MAC Of All Trades

MAC Of All Trades

By: Annie Kutsuris

MAC coordinators are the unsung heroes of the workplace, making transitions smooth for new and existing employees and supporting the overall goals of facilities teams. But what exactly is a MAC coordinator and how do they improve the workplace experience? MAC stands for moves, adds, and changes. These specialized move managers are often embedded at a client’s facility and are responsible for small to medium-sized moves within the office or campus, typically after-hours and over the weekend. They work closely with facilities teams, department heads, team leads, and dozens of external vendors to optimize space usage and minimize disruption to daily operations so employees can focus on their work. They are skilled at providing quick responses to complex projects and optimizing space usage. Let’s explore four of the services a MAC coordinator provides.

Elizabeth Cisneros
Sr. Project Manager

Meet the MAC team

What skills are needed to be successful in this role?

“Be extremely organized because the train does not stop!”

Tom Nguyen
MAC Coordinator

What’s the most important thing you do for your clients?

“[We] provide quick responses and fixes daily to optimize the space for employees.”​

On/off boarding

One of a MAC coordinator’s many jobs is the onboarding and offboarding of employees. When a new hire is made, the MAC coordinator assists in space and occupancy planning to locate or create the appropriate workspace for the employee, with consideration to accessibility needs, job function, remote work schedule, equipment, and furniture system needs. The inverse takes place when an employee is offboarded or has a significant job change. MAC coordinators work with warehouses, IT teams, furniture dealers, and movers to decommission workstations and to make room for larger moves and reconfigurations.

Vendor sourcing and management

Depending on the size of the organization and churn, there may or may not be preexisting contracts in place for vendors. When a new vendor is needed, MAC coordinators will develop and manage the RFP process and assist in vetting and making recommendations to the facilities team. The Bridge Group’s MAC team is skilled at writing RFPs and ensuring clients are covered. The MAC team coordinates with dozens of external vendors for every project, including electrical, data cabling, furniture, biophilia, moving, and audio visual, in addition to the internal IT, facilities, and leadership teams.

Facility management software

Computer-aided facility management (CAFM) is important for organizations with multiple locations or large campuses. This software tracks employee changes, allocation of physical and shared resources, space assignments, and more. Having an up-to-date record of all moves, adds and changes is critical to maintaining the efficiency of a facility’s operations. The Bridge Group’s MAC team is proficient in setting up and managing CAFM programs.

Trend forecasting

The Bridge Group’s MAC team manages an average of twelve moves every week, which gives them keen insight into the trends and needs of the modern workplace. They report their observations to client leadership to aid in strategy and budget planning. Some of the trends they’ve observed as a result of recent return to office requirements are increased demand for meeting spaces (i.e., conference rooms and meeting pods), flex desks, hoteling spaces, and hybrid spaces where employees have the flexibility to do either focused or collaborative work.

MAC coordinators provide tremendous value by executing smooth transitions for employees, developing solutions to workplace challenges, and supporting organizational goals. The Bridge Group team handles all this and more so your employees can focus on your core business.

 

 


A Work in Progress

A Work in Progress

How smart employers are managing the new normal and getting staff back to the office.

By: Annie Kutsuris

The COVID-19 pandemic was a lonely and isolating time for many workers, as day-to-day routines across the globe were disrupted and workers found themselves stuck at home for inordinate amounts of time. While many employees are happy to return to the office, a study by The International Foundation for Employee Benefits indicates that 28% and 68% of the workforce is eager to continue working remotely or in a hybrid work model, respectively*. With the pandemic behind us, employers are facing the new challenge of getting staff back in the office while maintaining employee job satisfaction and productivity. The Bridge Group team has observed some of the strategies companies are using to adapt to the new normal. Here’s what’s working, (and what isn’t).

Switch it up

The days of cubicles, and even private offices, are beginning to look like a thing of the past. Hybrid accommodations, such as mobile power sources, collaborative workspaces, and privacy booths all support a remote and in-person workspace. Allowing workers autonomy in deciding where and how they work is key to increased job satisfaction.

Be our guest

Liz Stern, Managing Partner of Mayer Brown, recently led a redesign project of the firm's Washington, D.C. office. Her goal was to attract and retain talented employees, and to do that, she determined that staff must feel that their presence is valuable**. The employee experience is becoming increasingly important in drawing workers back to the office. Like a pleasant stay at a hotel, providing staff opportunities to nurture their physical and mental well-being is crucial to keep them coming back time and time again, and it helps maintain the sense of balance many of us enjoyed as a side effect of the remote working environment of the last two years. What does the hospitality-infused workplace look like?  Consider opportunities for easing the transition from commute to work, policies and programs that support well-being, and engaging spaces for employees to decompress and connect.

Kidding around

Businesses strive to offer enticing benefits to attract and retain talent. According to research done by Gensler, one of the most often overlooked necessities for parents is childcare that is financially and geographically accessible.*** By offering a solution to this problem, businesses can support parents and make themselves more desirable to recruits. Real estate developers and owners should also consider childcare centers as a strategy to attract tenants.

Get together

Encourage leadership to be present in the office. Our team has found that if managers and supervisors are in the office, their teams often are, too.

Sense of place

Gensler suggests employers celebrate the community by highlighting the things the local area has to offer****.  Providing new experiences helps reinvigorate the workplace, while supporting the community, and saving employees time by providing engaging events without more drive time.

As companies grow, downsize, or change where they work and how they do it, The Bridge Group can help develop a change management plan to meet those needs. The collective experience of our team, and the firsthand experience we have supporting other companies in adapting to the new normal, allows us to identify inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement, resulting in increased financial, real estate, and human resources performance.  Let us show you how and guide your workspace into the new normal!

Footnotes:
*
https://www.forbes.com/sites/joemckendrick/2022/12/28/hybrid-work-is-now-the-norm-for-the-year-aheadand-beyond/?sh=5444024e520b

**
https://www.gensler.com/blog/infusing-hospitality-design-into-the-workplace

***
https://www.gensler.com/blog/child-care-key-to-enhancing-your-return-to-office-strategy?utm_source=social&utm_medium=linkedin&utm_content=blog

****

https://www.gensler.com/blog/the-hospitality-driven-workplace


Celebrating Women's History

Celebrating Women's History

In honor of Women's History Month, we sat down with four of The Bridge Group's finest, to learn about their experiences as females in a historically male-dominated industry. These women are smart, strong, and passionate and it's an honor to have them on our team serving our clients. Meet the panel!

What inspired you to get into the construction industry?

SS: I came from a family where nothing was a barrier. It was "Go and get an education and be the best you can be". That expectation allowed me to have the ability to think, "I can do these things. In fact, not only I can, but I will". 

EC: I actually started in residential real estate. It's the delivery that really inspires me to do real estate in general. Nobody likes moving, nobody likes picking up and going, but that look on their face when they move in and they have so much gratitude…It's that moment. That inspires me.

Sheideh Shanahan | Regional Lead, Pacific Northwest

Sheideh leads our Seattle, WA office and has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. Her career has included managing the design and construction of commercial buildings as well as civil infrastructure.

Elizabeth Cisneros | Senior Project Manager

Elizabeth has 12 years of experience in Project Management and
Strategic Planning having executed complex projects of all types
including office, financial services, healthcare, and life sciences both
domestically and internationally.

Stephanie Hamilton | Senior Project Manager

Stephanie is a seasoned project manager with over 20 years of
experience focusing on high-tech headquarters and campus work,
property management, tenant improvements, decommissions and large
relocations for Fortune 100 clients.

Nicolle Cortorreal | Project Manager

Nicolle is a Project Manager with over 8 years of experience working in
the construction project management, architecture, and planning
industries in the New York City and San Francisco Bay Area.

How has female mentorship impacted your career?

SH: I started off in a male dominated industry and then went to go work for an architect who was a woman. Seeing the
strength and seeing the respect and the knowledge that a lot of these women out there have has been really
inspirational and gives me the ability to say “Why can't I do it?” instead of “I can’t do it”.

