A project management firm's advice for an effective open-office strategy

A Project Management Firm's Advice for an effective open-office strategy

Photo courtesy and used with permission by One Workplace

Successful workplaces to harmonize productivity and collaboration

The open-plan office continues to be popular for companies seeking a leaner, more mobile work environment. At the same time, critics cite excessive noise levels and lack of privacy as major concerns for open-plan spaces.

But a new report suggests that successful open-plan offices are all about thoughtful design. In other words, planning every last square foot matters, and companies who want happy, productive employees should think carefully about how their employees will best use the space.

Along with her design team, Stephanie Hamilton, a Senior Project Manager at The Bridge Group, recently completed an open-plan office design for a Silicon Valley medical services company. Here, she shares a few ideas that enable collaboration, concentration, and privacy.

1. Work Lounges

Sit-down work lounges can help organizations optimize their real estate by delivering a high-performance workspace in a more compact footprint.

Place work lounges in your office's perimeter to offer heads-down work without interruption.

The design team suggested Steelcase’s Brody WorkLounge seating solution, which provides more privacy in open layouts and incorporates ergonomics for the user into its overall design. However, a Herman Miller product was implemented for the client instead. The team arranged these lounges around the office window’s perimeter so employees could enjoy outdoor views, designate heads-down space and truly focus on their work without interruption.

Consider placing similar solutions around window areas to embrace biophilic design and bring a sense of privacy to employees.


2. Huddle Rooms

During Stephanie’s project, the client’s HR and engineering departments expressed a need for heads-down work, privacy, and the ability to take video conferencing calls in the same space.

Huddle rooms, which hold between two to four people and incorporate video conferencing technology, provided the ideal solution. This setup was especially important for HR, who needed additional privacy frequently to talk about confidential matters.

We recommend introducing a reservation system for these rooms so that employees can sign up in advance to use the video features. Since these spaces are also ideal for holding interviews, consider placing a couple near reception and a few in the middle of an office’s floor plan.

3. Benching Solutions

For benching solutions, the client needed something as modular as possible to fit many different teams, individuals, working styles, and tasks.

Stephanie and her design team recommended Herman Miller’s Canvas Channel workstations for their needs. It's a freestanding structure with height-adjustable desks and clean, simple boundaries between workstations. They also proposed and implemented mobile whiteboards and automated panels to configure workstations around the office.

For your own workspace, consider the different working styles at your company and how these modular benching solutions can accommodate those needs.

4. Phone Booths

One-man phone booths were another invaluable addition to the client’s office when it came to addressing privacy needs. The single phone booths, also from Herman Miller, provided a place for all of the client’s employees to step away from the noise to make private phone calls.

Some offices require larger solutions than a one-person booth can provide. In this case, similar solutions such as One Workplace’s Architectural Solutions, integrate acoustics, air circulation, removable roof panels, and lighting and power sockets into pod-like spaces around the office.

Companies planning open offices should consider some of these options for their designs. And since there are more products and solutions on the market than any Facility Manager could possibly sift through, it can help the process along to have an experienced PM assist you.

Ready to start designing your open office workplace but need guidance on privacy and collaborative work solutions? Reach out today for solutions tailored to your company’s needs.

How to spark inspiration, not fear, about moving to an open-plan office

How to spark inspiration, not fear, about moving to an open-plan office

Photo courtesy and used with permission by One Workplace

Successful change management starts with making everyone feel involved in the process

A growing number of office and facilities managers are tasked with getting employees on board and excited at the idea of moving to an open-plan office. That’s no small feat in a world where people love to point out the distractions, noise, and lack of privacy often associated with these spaces.

The good news: open-plan offices have many benefits, and moving to one doesn’t necessarily mean the death of productivity for your employees. If you are in the process of trying to convince your company to transition to one, here are a few steps to keep in mind:

Turn change into a chance to collaborate

Most people fear any kind of change, especially when it comes to the way they work. Rather than dismissing employees’ concerns about noise or privacy,  turn those fears into an opportunity to use one of the key benefits of open-plan offices: collaboration.

