CREW Network – News You Can Use – June

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Shift Happens… in Alberta!

062612_umbach.jpgBy Kathy Johnston Umbach
Senior Associate, Interior Designer
Stantec Architecture Ltd.
Edmonton CREW

A Saskatchewan transplant married a local Edmontonian and raising two boys, 16 and 12, Kathy is a passionate traveler and closet entrepreneur working undercover in a large corporation. She has been a practicing Interior Designer for over 27 years. In 2006, her son led her to Youtube and she has never looked back. “Shift Happens” has reframed her thoughts. Jan Jehl has solidified her view that a humanistic perspective is the only way to solve todays’ business challenges. Kathy is a radical thinker busily connecting the dots for her clients to help them make sense of the choices facing them by interpreting what she sees from other early adopters of global trends. 

As providers of service it is important that we understand the drivers facing businesses in today’s economic climate. Businesses globally are responding to a convergence of forces affecting workplace design and thereby associated real estate requirements.

Stantec Architecture Ltd. recently partnered with MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta to create a LEED Silver space for their Administrative team above an existing parking garage. It is an exemplary project that addresses each of the drivers listed below. Within 60,000 square feet of contiguous space, we are able to accommodate 300 individuals in an 8′ x 8′ footprint, eight phone rooms, 13 small, seven medium, and three large enclosed meeting spaces, two open media centers, four open collaboration spaces, a staff cafe and visitor area as well as a plaza, which supports hoteling and guests with several lounges. These options have created a menu of settings that individuals can select to suit their needs in any given moment in their day. This supports a new culture for this team of co-operation, collaboration and community. Of note is the fact that no one person owns an office, but each has access to daylight and views. Behaviors are negotiated by their “Condo Board” to ensure neighbors are respectful of each other’s needs. The space contains showers to encourage an active lifestyle. A strong recycling program is in place supported by ceramic mug service for coffee. A strong communication plan was implemented to keep everyone in the loop throughout the project.
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Here are six drivers affecting how businesses determine space usage:

1. Globalization

The recent economic downturn illustrates how connected we are to businesses around the globe. New economic powers are being created and they act, think and do business differently. Communications are held across multiple time zones and increasingly are using webcast and videoconferencing tools to bridge the gap of distance. This allows us to tap global pools of talent to bridge local shortages, but demands high technology spaces in satellite locations.

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2. Technology

Technology has allowed us to work any time, any place; redefining what work place means. Wireless access is almost implied in a new corporate culture. Cloud technologies are emerging for knowledge sharing and learning. But is the business world ready to receive employees with newer and more advanced techno-gadgets than a corporate standard supports? The need for information protection and security must be balanced with the desire for innovation and collaboration.

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3. Work/life balance

As a partner to work/life balance, employers are looking at flexible work arrangements including working from home, from a satellite office or in shared work arrangements. International Facility Management Association’s recent publication on Distributed Work outlines several strategies and benefits to a real estate portfolio including hoteling, non-dedicated work space and touch-down settings. These models define resident and mobile workspace in new terms and impact an organization’s real estate bottom line.

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4. Diversity

Our pool of talent wears a different face. It is multi-generational, multicultural, less hierarchical and looking for flexibility in work style. Management is being replaced with mentorship. Enclosure is being tied less to status and based more on functional requirements. Communication styles have changed too. Social networking has redefined corporate communication strategies.

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5. Knowledge Transfer

Many individuals who make up our public sector work force are poised to retire at the age of 65. Many have already left the workforce. How are we transferring our knowledge to the generations poised to replace us? The younger generations are not satisfied with rote procedures. Instead, they are seeking to be engaged in their work, looking for mentorship and learning opportunities. If you don’t provide these opportunities, they will leave. This means traditional hierarchical organizational structures don’t work.

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So, if we can work anytime and anywhere, why come to an office at all?

Why, because no technology can replace human interaction and the spontaneous combustion of collective creativity. (Please see “Collaboration Rules,” Harvard Business Review, Vol. 83, No. 7, July/August 2005.)

A collaborative environment allows knowledge workers to guide, engage, and stimulate a team to evolve creative solutions aligned to your business needs. Individual heads-down workspace has been transformed. Alternative work solutions embrace a new vocabulary of open and closed environments in the form of project rooms, huddle rooms, meeting rooms and social spaces like cafes and lounges that breed innovation and productivity in a stimulating way supported by flexible technological solutions. LEED principles support prudent reuse of existing resources, incorporating new elements, supporting access to natural light, and promoting efficient control of building systems. Spaces are being created to be flexible and adaptable, modular and multi-use. In the past, our focus was on the individual and his or her individual needs. As problem solving has become more complex, a team of people is required to work together to define solutions. This has shifted our focus to spaces that support this collaborative problem solving. Instead of embedding enclosure in traditional “office” spaces, we are reallocating this space to create a menu of offerings that support team. It’s still a pie, it’s just sliced differently.

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