NC: When I entered the Construction Management and General Contracting world, there were a lot of women in
leadership positions there...when the opportunity presented itself, whether it was my direct management or even
somebody that I had to work on a project with, I just learned as much as I could, no matter where it was coming from... for me there is an opportunity to learn from anyone that I cross paths with in this industry 

 

EC: The [mentors] that have stuck around are those who really take the
time to say “This is what I did, this is how I felt, this is how I navigated
that”. Even some that are just starting out in the industry- project
coordinators, admins, there's still a lot to learn from them...a lot of us get
stuck in our ways because we've done this for so long and don't know
how else to do it. So even younger women in the industry serve a mentor
role and they don't realize it.

What's the best piece of advice you've received in your career?

SH: I think just the whole idea of “Why can't we do that?” You don't have
to ask permission, you can just do it. And do the best you can at it.

SS: Don’t let what people say to you prevent you from advancing. If you
say “This is not for me because of the things people say” Then you're the
one who loses out and frankly, so does the industry.

EC: [an older mentor] said, "Get over the fact that you're a woman in the
industry, you're going to hear that until the day you die
because you're a woman and you are in a predominantly and historically
male occupation". She said. "So what? Get out of your head and think
beyond that". That wisdom is what I look for in somebody at a higher
level.

Is it important for young women entering the field to seek out
other women
in the industry?

SS: Always. I think every time we see individuals in roles that we didn't
see previously, as a society, we benefit.
NC: I think it's important for them to see and know other women in the
industry and form those relationships. There's not enough talk about
what's it like on site, what's it like when you're the only woman sitting at
the table and you're the one who has to lead because you're the client
Rep or you're the one in charge of contracting the whole team. I just think
that it's something that it would be great for more women to hear.

"When you

bring
diversity into
the picture, it
brings a
richness that
doesn't exist
from a
single point
of view "

SHEIDEH SHANAHAN

"You don't
have to ask
permission,
you can just
do it. And do
the best you
can at it."

STEPHANIE HAMILTON

What sets women apart from their male counterparts
in this industry?

SH: A lot of the time we don't bring our egos...we just bring our
knowledge. There's no arm wrestling in the room.
SS: I think when you bring diversity of any kind, whether it be gender,
age, or religion, you see the entire picture. If everyone is the same,
then their perspective, their frame, is the same. But when you bring
diversity into the picture, it brings a richness that doesn't exist from a single point of view.

How do you support the women on your team?

SH: By giving them the opportunity to try new things, to learn new
things and to really push their limits. Part of being a human is learning
and making mistakes, fixing those mistakes and then feeling more
empowered.

SS: Compassion and empathy.

 

Thank you to Sheideh, Elizabeth, Stephanie and Nicolle
for sharing! Each and every one of us brings
unique experiences, wisdom and passion to our work.
At The Bridge Group, we believe we are better
together, supporting and lifting each other up!


Will this WFH Experiment Shape the Future of our Workplace?

Will this WFH Experiment Shape The Future of our Workplace?

The new work environment is being determined now

The future of work looks a lot different now than a few weeks ago. We’re practicing social distancing and employees everywhere have been forced into remote work. The current global events are creating uncertainty in our lives — socially, health-wise, and professionally as well.

As COVID-19 forces a large-scale work from home (WFH) experiment, we can’t help but wonder if the disease will propel us into a lifestyle that would have emerged 20 years into the future when the distinctions between work, home, and in-between all dissolve.

Trends in modern society: Bring work home and vice versa

As almost anyone with a successful career will tell you, sometimes you need to bring work home. Be it evening emails or weekend work, this regular practice spurred dedicated office spaces in the home long ago. 

More and more, the lines between work and home have become ambiguous.

We’ve also seen the trend the other way: work has come to resemble home more than ever before. Employees have asked for spaces to relax and decompress. Employers continually respond and provide meditation rooms, designated nap spaces, and quiet spaces to regroup and disconnect from work.

Current trend: WFH

And today’s most popular trend among the next generation of the workforce? Work-life balance, flexibility and wellness. For many, this balance is best achieved through a work from home arrangement, aka telecommuting or remote work.

Even before COVID-19 made remote workers out of previously on-site office professionals, the calls for more remote opportunities or flexible WFH arrangements are on the rise. Ninety-nine percent of employees want the opportunity to WFH, at least part-time. 

It’s not hard to see why — collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, and Trello create agile work environments along with the importance of work systems such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), 3D printing and AR (Augmented Reality) in the AEC industry.

Remote teams report higher productivity and increased loyalty to their companies. With WFH arrangements, individuals can avoid the rising rent and cost of living in metro areas while still having a great job. And perhaps most importantly — remote workers have the flexibility to manage their schedules for greater work-life balance and wellness. 

Some industries have answered the need for remote work with openness, while others have not. It’s no surprise that tech composes the largest percentage of remote workers according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Source: Global Workplace Analytics.com

The 44% of global organizations that still don’t allow for remote work cite concerns about:

  • Loss of employee productivity
  • Issues with miscommunication
  • Inability to effectively manage teams
  • Employee isolation

But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, formerly remote-reticent employers haven’t had much of a choice. The stay at home order mandate has forced a massive social-professional experiment and pulled much of the modern world into it.

Not everyone can work remotely —  the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports 29% of percent of the US workforce is capable of working remotely. And these professionals are currently telecommuting whether or not the infrastructure to make remote work successful was in place before the crisis.

Despite our lack of preparedness in going remote overnight, the results are bound to reveal something about our future home and workspaces. What happens when the lines between home and work are increasingly blurred?

The Workplace of the Future: At Home?

We don’t know how long social distancing will last. There’s a lot left to be determined. But one thing that seems clear is that the remote work experiment we’ve been forced into is permanently shifting the world of work. The future is almost guaranteed to exist more fluidly between work and home. 

What will this look like? What does bringing modern work into the home mean?

  • Broadband access speeds or 5G wifi will be ubiquitous
  • A dedicated office space as part of the basics of a residential home, alongside a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom
  • Potential for companies to invest in shared living spaces for employees to live and work from in lieu of offices

Here to Stay: Resilience and Remote Work

Will these scenarios bring people including families closer together? Cut down on the environmental impact that are so closely tied to the American commute? Will we be able to remain focused, productive, and collaborative in physical and mental spaces that lack clear delineation between work and home? 

With questions swirling in from every direction, one thing is for certain: the future will look different, and the current COVID-19 pandemic will emerge as the shaping force of this landscape. Yet this great sense of shared humanity we’re all currently experiencing will too. Our deepest hope is for a bright and unified future — at work and at home —  on the other side of it all.

How has your transition to remote work been? Do you miss the water cooler chatter, or are you finding respite in focused time along? Share your experiences below!


Effects of COVID-19 on the Construction Industry

How COVID-19 Impacts the Construction Industry

Tips to protect the wellbeing of workers and keep projects moving

The construction industry is particularly feeling the impact of the coronavirus outbreak because workers are unable to work from home and must be onsite to do their jobs. While we may not be on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic, there are many practices we can embrace to help reduce the spread of the virus, the seasonal flu, and other respiratory illnesses. First, we want to share some of the ways we’re seeing the coronavirus impact our industry. We then explore how we can help keep worker healthy, stay connected, and adapt our work to changing circumstances.

Coronavirus Impact on the Construction Industry

Some of the impacts we’re seeing include delays of materials from outside the country as well as concerns that delays from US suppliers may be next. In response, general contractors are securing materials domestically and getting them to sites as quickly as possible. Building departments in some areas are beginning to close, which could bring permitting and inspections to a halt. There is a risk that some contractors and subcontractors may suspend operations. With all these uncertainties, we know project timelines may be impacted and are working closely with our teams to create recovery plans. 

Taking care of our people is incredibly important to us at The Bridge Group. As construction continues on many projects, we've compiled some measures we can take to help keep everyone healthy and safe. This applies to workers general contractors and sub-contractors on-site and employees in the workplace.

Tips for Staying Healthy and Connected

Healthy Practices on Site

1. Ask general contractors to install additional hand-washing stations at construction sites.

2. Encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick and remind them to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then immediately discarding the tissue in the trash.

