Workplace Design and Strategy
June 6th, 2017

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Coordinating an office renovation project of a working office is a huge undertaking even under normal circumstances. Add on the urgency of protecting employee health and well-being, and there are many important things to consider.

If you're feeling stressed out by your office renovation, we're here to help. 

In this post, we’ll outline the key items that should be on your checklist so you have a successful office remodel and keep everyone happy before, during, and after it's over.

Office Renovation Best Practices

1. Ask the bottom-line questions first

You've realized you'll have to make some changes to follow physical distancing guidelines. Now it's time to ask yourself some questions.

Is a renovation the best option? Are we 100% certain that our needs won't change after the pandemic? Is our timing right?  What are the goals and objectives behind this office renovation idea? Are there any barriers, physical or financial, to completing a successful renovation?

You can only determine if you're ready for an office renovation once you've considered these type of questions. 

If you've taken upfront care and the decision to remodel the office serves a purpose —such as accommodating physical distancing guidelines, supporting flexibility in how people work, or addressing the change in work-related operations — then you could be ready to navigate the challenge of space planning for a post-pandemic workplace.

2. Investigate the current building and surrounding neighborhood

Take the time to examine your current space in person as well as ask the building’s owner for architectural and engineering documents to see exactly what you’re working with. Are there any building strengths you should capitalize on? Are there features worth saving?

Use the building drawings as a guide, but also have your design team do a walkthrough of the area to assess and double-check accuracy. If you're accurate now, you'll have fewer surprises and construction costs during the renovation.

And don’t forget about the outside. Does your office renovation need indoor and outdoor updates? Are there any office or building amenities that would be important today that weren’t put in place when the building was first built?

Research has found that workplace design has a significant impact on attracting and retaining employees, and physical space is a clear indicator of prospects if a workplace is good or bad. And in the current accelerated digital transformation, employees have access to leading technology and they'll expect the same experience when they return to the office. So do your homework to figure out what your office needs to appeal to current and future employees.

Today’s workforce likes being mobile, but their biggest concern is safety. McKinsey & Company's recent survey showed that minimizing physical contact is the top goal for return strategies.

3. Craft a renovation strategy

If you don’t create a well-thought-out strategy, you won’t get the best return on your investment of new and improved office space.

The first part of a good strategy lays out the estimated renovation budget. Add up the costs of construction, needed materials, new furniture, labor, etc., and make sure to leave some wiggle room as surprise costs almost always pop up. Next on the office renovation checklist is what you’ll do with employees during the renovation. Do you have vacant areas or swing spaces you can put them in? If not, you’ll need to find some. In terms of office renovation design, keep in mind the current number of employees, future growth, technology, functionality, how employees prefer to work and office design trends.

Have your design team and general contractor work together to decide the best timeline and plan of action for a smooth renovation project. A team effort and the right strategy will also reduce your risk racking up unanticipated costs.

4. Keep communication open with those who should be involved

The people who need to be involved include the design team, general contractor, landlord, stakeholders, and office staff. We recommend creating a detailed communication plan to keep everyone up-to-date on plans and the work schedule, as well as managing staff expectations.

In terms of keeping communication open, have the design team or HR personnel send out a copy of the proposed work schedule to everyone, and regularly update any date changes that occur. You should then hold a meeting where plans can be discussed and shown to communicate the vision of the renovation plan and eliminate any concerns. It’s also a good idea to let your employees get involved with the renovation before construction starts. Ask them what design ideas they have or would like to see implemented.

Once construction is underway, give staff periodic tours and updates so they’re kept in the loop and feel appreciated. Feeling appreciated during this difficult time can make a huge difference.

5. Maintain good productivity levels

Part of your reasoning behind an office remodel might be to improve workplace productivity. But keep in mind that during a renovation, employee productivity is impacted. In some cases, it can severely drop — unless you take care of a few things.

Plan ahead and keep productivity levels high throughout the renovation project by keeping clutter to a minimum, keeping communication open, and maintaining the right lighting and noise levels. Make sure windows aren’t covered and artificial lighting is available to provide enough energy and boost the moods for productive employees.

Try to help counter construction noises by giving your employees noise-canceling headphones, scheduling contractors to work in the late afternoon/evening hours when employees are gone, or delaying the return to the office until construction is complete.

6. Inform and train employees on their new accommodations

Perhaps the most important factor in your office renovation success is the happiness of your employees and how comfortable they are operating in their new digs. The renovation should have created spaces that better accommodate how your employees work.

However, you can’t just create the space,  throw them into it and expect productivity, inspiration, and revenue to spike in one day. Employees need a little time to get used to the changes, just like people do with any kind of life change. They’ll also need to be informed and trained on the new space and technology that’s now available to them.

Have supervisors give tours through the new space to those they oversee and train employees on new technology. If there are too many employees and not enough IT personnel (or time), provide video trainings employees can work through on their own time.

In 2017, we worked with Box to create this training video for their employees so they could visually learn how to use our software when it was rolled out in their new building. The video allowed their employees to hear and see how they could use Teem’s features. Each employee could then train themselves at their own pace and at their most convenient time.

In the post-pandemic era, real estate leaders have to reimagine office space and find new ways to meet the evolving needs of the workforce. 

To design the future, start with understanding how you can support the workplace — and your workforce — now. If you plan to reconfigure your space, consider using move management software to streamline the process.

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