Creating Flexible Workspaces for Varying Workstyles and Social Distancing

Andrea Shook
As organizations prepare for employees to return to the workplace, many are faced with new space limitations and configurations after weeks of social distancing.

From site selection, to repurposing current space, to reevaluating the floorplate for your staff’s wellbeing, engaging a consultant early on ensures you have the right strategy and approach and maximizes your budget.

Faithful+Gould, a member of the SNC-Lavalin group, offers workplace consulting and project and cost management solutions and applied these to a recent office fitout in Atlanta, Georgia. This office expansion was a pilot implementation of a new SNC-Lavalin Americas design standard which was developed as a result of a recent merger. The design accommodated the work styles of five different organizations within the company’s real estate portfolio. The Atlanta office accommodated three of the five organizations under one roof.

Using a standardized kit of parts involving an assortment of furniture configurations, the new space supports a variety of work styles, using a design that not only aligns with the parent company’s workplace strategy, but also with that of their global counterparts.

As a global engineering, design and project management company, we aimed to provide the same positive workplace experience in the United States as other regions throughout the world.

This project consolidated suites on three non-contiguous floors to nearly two full contiguous floors. The previous design standard consisted of seven-and-a-half-foot by seven-and-a-half-foot low-wall cubicles with an eight-inch top glass panel yielding 58-inch-high cubicle walls.

The new rollout incorporated a benching system, offering a range of desk sizes all six-feet wide, with 50- inch-high front fabric privacy panels. The benching system introduced a modular kit of parts with varying return sizes and mobile tables that flex to support the various workstyles of staff—from nomadic touchdown desks to extended workstations that support full-size plan layouts. While this project was completed pre-COVID-19, these desk configurations with the six-foot width and privacy panels remain within CDC guidelines.

In addition, the new standard also introduced more natural light, quiet rooms, a wider variety of technology-enabled collaborative spaces and it raised the dual monitors off the work surfaces onto ergonomically adjustable monitor arms.

The pantry area was transformed into a work café, with plug-in capabilities for staff to use throughout the day as an alternative work space, which now can be used to further support social distancing efforts.

Lastly, we incorporated an overall color palette that aligns with SNC-Lavalin’s global branding guidelines and accommodates the three organizations within the SNC-Lavalin Group, that are currently located in the space.

The new 20,000-square-foot floor size provides 99 workstations and 16 offices, allowing the company to:

  • Increase workstation capacity by 41%, while only increasing the space by 32%
  • Provide a better variety of collaboration areas for employees;
  • Improve plug-and-play technology offerings to encourage mobility about the space;
  • Create a virtual reality zone to demonstrate innovative technology solutions to clients;
  • Achieve increased employee productivity and well-being

As part of the continuous improvement model, staff on both floors participated in a survey one hundred days after moving in. The results showed a self-reported positive improvement in productivity, workplace functionality, employee experience and well-being. Capturing this valuable employee feedback allows SNC-Lavalin to recognize intangible design benefits and provides insight for future iterations of new design standards.

The survey revealed that we delivered multifaceted, positive business results by consolidating real estate and providing an improved workplace environment for our engineering, design and project management staff at a project cost below the industry benchmark. Specializing in cost estimating and utilizing a cost intelligence database of construction projects all over the world, we kept a keen eye on leaner construction costs. Ultimately our efforts resulted in buildout costs that were 50 percent lower than similar fitouts listed in the cost intelligence database. The reduced fitout cost was a result of a thorough understanding of the condition of the space, minimizing necessary re-work on the new floorplate, and carefully choosing materials.

As Georgia is one of the first states easing COVID-19 restrictions, we have engaged our corporate Crisis Task Force and are working closely with the building landlord and office managers to prepare for staff to return to the Atlanta office. We are also developing a set of standard operating procedures for office re-entry as we help guide approximately 100 offices across the United States through a safe re-opening in accordance with each jurisdiction’s governmental guidance.

Clients can consider engaging Faithul+Gould’s workplace consulting group for similar advisory services. Our team will study your space and provide the data to help you make the best decisions for this changing office landscape. Focusing on space optimization, we will maximize your space, maintain social distancing guidelines and keep employee wellbeing a top priority.

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