3. Ask general contractors to implement social distancing, with employees working at least six feet apart when it is safe to do so.

4. Post notices or posters at worksites reminding employees how they can protect themselves and others from respiratory illnesses. Notices can include reminders to wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer; to work at least 6 feet apart when safely possible, and to stay home when sick. The CDC offers printable materials online.

5. Wipe down frequently-touched surfaces, such as door handles, bathrooms, railings, kitchen areas, and shared tools and machinery. Provide disinfecting wipes on-site.

Stay Connected and Adjust Project Timelines

1. Stay in close contact with general contractors to understand their concerns about employee health.

2. Discuss timeline implications with project stakeholders if construction slows, and work closely with them on the development of recovery plans. If construction comes to a halt, use the time to plan so the schedule impact can be minimized once construction picks up again.

3. As teams try to reduce travel and follow the shelter in place, we can use technology to communicate and collaborate. Facetime and photography allow architects and stakeholders to monitor progress and reduce concerns of remediation measures later on. We can eliminate in-person meetings by taking advantage of video conferencing and team collaboration tools. Apps and cloud-based tools like Zoom, Google Suite, Trello, Asana, Slack, Jira and Microsoft Teams are all ideal.

In these unprecedented times, we’re all learning how we can continue to safely work together, whether in an office, at home, or on a construction site. We’d love to hear your ideas. How have you seen the coronavirus affect the construction industry or impacted your client projects? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


The Carbon Cost of Concrete

The Carbon Cost of Concrete

World’s most used building material produces bigtime CO2 emissions

Sustainable construction is no longer a ‘nice-to-have.’ With global temperatures rising and urgent warnings to cut emissions from the IPCC, the construction industry must take action to reduce its hefty contribution to greenhouse gas production and increase sustainability. 

Are there ways to improve sustainability in construction? Options range from creating more energy-efficient buildings to responsibly sourcing materials and choosing more carbon-friendly materials, like low carbon concrete. Cement, the main ingredient in concrete mix, is a particularly offensive player when it comes to sustainability.

Did you know the impact of carbon concrete?

If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world, behind only the US and China.

Choosing low carbon concrete is an opportunity to massively decrease the cement industry’s carbon footprint. At scale, sustainable concrete has the potential to reduce over 70% of the cement industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the equivalent of 4% of world-wide all GHG emissions. That’s major impact!

Why do we need low carbon concrete?

Simply put, because concrete production makes a lot of CO2, and we make a lot of concrete.

Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world. It is the second most used material in the world after water. The global population continues to grow. To meet these demands for housing, sanitation, business and commerce needs, big construction projects which rely heavily on concrete as the main building material are underway on nearly every continent. 

As a result, the concrete industry is growing steadily—at an annual rate of 8%—at a time where there’s a pressing need to cut global emissions, and quickly. Emerging markets like India and Brazil are urbanizing and expected to further drive the demands for concrete, yet the industry is facing societal, financial, and increasingly, regulatory pressure to decrease emissions rapidly.

Why does cement production emit so much CO2?

It’s the sheer scale of the manufacturer and use of concrete that makes it a top contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions—the industry is responsible for 7% of worldwide CO2 emissions. 

The majority of concrete’s carbon footprint comes from the production of clinker, a main component of cement. Producing clinker results in chemical and thermal combustion processes called calcination creates 50% of the processes’ GHG emissions. Because this CO2 comes from a chemical reaction, it can’t be eliminated by switching to more energy-efficient fuels. Today there are a few options for low carbon cement mixes that either eliminate or decrease the amount of clinker in cement mixes. Substitutes such as fly ash and blast-furnace slag are used instead. 

High fuel requirements are another big contributor to cement production’s big carbon footprint. Heating the kilns to high temps required to make cement is responsible for another 40% of emissions created.

Low carbon cement mixes options

  • Use "cleaner" ingredients than ordinary concrete—ingredients that reduce the number of GHGs emitted during production
  • Are produced in plants powered by clean energy
  • Are available at competitive prices
  • Outperform ordinary concrete in terms of material strength

Challenges low carbon concrete faces

Cement, invented by Joseph Aspdin in 1840, has remained essentially unchanged since then. Architects, engineers, contractors, and project managers have historically been hesitant about new building materials for obvious reasons, and innovation has long taken a back seat in the cement industry. 

Additionally, the big players in the concrete industry are wary of new products that challenge existing business models.

Recommendations for sustainability in the construction industry

Work with contractors, architects, and project managers who focus on sustainability and have the expertise and experience to design and manage green construction projects. Our team at The Bridge Group has a dedicated Sustainability Manager poised to assist on your project. 

A confidential technology company of ours recently expanded its headquarters with a focus on productivity, collaboration, and sustainability. It includes open spaces to foster collaboration as well as quiet, focused workspaces and a rooftop garden with walking paths. The highly sustainable campus was designed to reduce environmental impact from every angle, including building materials like low carbon concrete. 

If you’re in the Bay Area and seeking a low carbon concrete option, we highly recommend Central Concrete. Central Concrete is an industry leader in sustainable concrete solutions, providing various EPD mixes designed for performance beyond strength.

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete, Central Concrete uses cement ingredient replacements, recycled fresh concrete, and recycled concrete aggregate. They also use CarbonCure technology, an innovative mix that contains captured recycled waste CO2. 

In order to reduce the environmental impact of the concrete used in projects, design standards should be updated to support the use of Type III EPD certified cast-in-place concrete. A final word to Project Managers and Architects- be certain to ask your concrete provider whether they provide a low carbon concrete mix! 

What’s your experience using a low carbon concrete mix for a project, if any? Share in the comments below.

 


What Nursing Parents Need from your Workplace Lactation Room

What Nursing Parents Need from your Workplace Lactation Room

 

How to collect the real requirements and how diversity can help

The designated lactation room in our client’s office was small and empty, without furniture nor decorations. But it existed, which was a crucial step forward for future parents planning to return to work after adding a new member to their family. 

Prior to the Affordable Care Act in 2010, not many companies prioritized a space for parents to pump and store breastmilk at the workplace. The new law required employers with over 50 employees to provide a pumping space that was not located in or through a bathroom, locker room, or similar facility, and many smaller companies followed suit. 

We recently guided one of our clients through the process of designing an inclusive lactation room that supports the needs of both current and future employees. Here’s a peek at the features and furnishings they used to design a space that feels safe, comfortable, and functional.

Discover what nursing parents need

My client, a small financial institution, was building out their new office. They didn’t currently have any employees that required a lactation room, but as they designed their new workspace, they wanted to comfortably accommodate employees who would need a clean, private space to pump. 

In my work building out tenant improvements, it’s not uncommon for the lactation room, if it’s considered at all, to be a repurposed utility closet or spare nook under a staircase. In this case, the client wanted to be proactive and inclusive and put a lactation room in the first draft of their new office layout. The next step involved finding great furniture and fixtures that would help create a homey, welcoming environment. 

My job, furniture procurement, can be very straightforward for certain room types. Conference rooms and private office requirements are well-established, and they existed in the client’s current office space. However, the lactation room was different, and my team had no template to follow. 

Design a welcoming lactation space

The client offered a few suggestions for furnishings they would need to get started: a rocking chair, a small fridge, and low lighting. But as I began searching my sources for options to present to the client, something occurred to me. The requirement gathering for that room had consisted of three men, myself included, all of us speculating about what a nursing parent might need. 

I could understand the need for a small fridge for storing breastmilk and comfortable seating. However, the idea that we specifically needed a rocking chair struck me as odd. Were we picturing small children being rocked to sleep in this room? 

As a result, I realized that we didn’t understand the nuances of this room’s usage. Since the client had never had a lactation room and didn’t have any employees who would currently make use of one, they might also be feeling a little lost.

I reached out to my client, who acknowledged a lack of research behind these requirements and thanked me for volunteering to do more research. After consulting with friends, colleagues and family who had made use of a lactation room before, and with a bit of internet research, I came up with a list of requirements.

