construction is a less expensive initial capital investment, compared to demountable walls. In fact, they may cost up to US$3.00 per square foot more than traditional construction. But, what if future reorganization means changing around the oﬃce space? Moving demountable walls will cost about 60 percent less than a rebuild. The savings will add up when making frequent changes. Don’t discount the mess and extra time involved, either. There’s dust, debris, fumes and drying time — not to mention added waste to landﬁlls.
Today’s corporate working trend is moving away from ﬁxed oﬃces to more open work environments that include a variety of private, semi-private and collaborative work areas. So, why get locked into a permanent, wall structured ﬂoorplan?
Demountable walls look like permanent structures, and provide needed privacy. However, they can easily be changed and reconﬁgured as needed. This solution works best when designing an open oﬃce environment built around ﬂexible spaces that include both social and collaborative work areas.
The level of sophistication in demountable walls continues to increase. They’re now available with built-in electrical, telecommunications and data distribution systems. There’s also a wide variety of aesthetic choices to accommodate diﬀerent design tastes and an obvious “green advantage” since demountable walls can be re-purposed multiple times.
3. MODULAR FURNITURE
The days of the big oak desk and large leather couches are gone. To meet millennial needs, think comfortable, portable and versatile. Chairs on wheels and smaller, lighter pieces of furniture work well in lounge areas that are arranged for a social encounter one minute and a spontaneous business meeting the next.
To accommodate ﬂexible schedules and working hours, many oﬃces oﬀer group collaborative desks, also called benching, to accommodate more people in less space. Some companies are even using a “hot desk” concept where there’s no assigned work space and employees can move from place to place during the day.
Other changes in furniture design follow from a trend toward wellness at work, including the beneﬁt to changing posture throughout the day. Desks that raise and lower to change from standing to sitting are increasingly being used by health-conscious employers. There are even smart desks with built-in apps that alert workers when it’s time to change posture.
Consider furnishings that can easily move into a variety of private, semi-private and collaborative work areas. Think: tasteful, comfortable, attractive and easily rearranged without looking out of place.
PIECING TOGETHER FOR PEACE OF MIND
Incorporating greater ﬂexibility and mobility into a facility by adding these three components — access ﬂooring, demountable walls and modular furniture — creates a facility that quickly adapts to growth and creates a work environment built for the next generation workforce. This creates a win-win that will add sanity and security to facility management.