The Gensler U.S. Workplace Survey 2019 found that team building and collaboration are ranked highest in terms of what people think will build a great workspace experience. And you can manipulate your space to enable that kind of group-focused setting.

At The Bridge Group, we recently worked with a medical services client who was able to foster healthy collaboration in an open-office setting. We transitioned them from high-walled cubicles to an open layout coupled with private spaces. At the same time, the company designated what kinds of meetings warranted those closed spaces. If the group was only two to three people, the meeting was to be held out on the floorplan. For more formal meetings that included more people, where sensitive information was being discussed, the project manager proposed “team rooms” that could accommodate up to six people. These were equipped with writable walls and interactive displays.

Highlight the middle ground between “open” and “closed”

The medical company’s approach highlights another important aspect of the open office, and one the Gensler survey detailed at length: most workers don’t want a totally open or closed setting. In the survey, 77% of respondents “consider environments that fall between these two extremes to be ideal.”

As the infographic below shows, that middle ground includes desks with low panels around them for partial privacy, shared offices, where smaller teams of three to six people sit in a space together, and on-demand private space when it’s needed, like soundproof phone rooms and meeting areas.

The survey notes: “Environments that are mostly open environments but provide ample on-demand private space have both the highest effectiveness and the highest experience scores.”

Tour a working open office

For some teams, understanding what this middle-ground entails is best illustrated by taking people to an actual office that’s implemented these tactics and running a successful version of the open office. If you’re finding a lot of pushback from employees in your discussions,

The Bridge Group can find an office that’s willing to show its workspace and take your employees, so they can experience a working space first-hand. That way they’ll get a better understanding of how open-offices function in real life.

Give employees a say in their own space

That “hands-on” approach to winning employees over can work inside your existing office, too. Create a mockup of the new office space people can actually visit, bring their laptops to, and hold meetings in. Give them some time to try working in this space, and be sure to include the chance for them to offer feedback (via surveys, for example).

While the buck may stop at you for many of the final decisions, giving your employees this kind of involvement helps them feel they’re part of the decision-making process and not just having change thrust upon them. The more you can do to help employees of multi-generations envision their team collaborating in an open setting, the more likely they’ll embrace the transition process with open arms and forget their initial hesitation.

Learn more about what it takes to transition and design your custom open office workplace by contacting us today. Stay tuned for our next blog, which will explore the open-open office plan from the eyes of a construction project manager with expertise in actual layout strategies.


The five-minute guide to 5-star client service

The Five-Minute Guide to 5-Star Client Service

Strategies to improve your client service

Five-star service can mean many things to different people. For some, it’s providing the right information at the right time. For others, it’s the philosophy of “service with a smile,” which means never letting your teammates or clients see how tough a challenge really is.

My approach to client management has been gradually refined by the many diverse projects I’ve worked on over my 20 years in the industry. However, several key strategies have led to satisfied clients no matter who I’m working with or what I’m working on.

If you’re trying to keep clients happy and your team working together despite mounting challenges, you need these four strategies in your toolbox.

  1. Make big things seem small
    Don’t let new challenges or tasks overwhelm you. A bigger task or challenge is simply a series of small, deliberate steps. By breaking it down, you’re able to plan each one out in smaller increments and demonstrate to your clients how you can achieve it.
  2. Keep chaos behind the curtain
    Imagine yourself behind the security of a kitchen wall while preparing a high-end meal for a table of VIP guests. Everything must be prepared flawlessly, arrive at the perfect temperature, uphold your restaurant’s commitment to excellence and delight the customer. No diner wants to see the chaos that’s involved in the creation of their meal. Make sure clients only see the finished product, or a polished work in progress, and not all the long email chains nor unexpected challenges that were necessary to produce it. If something important goes south, let the client know as soon as you can while offering an alternative plan of action to accomplish the original goal.
  3. Adapt to your conditions
    The serving line at a five-star restaurant keeps working no matter what happens. When I bring on new team members or introduce new processes, I always remind everyone about the value of being adaptable. No matter how well prepared you are, you will run across people not pulling their weight, products not arriving on time, difficult personalities and milestones not going as planned. The only thing you can control is how you react.
  4. Listen to the client
    Listening with an empathetic ear can smooth over even the toughest situations. Instead of imposing your expectations on the client, listen and observe what they truly want and deliver on those expectations. You may like your steak cooked a certain way, but the client may request chicken. Deliver what they are paying you for: your expertise, ability to make things run smoothly and passion for top-notch service.