How to furnish a lactation room

Since nursing parents often spend 15-20 minutes per session pumping, plus time to set up and break down supplies, lactating employees could expect to potentially spend hours every day in this room. After researching and discussing with colleagues, I decided the following items would help us create a comfortable space that would meet all of a nursing parent’s requirements.

A comfortable, ergonomic chair. As I suspected, rocking wasn’t as important of a feature as we initially thought. Many parents pointed out that a chair that was easily cleanable and had an adjustable height and back support would be a valuable addition.

A small refrigerator. Parents need to be able to immediately store breast milk before transporting it home at the end of each day.

A small table. The table could be used for placing a breast pump, and needed to have easily accessed electrical power.

Privacy lock specified for our finance client for their office's lactation room.

A privacy lock. Users needed a way to indicate when the room was occupied so they could maintain privacy.

Easy access to cleanup supplies. Parents spoke about the need to have a sink nearby for washing pump parts, antibacterial wipes for sanitizing surfaces, and a waste bin.

A mirror. After pumping, many parents appreciated being able to adjust their clothing before returning to the office.

Sound dampening. Since breast pumps aren’t completely silent, acoustic ceiling tiles and other sound dampening measures were incorporated to increase privacy.

Other features we considered including were individual thermostat control as well as artwork and additional lighting. Additionally, if the office has no employees who are currently using the room, it could potentially double as an additional wellness space for private meditation or stretching.

Key takeaways for facility managers

Lactation rooms are more than just retention aids for the parents in your workforce. They’re spaces that show your organization cares about helping working parents feel included and comfortable in the office after bringing home a new family member.

For me, this project invoked a few key lessons that are applicable for lactation rooms and beyond.

First, gathering project requirements is more than simply collecting a list from your stakeholders. Your stakeholders may not have a full understanding of what they need, and they may not be able to fully understand the experience of a given room’s users. Gently question them to discover assumptions and reach a consensus about what the room really needs.

Next, ensure that you have a full representation of future stakeholders (owners, and in this case, parents, parents-to-be, Facility Manager, PM, architect/designer, general contractor, and acoustical company) when gathering requirements, or you may miss critical input.

Finally, diversity in your stakeholders is fundamental to ensuring requirements are complete and aligned with project objectives. Seek diverse opinions and you’ll be more confident in your final design.

Interested in designing a lactation room at your current office, or planning to include one in your new building? Reach out and schedule a time to chat with our team.


What Makes a Team Successful?

What Makes a Team Successful?

Lessons learned after three years of The Bridge Group

As we celebrate our third anniversary here at The Bridge Group (three years!), and start a new year, I’ve been reflecting on the successes we’ve had as a firm. 

I went into construction project management because I love the dynamic challenges the field presents. No two projects are alike, and I enjoy getting to know my clients and their needs and then creating and executing specific project plans to deliver the space they require. In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with clients on a variety of technology facilities and research labs. I’ve been inspired by how these people and projects are primed to change the world, and it’s exciting to play a small role in their success story.

The Bridge Group’s success story

My success story has been shaped by others, too. The company has grown faster than I ever imagined, and I give all the credit to my team. Each and every one of my employees has contributed to the firm’s growth in pivotal ways, whether by tapping into their personal networks to grow our client list, by advising me on ways to help the company succeed, or by tactical execution of project management.

I am grateful to all of my employees for pouring their hearts and souls into helping me build The Bridge Group, but I feel especially indebted to my first employee Stephanie Hamilton. Stephanie took a chance on me three years ago when I had nothing to offer except the promise of a supportive and hardworking boss who wanted to build a collaborative team and great company. Thanks again, Stephanie! Your support has meant the world to me.

Lessons learned after three years of The Bridge Group

Mentors make the difference

I’ve been really fortunate to work with some amazing people in the industry, from architects and engineers to general contractors and dynamic clients, who have helped me learn some of my most important lessons. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge Ed Smith who agreed to let me help him at the beginning of my career and introduced me to the industry. I’d also like to acknowledge Jurgen Decker at Facebook who has been a mentor to me over the years and continues to be. It takes time and courage to give honest feedback and his interest in my development has made me the project manager I am today. 

If you want to break into the industry, here’s my advice: seek out great mentors. You’ll strike gold in finding someone to help guide you in your journey. I’ve found people in the industry to be generous with their time and experience, and eager to give back to the next generation. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. 

Harness the power of your team

 

Our team has since doubled its size for our 3rd year anniversary. Some new faces here with half of our staff missing.

Above all else, The Bridge Group’s success is about people: The endlessly hardworking employees I’m grateful to employ, the trusting clients who work with us, and the project partners and vendors we collaborate with. I’ve found that overcoming challenges lies in our ability to engage the project team to find solutions. This includes everyone from the client to the design team to the sub-contractors. The success of a project is about harnessing the power of a team, and the ability to navigate tough conversations with care.

Invest in your people

Hire people who truly care. If you can attract and hire people who are driven by a desire to help, you’ll build a team of supportive, diligent people eager to support their colleagues. Do your best to support them as well. As a business owner, I find that if I can support my people, whether by enabling work-life balance or helping to solve problems they’re having on their projects, they’ll return the favor 110%. 

Let your motivations guide you

I am a problem solver by nature. I’m energized by finding creative solutions to help people solve their problems. Oftentimes my work is a small but vital piece of the puzzle, but it feels good to help bring a client’s ideal space to fruition and support them in their on-going success story. Seeing our clients’ faces on their first day in their new facility brings me great satisfaction and makes all the hard work well worth it.

Say thanks

Make your appreciation known. Success is a team sport, and acknowledging those who make your successes possible will bring you far. 

Thank you to all the clients we’ve worked with over these three years. You’ve helped The Bridge Group family push past our own limits to become the team of project managers we are today. We’ve had a busy three years and attribute our continued success to the clients and partners who provide us with on-going work, project referrals, and of course, the hardworking team members who make up The Bridge Group’s family. Here’s to continued success for all for the new decade!

 

 

 


Foster Healthy Project Teams with Crucial Conversations

Foster Healthy Project Teams with Crucial Conversations

How to approach difficult conversations for greatest impact

I recently had the opportunity to attend an off-site training with Aleen Bayard to discuss the importance of crucial conversations at work. Aleen covered the importance of having these challenging conversations and the best ways to approach them. Inspired by her candor and grace, I want to consider these principles against the backdrop of construction project management.

Having a crucial conversation can be the difference between a successful project completion with a communicative team and an all-out project disaster. Be it a tenant buildout or transition to an open office layout these vital discussions add clarity, encourage accountability, and keep projects on schedule.

But they’re often challenging to approach in the workplace. And while we improve the formal systems governing project management over the past decades, communication remains the Achilles heel of many project management teams. Yet addressing issues in a timely fashion enables projects to move along more smoothly and ensures everyone feels heard.

What are crucial conversations?

Crucial conversations are the issues we’d prefer to avoid addressing in the workplace. They are the conversations we most need to have but are least willing to broach. We fear the inevitable tension of an uncomfortable situation, especially at work. This discourages us from diving deep into these issues, but with the right approach, it’s possible to speak candidly about awkward situations.

Sometimes these conversations include:

  • Conflicting opinions
  • Circumstances where the outcome is uncertain
  • Situations where you have to hold people accountable

Common causes for crucial conversations

  • Fact-free planning
    Projects that are set up with no consideration of reasonable budgets or timelines. With unrealistic project planning, it’s impossible to usher the final project through completion on-budget and on-time. Unrealistic deadlines, budgets, and project scope will surely necessitate a crucial conversation.
  • Absent sponsors
    Leaders who don’t supply the guidance, leadership, time, or energy needed to see a project through to completion. In construction project management, this is often a client who doesn’t take the time needed to provide the details necessary for successful project completion.
  • Skirting
    Individuals who work around priority setting. Team members who do their own thing without understanding how their actions affect the other team members and overall project progress.
  • The project chicken
    Team members who don’t speak up when they notice a problem. Rather than voicing their concerns proactively, the project chicken waits for other colleagues to notice and broach the subject.

