By Katie Boothroyd
Recently, DEGW has heard from two Federal Agencies that we’ve worked with on strategic requirements development over a year ago; they are finally ready to implement an approach similar to the ideas regarding better space efficiency and utilization, more collaboration space and desk sharing we initially recommended.  With the falling economy and greater pressure to do something different with the workplace, Federal Agencies and private organizations, like our client Microsoft, are reconsidering more progressive and innovative workplace strategies. We’re excited that they are going to make a bigger change, but why didn’t they choose the more progressive solution in the first place? And how can we get organizations to see that they don’t need a mandate or a massive slash in funding to do something good for their people and good for the environment?  Show them it’s been done before and let them test it out.

You probably wouldn’t be comfortable buying a house without walking through it first or buy a car without test driving it.  Organizations should “test drive” workplace environments and here are some ways I’ve recently seen it done with success:

  •  Workplace Tours are a great way to see (and maybe even hear about) what recommendations have worked for other companies, such as unique furniture, space types or protocols.  Tours allow people to see options, see how all the pieces of the workplace fit together (e.g. various space types) and how people actually use those spaces.  Effective tours are guided by someone who is familiar with the user group, knows details of the space and why it was designed in a specific way.
  • Furniture Mock ups are small samples to see how new furniture will look and function.  Many small mock ups are great to compare options and make changes before purchasing.  GSA is working on getting many mockups for a Workplace Living Lab to see what to put on their furniture schedule.
  • Clients that have piloted space and concepts have found it to be helpful with change management  and easier to implement to the larger organization. Small groups “test driving” furniture and new space policies helps to ease the nervousness of bigger change because the similar group either had success or made the necessary updates to make it successful.
  • A very low cost and fast way to test a new workplace concept is to just move around what you already have. Break down some panels, move furniture and get your hands (minimally) dirty. Here in DEGW’s San Francisco office, we were toying with the idea of creating new zones and figuring out what furniture would support work activities. We used about 30 minutes of one weekly meeting to just shift furniture around. With a few adjustments we eventually came up with a workable plan.

Organizations making a big change need to feel confident in their decisions when making big changes that have big dollar signs. Providing opportunities to see it’s been done before, testing options and learning from others is very valuable. In the end, some mistakes might need to be made in order to get it right.