I’ve used these four strategies to create better than expected results, which consistently leads delighted clients and teams that function calmly and efficiently. By cultivating adaptable team members with a willingness to listen, you create an environment where positive things happen, challenges are overcome, and problems are fixed without the client being involved in the day-to-day work. When you produce quality work and deliver the best service, your entire team is bound to reap the rewards of a strong client relationship.

What strategies do you use to impress clients? We’d love to hear them.

vendor management, vendor relationships, successful project

6 tips to improve your vendor relationships

Six Tips for Improving Your Vendor Relationships

Vendors are a critical part of every project’s success. Here’s how to keep them happy.

By Stephanie Hamilton, Senior Project Manager

Every project manager has a story about a time a project unexpectedly went sideways after an unforeseeable delay.

My story involves a large multi-floor high rise project that was on schedule until a delivery of key lighting components landed on back order. We were under the gun to meet landlord leasing terms, deliver the project on time and on budget while keeping this difficult client happy.

To stay on track, I asked the team “What can we do to work around this challenge?” This question launched us into a discussion that ultimately landed on a solution that left everyone satisfied.

Here are six things every project manager can start doing today to help your team, vendors included, work together through your next difficult problem.

  1. Value their time
    We all lead busy lives and have lengthy to-do lists. When you hold a meeting with your vendors, make sure it is productive, on time and to task. Don’t be afraid to speak up, reel in the chatter and get back on track. When you respect your vendor’s time, they are more likely to respect yours.
  2. Keep them informed
    Make sure your team is kept up to date on schedule changes, product delays and overall scope definition. When you hoard information, you prevent your vendors from performing to their fullest, delivering on time and feeling like part of the team.
  3. Ask for opinions
    When I start up a new team, I always ask the same simple question to encourage vendors to share their knowledge: What do you think? Getting to know everyone’s opinion makes the team stronger, the project more successful, and leaves the vendor feeling like they made a strong contribution.
  4. Bring in the most outspoken person last
    There is always one person in the room that is more eager to give their opinion. Try waiting until there is one minute left in the meeting before you ask for their feedback so other people can get a word in. This will also encourage them to present their input in a condensed, concise fashion.
  5. Ask about challenges, not issues
    Instead of asking what issues vendors are having, try digging into the challenges they’re encountering. For example, a vendor might volunteer that they’re having a challenge with product delivery, and suggest changing manufacturers. By turning this thought process around, it gives the team an opportunity to develop a plan and quickly execute it.
  6. Treat those around you like you would like to be treated
    Remember that people are people, not titles. When you build teams, think about how to create a cohesive group instead of focusing on the organizational hierarchy. From the COO to the delivery truck driver, always remain friendly, courteous and professional. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they had for lunch or how their daughter’s graduation went. You might be surprised how simple questions grow relationships.

When our lighting components were delayed, I depended on the resources and ingenuity of our team of vendors to come up with a way to keep the project on schedule.

Working as a team, we looked at all angels of escalating the delivery of the product and different ways of managing the manufacturer.  Unfortunately, this path was too costly and would take too much time to obtain.

But then a non-lighting team member suggested we look at a different manufacturer with a similar product. That supplier’s parts were local, less expensive and could be delivered ahead of schedule.  This simple suggestion ended up being a brilliant idea which kept us on track, saved money and adhered to the client’s high standards. And it all happened because I encouraged our team to think outside the box.

Without buy-in from your entire team, vendors included, meetings can stall, projects can flounder, and clients can become unhappy. By encouraging team members to speak their minds, offer solutions and not dwell on the impossible, you can come up with workable solutions for almost any type of problem.

How has your relationship with a vendor helped you lead a project to success? Share your story below.