Approaching Crucial Conversations

While often uncomfortable, crucial conversations must be had. Effective leaders recognize that a difficult conversation will prevent the otherwise inevitable domino-effect of issues down the line. Bring issues to light privately but discuss it with the team when necessary. Ask for personal buy-in to encourage accountability. As leaders in the workplace, it’s our responsibility to have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to do so both on projects and off.

  • Share your facts
    Be prepared with your talking points ahead of the conversation. Remove emotion from the equation by clearly stating the history of what you see as the problem.
  • Seek to understand
    Use questions to understand where the person is coming from. Ask questions like “Do you have too much going on?” “Are there ways I could better support you?,” and “What do you need to be successful?” Use a multiple-choice opener to get the conversations flowing. Be earnest in your questions to make the other person feel comfortable in giving their answers.
  • Talk tentatively
    Be solution-oriented in your approach to these conversations. Speak to the person with kindness and respect. Share a conversation, don’t talk at them.
  • Encourage testing
    Frame your solution as a question to tease out a conversation. Say, “here’s what I think (of a solution), what are your thoughts?”
  • Permission slip
    Confidence is key when having crucial conversations whether with direct reports, peers, or senior leaders. Because you respect your colleagues and know they strive to do their best, you have permission to approach these conversations. With direct reports, think of the conversation as illuminating blind spots and accelerating development. With peers, you drive accountability and demonstrate respect. With senior leaders, frame these conversations as providing feedback.

Having crucial conversations leads to better outcomes. When leaders resolve conflicts faster and more efficiently, you foster improved relationships with vendors and the team, and you accelerate improved employee performance and engagement. Ask questions and listen, state your thinking, be prepared to compromise, and be solution-oriented.

Follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook for more insight on fostering healthy and productive project management teams.

Thank you to Aleen Bayard for her illuminating approach to crucial conversations. This blog post was created in conjunction with the valuable information Aleen provided on the topic.

 

 

 


owner's representative for building owners

Why Savvy Landlords Use Project Managers

Why Savvy Property Managers Use Project Managers

 

Balance office tenant needs with your best interests

Taking on a new commercial real estate tenant can be risky - especially when it comes to build-out requests and tenant improvement projects. Landlords and property managers focus on preserving the building with investments that add long-term value, while office tenants want the new space to be designed and constructed according to their vision. To balance tenant needs with your best interests, owners are wise to enlist a project management firm as their owner’s representative.

What's an owner's rep?

In a world where building owners rarely have the bandwidth to manage everything that arises during a tenant’s buildout or tenant improvement project, the owner’s rep is an independent consultant operating as an extension for the owner. Owner’s reps are hired by building owners or property managers to ensure successful project completion and protection of the landlord’s interests. Enlisted to help manage and execute design and construction, owners' reps are the liaison between the building owner and the various sub-consultants involved. As project management professionals, owner’s reps manage the scope of work and schedules across pre-design, design, construction, and post-occupancy with the building owner’s best interest in mind. They maintain control of estimated budgets and schedules, keeping the project on track and preventing cost overruns.

When should I bring a project manager on board?

Ideally, engage a project manager from the beginning so they can use their expertise to prevent issues, rather than having to solve them later on. Doing so enables the project phases come together more smoothly from planning, hiring, communicating, executing, and overseeing. As your owner’s rep, project managers determine the confines of the project, formulate a realistic budget and timeline, and provide subcontractor and vendor selections. They also manage architects, designers, engineers, and contractors. With their experience and background, they’re able to effectively translate the objectives of the creative process from designers to construction teams and vice versa.

How do owners or property managers benefit?

  1. Respond to the most critical needs—not manage every issue that arises

    Building owners have their hands full—especially in markets like the San Francisco Bay Area. Balancing time, resources, and property management duties are no easy feat, and the last thing landlords want to deal with is the fallout of a tenant DIY disaster. But owners often don’t have the time to sufficiently monitor a project from conception to completion, or they lack the expertise and experience to do so.

  2. Invest time and resources more wisely

    Enlist a project manager to be an owner’s representative to enable the owner to more wisely invest their time and energy into other projects. Project managers handle the day-to-day decision making, bring only the most important needs or project summaries to the landlord’s attention. In doing so, owners can focus on the most critical aspects that arise, rather than managing all parts of the project.

  3. Deliver projects on schedule and on budget

    An owner’s representative advocates for a building owner to deliver the project on time and on budget, to create a harmonious experience for all project team members involved. Project management firms are up to date on current codes and technologies and assemble the best project team possible, aligning with the owner’s goals. This allows the delivery of a successful project to the client from a budget and schedule standpoint while meeting expectations.

  4. Preserve long-term property value

    Bring on a project manager to help ensure the best interests of all parties are met. The building staff is alleviated from the responsibility of overseeing buildouts and renovations. PMs work to control tenant improvement allowances, costs, and ensure alignment with building rules and standards. Streamlining these processes mitigates surprises. This means tenants can move into office spaces more quickly, and owners can begin leasing the property sooner—a win-win. And with a project manager as an owner’s rep, the owner can rest easy knowing the balance between long-term value and immediate tenant needs is being maintained.

Ready to bridge the gap between tenant and owner? We want to help! Built on more than 20 years of experience representing both tenants and building owners, our success lies in our deft project managers and the partner relationships we’ve built on. We cover all project needs from design to construction. For your next project simplified, contact The Bridge Group for your complimentary consultation.


VR virtual reality and AR augmented reality

Construction Project Management in the Digital (or Modern) Age

Construction Project Management in the Digital (or Modern) Age

 

The tools ushering in a new era of PM for the AEC industry

Surprising and delighting your clients can be a great thing. Whether it's a handwritten thank you note, an innovative solution to their problem, or a design project completed under budget. But for anyone who works in the AEC industry knows, you don’t want surprises in a construction project. However, they happen, and too often. Whether it’s the rising cost of building materials, errors or omissions in design documents, or differing site conditions, surprises on a construction site mean costly delays. Fortunately, today’s tools and processes help us eliminate construction project surprises like never before.

Construction Project Management Tools Changing the Game

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Technical industries are changing rapidly, and the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is no exception. The most impactful change as of late is the widespread adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) workflows. BIM is a 3D model-based process that gives AEC professionals the visibility and best practices to expertly manage construction projects from start to finish. Architects have been using BIM since the 90s, but in recent years contractors and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing consultants have adopted the workflow as well.

The clear snapshot enabled by BIM gives architects, engineers, and contractors the insight and tools to prevent setbacks and strategize building methods before the job site opens. For instance, complete BIM models can run “clash detection” to automatically flag any conflicting trades like plumbing lines overlapping mechanical ducts.  Additionally, the common lexicon of BIM means all of the trades speak the same language, decreasing the miscommunication that can quickly derail construction projects. With all the relevant players in construction on the same page with BIM, we’re getting complete digital models of projects that were previously inaccessible.

3D Scanning

3D scanning is another technology quickly securing its place in construction project management. Originally used for existing space surveys, 3D scanners are now producing highly accurate as-built dimensions. These scans avoid the potential errors of analog measurements like marked up drawings.  Those errors would mean expensive change orders during the construction phase. Another benefit of 3D scanning is the technology’s ability to record the changes of a building that were not previously incorporated into complete, up-to-date drawing sets.

Less expensive and easier to use than ever, 3D scanning devices tie directly to BIM models for a fluid transfer of accurate data to create precise digital models. Time is saved by skipping the step of translating analog measurements to a digital format, and 3D scanning produces a complete picture of the environment that is exact enough to build from.

Augmented Reality (AR)

If you’ve used a Snapchat filter, you know how fun AR can be. But the same digital canvas overlay is quickly becoming the go-to tool for bringing designs to life. Virtual reality (VR) and time-tested renderings are good for a representation of a project, but AR is the clear winner when it comes to visualizing future-built conditions and projecting a tangible sense of space for clients.

The benefit of augmented reality is having that tangible sense of space.

And with iOS and Android heavily investing in smartphones with AR capabilities, AEC professionals can view and export richly detailed AR models with ease. The use of AR for “x-ray” vision capabilities is also rising. Using tablets or smartphones, facilities teams can understand what plumbing lines, conduits, or columns lurk behind walls and ceilings by holding the device to a specific area.

Data

One of the most valuable technologies available today also happens to be one of the least tangible—data. Data is streaming in from all aspects of our lives, including the spaces we inhabit. Sensors can now provide insight as to how spaces are being used by tracking individuals as they move through a space. Data show teams what areas could better perform with HVAC, identify zones that are underutilized, and forecast better methods for conserving energy.

This information together with temperature, location, and acoustics tells a story that can be used to shape spaces and functions, much like having a suit tailored to fit perfectly.

Facing Forward with Construction Project Management

It’s an exciting time to work in construction project management. The tools and processes available today are changing the dynamic AEC industry. Highly collaborative processes like BIM are encouraging fluency amongst trades like never before, while 3D scanning and big data are giving us access to huge pools of information. What remains to be seen is what we will do with it all.

Whether you’re a seasoned architect, facility manager, or industry newbie, we want to hear from you. Comment below and let us know what tools and processes you’re most excited about today and in the future.


Seeking Bay Area Office Space? Here’s What Startups Need to Know

Seeking Bay Area Office Space?
Here’s What Startups Need to Know

San Francisco office rents remain scarce and fueled by continued growth of tech companies charged by capital raised IPOs

Why a project management firm is essential in your search

Home to tech titans like Google, Apple, and Facebook, California currently ranks as the number one state millennials are moving to. The San Francisco Bay Area is an especially key destination for these educated, mostly mobile workers. Not only Gen Y seek great food and countless outdoor activities the Bay Area offers but also proximity to success stories in the tech world, like Slack’s recent IPO and hotly anticipated public debuts from the likes of Postmates and Airbnb.

Top 10 U.S. cities for startups and entrepreneurs. Infographic by Business.org

 

When it comes to office space, though, demand outpaces supply right now. Startups moving to the Bay Area will have to navigate a rather crunched market — but it’s by no means impossible.

 

We spoke with Robert Tasker, CEO and Principal at CM Commercial Real Estate in San Francisco, who offered some advice for this competitive and saturated tenant leasing market. For entrepreneurs/startups and tenants seeking to relocate to or within the Bay Area, here are some key questions to consider during your search.

1. What does a typical Bay Area office need?

Thanks to pioneering tech companies like Apple, Google, and Salesforce changing expectations, offices today need to be more than just a place where employees sit at desks. Companies moving to the Bay Area or relocating their offices need to evolve and redefine their office for various workstyles and shared open spaces to encourage cross-functional collaboration and creativity.

Even traditional industries, such as law and the financial sectors, are recognizing that today’s offices need to not just foster individual productivity but also serve as spaces to hold meetings and events, and be able to expand down the road as the company attracts more talent. In short, companies today need to be looking for space that is adaptable to the rapidly changing needs of the business world.

2. How can a project management firm improve my search?

Once potential office spaces are shortlisted with your broker, engaging a project manager to help evaluate the properties from a constructability standpoint is to your advantage. Enlisting a PM firm can streamline the process in budgeting your space for buildouts or designing effective open office layouts. An experienced PM firm can help assemble a tenant’s budget, keep it under control and review vendor proposals and suggest cost effective strategies.

Together with your broker, a project manager will tailor your office search around your specific needs as a company: how much square footage you’ll need to accommodate future growth, the ratio of public to private spaces in the office, number of conference rooms, and the level of amenities you should be offering, including onsite food options, wellness rooms, bike storage, and micro-kitchens. These are all part of work-life integration millennials now expect. Unlike an architect or interior designer, who has one specific focus, PM teams are experts in factoring all details into an office search while still keeping your move within budget.  

The right space is crucial for attracting and retaining new talent and staying ahead of the competition. Partnering with the right commercial real estate broker and enlisting an experienced project management firm can simplify the tenant leasing process.

3. Where can a new company find affordable Bay Area options?

Sure, the San Francisco Bay Area can be a challenging leasing market to penetrate, but working with an experienced broker alongside a project management firm can uncover quite a few more options than might first be obvious.

For example, CM Commercial analyzes market data on local brokers, landlords, and resources to help clients find office space. Startups who need to move into a space quickly but not lock themselves into a long-term lease might consider an interim solution like a sublease, coworking space or direct space that is ready to go without major tenant improvement work. CM Commercial helps companies find these options quickly because they closely track the market and advise tenants to evaluate all possible options for their business.

4. Coworking or traditional office space?

Flex working is a top demand among Millennials and Gen X employees, and often companies turn to coworking spaces as affordable ways to provide it. Right now, the flexible workspace market is expected to represent 30 percent of all offices by 2030, and San Francisco has the most coworking spaces per capita in the United States.

According to Robert Tasker, coworking isn’t the only way to provide flexible work and typically is not the least expensive option. Coworking companies build the price of improvements to the space into tenants’ rent. In an overpriced market such as the SF Bay Area, this can actually end up costing the company more than they would incur with a traditional office lease. Again, it depends on the company, its headcount, and plans for the future, but it’s important to understand the economics behind coworking spaces before you settle into any long-term arrangement with one.

Make no mistake, the SF Bay Area office market is a complex, intricate market to navigate when you’re a startup or seeking to move. Partnering with the right team during the leasing process can uncover a whole new world of options you might not have even realized existed.

Begin your search for your company’s new office space in the City by the Bay today.

 

Thank you to Robert Tasker of CM Commercial Real Estate for his valuable input on this piece.


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.

 


Project management LEAN process

Toyota’s LEAN process provides a blueprint for successful project management

Toyota’s LEAN process provides a blueprint for successful project management

Project management LEAN process

Designing the process is the most valuable driver of the project

A few years ago, I learned about The Toyota Way, the codified methodology employed by one of the world’s leading car manufacturers. This entailed speeding their process, building quality into systems, eliminating costs associated with waste and sustaining a cultural mindset for continuous improvement.  When amplified to consider the complete value stream, this process is referred to as LEAN - the “secret sauce” that maintains Toyota’s speed to market and exemplary profit margins.

Doing things right

Successful project management has been defined traditionally as doing two things right: delivering on time and staying on budget. However, today’s design and construction market require project managers to execute transformative ideas with the same kind of expediency and exactness in order to help clients achieve a competitive advantage.

LEAN - Process

The healthcare construction industry has well-established organizational, operational and contractual structures for implementing LEAN. These initiatives focus on removing non-value-add steps, facilitating flow and working to establish a cadence that matches production to need in order to minimize delay and waste. When considering a design/construction project work plan, LEAN manifests itself in a few ways. It focuses on continuous improvement: defining value, inviting the right expertise at formative stages, guiding the process for making well-informed decisions, working efficiently as a team, and executing in the field. No project is too large or small to benefit from the rigor of and clarity of purpose that LEAN offers.

LEAN - Design

At WRNS Studio, we continually seek ways to practice the key principles of LEAN in service of design that delivers on economic, social, and environmental performance goals. Research is integral to our launch—we engage in critical inquiry, disciplining ourselves to avoid presuming we have the right answers (just better questions), and learning from previous projects. In the world of expediency and exactness, design explorations may be perceived as antithetical to traditional project success metrics. Therefore, designing a process in which this exploration is tied to value—especially when transformative work is expected—is perhaps our most important responsibility.

LEAN - Practice

Dynamic calendar of time and resources implementing the LEAN process.
Lilian Asperin, Partner & Architect at WRNS Studio, using a dynamic calendar of time and resources implementing the LEAN process.

 

The key to realizing successful LEAN delivery is an engaged and collaborative team.

Dynamic Calendar - Develop a visual map of time and resources – keep it analog! Identify key deliverables and engage with the entire team to arrive at (and commit to) a sequence or flow for the work. Carve out time to iterate and space to think.

 

Gathering, Synthesis and Reporting - Structure efforts with three distinct parts, all of which build upon each other. Share progress with your extended team to build accountability regarding inclusivity with stakeholders and fidelity to decisions made so that the next steps can then follow.

Doing the right things

It’s exciting to think about evolving the concept of project management to one of process leadership. As we move forward in our delivery of projects that realize the highest value and efficiency, it is important to define value holistically.  Assembling teams comprised of talent across disciplines, encouraging staff to enjoy fulfilling lives via flexible schedules (which we can build into the dynamic calendar), and evolving criteria for project success and methodology are imperatives!

We'd love to hear if and how you've applied the LEAN process and principles in successfully managing your projects. Share your experience in the comments.

 

Guest blog by Lilian Asperin, AIA, LEED AP, BD+C Partner at WRNS Studio, San Francisco


Project management skills to help you transcend borders when working abroad

Project Management Skills to Transcend Borders When Working Abroad

You'll translate a lot more than words when you work internationally

For as global as we’ve become in this day and age, there are still big changes you have to face when you work abroad especially when it comes to customs, language, currency, and other pieces of local life.

This doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A little extra prep before you arrive can enhance both your project and your time spent on international ground.

With that in mind, here’s a list of tips to keep handy when you’re project managing abroad:

  1. Engage with your new team immediately

If you can, choose team members in the new country before the start of the actual project. If you don’t get to choose, at least familiarize yourself with names and job titles beforehand.

The best way to do this is to visit the new country in advance of the project and hold a team meeting. This way you can set expectations, whether they’re around maintaining the project budget or ensuring the project site meets governmental or environmental regulations.

If you alone are “the team,” it’s still useful to learn who else will be working on the site and connect with them.

  1. Get familiar with local customs and culture

Find out what’s normal in your new culture’s business. Understand dress code, the most acceptable greetings, and subtle changes like whether or not to small talk at meetings and how you address others in the room when it’s time to make a decision.

Learn the language — or at least the basics. These signals respect to your team and colleagues since you took the time to learn some of their language, and it’s also just practical. Nowadays, apps and other software programs will walk you through basic greetings and questions, and even help you practice speaking the words.

  1. Adjust your thinking to local metrics, currency, and time

It’s crucial to understand local currency. If the budget is in something other than U.S. dollars, get a currency converting app so you can translate the numbers in real time — which you’ll probably have to do at more than one meeting.

Same goes for measuring systems. Do the drawings for the new site use the metric or imperial system? If it’s metric, do you know how to quickly convert meters to feet?

Also, be aware of time differences. Your smartphone’s clock feature makes it easy to see the time in just about any place in the world, so use it as a resource if you’re unsure what time it is back home; you don’t want to schedule a meeting that lands in the middle of the night for someone else.

  1. Be picky about your technology.

Technology can make working abroad easier, but there’s a right and wrong way to use it.

For example, with video conferencing, sound quality is an issue anywhere; it can get worse when there’s a language barrier in play, so ask yourself if a meeting really warrants video. Meanwhile, social media messaging and other forms of text-based communication are also tricky when they start crossing cultural boundaries; words easily get lost in translation — literally — and can slow a project down.

Everyone on the project — back home and abroad — should use the same cloud-based collaboration tools, to cut down on confusion. Microsoft, Google, and IBM all offer their own productivity platforms. Find one that best serves every country involved in the project. Here’s another good resource for online collaboration tools.

Preparing for international work is a bit like packing a bag: you’ll need certain things for certain settings, and planning ahead is the best way to ensure you haven’t missed something you might need. The extra prep could also save you the frustration of an unwelcome surprise at the last minute. If you’re lucky, your thoroughness may even get you closer to an earlier completion date or reduced budget.

How do you prepare for work on international projects? Share your thoughts below.

 

 

 

 

 


How to encourage cross-generation collaboration at work

How to encourage cross-generation collaboration at work

Stand-up meeting bars, pops of color, and informal seating characterize the many collaborative meeting spaces; the light-filled main “promenade” of the office; and a fun garage door connects the cafe-lounge with the design studio.
        Delta Dental, Seattle. Photo credit: Sean Airhart, courtesy of NBBJ

Meet the needs of all 5 generations using our handy guide

Familiarizing yourself with what different generations of employees need at work is a great place to start if you’re seeking to improve employee collaboration. But what actionable steps can you take to create workplaces that set every employee up for success?

We’ve outlined four ideas you can use to plan and design spaces that bring diverse groups of workers together.

Create opportunities for spontaneous collaboration

community hub collaborative spaces

Café-style areas allow for warm community settings that accommodate a wide variety of purposes and create an opportunity to connect for everyone. Kitchen at HGA’s San Jose Office. Photo credit: Corey Gaffer Photography

 

Most offices have a micro-kitchen or office cafe where folks naturally socialize. However, more facilities are designing spaces specifically for spontaneous interaction, often called in-house social hubs. Think attractive, well-lit break rooms that are easily accessible for several teams and benches in hallways where employees can sit and chat. These spaces are for “accidental collision,” where unplanned dialogues lead to new, creative ideas. Consider providing snacks or beverages in these locations to encourage people to linger.

Design cross-functional spaces

Cross-functional space at LendingHome San Francisco headquarters designed by Studio Blitz. The space serves as a presentation area and work-cafe. Photo credit: Adam Rouse Photography

 

The trend of nesting coworking spaces inside your office space is one approach to creating cross-functional spaces where different people can meet. Also known as innovation hubs, they double as showcase rooms. Inviting freelancers and other innovators into your space is one way to infuse your employees with a fresh perspective and expose them to diverse ideas. If you aren’t able to build a dedicated co-working space, consider setting up regular events for the community, like a meetup geared towards designers or a happy hour for product managers.

Add connectivity options

HLW designed an outdoor courtyard space. Photo credit: Kim Rodgers Photography

Make sure that all new public spaces you design include wifi and easy power access. Power and connectivity must be ubiquitous throughout your facility or office to promote productivity and collaboration. This is especially critical for outdoor spaces, which need to be fully fitted with the right utilities if you want employees to utilize them. Adding outlets along hallways and in other places employees might spontaneously choose to work is another way to encourage random interactions.

Include areas for focused work

 

The Bridge Group's client, Redbubble, San Francisco

A recent survey by Gensler revealed that while employees value collaboration, they also need more private, enclosed spaces. Many companies offer areas like phone booths, huddle rooms, private hubs and semi-private booths. Offices are increasingly desiring communal libraries where employees can go when they need time to focus alone are. Make sure your office offers these spaces so your workers have the opportunity to recharge when they need to.

Designing workspaces where diverse groups of employees can socialize doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Many employees genuinely want to build a relationship with their coworkers, which can quickly lead to the birth of new, innovative ideas. By providing them with spaces for socializing and collaboration, you can foster an enduring workplace community.

Ready to bridge the communication gap between the employee generation gap in your office? Reach out for ideas on how we can help bring everyone together.


Designing a multi-generational workplace? Here's what you need to know

Designing a multi-generational workplace? Here's what you need to know

Why every generation of employee needs something different at work

Employees in America today are more age diverse than ever before. Many older generations, including baby boomers and traditionalists, are staying in the workforce past the typical age of retirement. Meanwhile, the 61 million members of Gen Z are preparing to look for employment in the coming years, and, by 2025, millennials will make up the majority of the workforce.

Photo courtesy of US Department of Labor

Planning spaces that accommodate the needs of a diverse group of employees can be challenging, which is why we created this guide detailing what each generation needs from their workspace. Here are the five generations of employees in the workforce today and how you can design spaces to meet their needs and wants.

Traditionalists (1922 - 1945)

Although the youngest members of this generation turn 76 this year, a few members are still in the workforce. None of them grew up with technology, or worked with it for most of their careers, so accommodations may be needed to help them adapt. Many of them remain in senior positions in law, accounting, healthcare, and architecture and engineering, and some have taken administrative roles to keep busy after retirement.

Although this generation may not be working for much longer, their experience growing up after the great depression and World Wars has made them a loyal, hardworking asset. By making changes at the office to meet their needs as they age, they’ll return the favor by staying loyal to your organization.

Baby Boomers (1946 - 1964)

Members of this generation are usually defined as goal-oriented and independent, qualities that have propelled them into upper management positions. They tend to thrive on familiarity and routine, meaning that the changes caused by an office redesign could be disruptive for them.

They grew up in an era when everyone got their own private office (or, at the very least, a private cubicle), but usually enjoy collaborative workspaces.

Infographic courtesy of Pew Research Center

Gen X (1965 - 1980)

This generation is a mix of folks who are comfortable with technology and folks who are not— they didn’t grow up with it like many millennials did, but they have also had time in the workforce to adapt and learn.

They value the opportunity to work independently (in fact, 41% describe themselves as entrepreneurs) but also appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with generations above and below them. Creating spaces like communal kitchens is a good way to draw them out and allow them to socialize on their own terms.

Generations X also appreciates the work-life balance lifestyle so consider offering telecommuting options for this group.

Gen Y/Millennials (1981 - 1996)

Generation Y is the first generation of “digital natives,” where most members of this generation grew up with a personal computer in their home. As a result, they embrace the use of new technology in the workplace, including features that allow them to work from anywhere like power adapters and wifi in outdoor spaces.

They expect a modern workplace, and are eco-conscious and appreciate biophilic design and sustainable features in the workplace, including opportunities to recycle and compost.

Gen Z (1997 - 2012)

For many designers, Generation Z (or post-millennials) is the most unknowable generation. According to the US Labor Department, they are expected to make up at least 25% of the US workforce by 2020. The youngest members are still relatively new to the workforce, and we’re watching as they demonstrate an increased need for work-life balance and workplace wellness. Incorporate elements like in-house gyms or rock climbing areas so they have options for physical activity throughout the day, and consider integrating objects like sit-stand desks and ergonomic furniture to show you care about this generation’s need to stay well while at work.

Furthermore, members of this generation don’t remember a time before the internet — they’re true digital natives, and feel most at home in a workspace with ample technology. They want to collaborate face-to-face as well as online, so consider using team communication software like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

In addition to wanting virtual workspaces, they also desire opportunities to work more independently and tend to shy away from open office concepts. Help them feel more at home by providing break out rooms and spaces for quiet reflection.

Here's how to prepare for Gen Z which will compromise 25% of our workforce by 2020

We know how tricky it can be to accommodate the needs of a multigenerational workforce in a single, cohesive space. In our next post, we’ll share a few practical solutions you can use to create workspaces that are welcoming to employees of all ageWhat design changes have you made to meet the needs of several generations of workers at your organization? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


2019 San Francisco workplace office design trends

2019 Workplace design predictions

2019 Workplace Design Predictions

2019 San Francisco workplace office design trends

These trends will Influence your office's corporate real estate footprint

As we kick off 2019 by partnering with clients new and old, we’re excited to pause and consider what design trends will shape our workplace in the coming year.

In 2018, we saw more companies focusing on designing for wellness and creating flexible workspaces where employees can seek solitude or work collaboratively. Here are six workplace trends our team thinks facilities managers and real estate professionals will be focusing on in 2019.

More flex space

Since open offices are here to stay, we predict flexible workspaces that allow both focused, independent work and group projects to become even more of a priority. More importantly, it’s what employees want: 53% of employees surveyed in mid-2018 value working in different spaces throughout the day.

Many clients have been adding additional non-work spaces for collaboration, such as coffee bars or micro-kitchens. These spaces offer opportunities for interaction between teams and the casual exchange of ideas.

Increased focus on the outdoors

Given the studies that show incorporating plant life into your workspace can help ease employee stress, we expect more companies will start introducing outdoor elements to their designs. Biophilic design, which involves using natural design elements like sources of natural light and fresh air, is especially appealing for departmental managers seeking to improve team productivity and reduce mental strain.

This could come in the form of living walls and more houseplants in communal spaces. It could also be created by placing open office desks near windows for employees to enjoy throughout the day and shared communal spaces on the interior of the floor plate.

More comfortable, home-like spaces

Research suggests that more comfortable office spaces can improve productivity. Some companies, such as our client Redbubble, created a soothing home environment by fashioning a meeting space after a cozy library.

Redbubble cozy library and meeting space

More growth into co-working spaces

Most people think co-working spaces are only for freelancers and small businesses. However, many larger companies are busting that myth and leasing co-working spaces to provide flexibility in their real estate strategy.

In mid-2018, Facebook announced that it would be leasing almost all of WeWork’s latest co-working space in Mountain View, California. We suspect more companies will be following Facebook’s lead in 2019. Partnerships with co-working spaces allow larger companies to get available office space faster for projects requiring a quick turnaround, without requiring a large spend on buildout.

More retrofitting old warehouses

Companies continue to look for ways to differentiate their facilities from others in order to attract top talent. One strategy that will continue to gain traction is be renovating old buildings, such as warehouses, into high-tech office space. The exposed beams and high ceilings add character to an office and are defining elements for tech companies such as Gusto. The HR software company recently renovated Pier 70 in San Francisco to create a fresh, unique space for employees to work and collaborate.

What facilities or workplace trends do you think we’ll be seeing more of in 2019? We'd love to hear from you!

Retrofitting old warehouses for modern office workspaces trending for 2019 and beyond.
Gusto’s new home at Pier 70 tells a story about history, community, and relationships. Photo credit to Gensler.

 

 

 


How to tighten your workplace security

How To Tighten Your Workplace Security

Our client, Tradeshift, takes company security seriously throughout their office and in the reception area with cameras.

Four strategies to keep your facility safe from theft

How confident are you that the security measures you have in place today will prevent your company from becoming the victim of a devastating theft?

Nobody enjoys planning for the worst case scenario. Security should be a key consideration during the planning phase of any office design or relocation project. The good news is that deterring theft doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

If your approach to workplace security so far has been remembering to lock the doors and saying a quick prayer before bed, it’s time to step up your game. Here’s four tips you can use to improve security at your business.

Place Cameras Strategically

Consider what you’re trying to capture before mounting cameras. Are you trying to catch footage of a potential suspect entering or exiting the building? Do you want to know where they go if they get inside? What about a shot of the type of vehicle they’re driving?

We recommend that clients begin by placing cameras in the following locations:

  • Entry points
  • Areas where someone may be injured
  • MDF and/or server rooms

Your local police department may be able to provide specific recommendations about the type of footage that is helpful for identifying criminals.

Secure Points of Entry

Card readers or keypads are the two top options for most business owners today; with keys, you have the expense of changing the locks every time an employee leaves. Many of our clients opt for card readers so employees don’t have the burden of remembering a code (and potentially sharing that code with outsiders). Card readers also produce a record of who entered and when so you can review in the event of an incident.

We recommend placing card readers on exterior doors, IDF rooms, and possibly storerooms, depending on what you have inside. Depending on the type of building, consider using a latch plate to prevent would-be thieves from using a crowbar to gain entry.

Use Burglar Deterrents

Since most offices are uninhabited at night, alarms are extremely useful to tip off potential thieves that their presence on your property has not gone unnoticed.  60% of burglars said they look for an alarm system before robbing a home— and if they find one, they move along to another target.

You can install alarms that are monitored by a security service, or simply use the alarm itself as a deterrent.

Review Company Protocol

When we think about theft, many of us imagine criminals dressed in black sneaking into your facility in the dead of night. But today, many thefts occur during broad daylight, perhaps when your receptionist has stepped away for lunch or many of your employees are in a meeting or attending an off-site.

If you don’t receive a lot of visitors, consider keeping your front door locked at all times and buzzing guests in as needed. If you do frequently have guests, taking turns at the reception desk is a good way to make sure there are always eyes on the door.

Finally, make sure all of your employees are aware of the possibility of theft. Help them feel comfortable coming to your security/facility team or management with any concerns, or if they see someone who doesn’t belong.

For general information by the USDA, Office of Procurement and Property Management for use in addressing security in the workplace issues, click here.

Looking to make office security a priority in 2019? Contact us for a consultation.

 


6 Strategies To Integrate Technology Into Your Project Management Process

6 Strategies To Integrate Technology Into Your Project Management Process

Technology can’t save your project— but these tips can help you work better

by Nick Suarez, Sr. Project Manager

How often do you create a great project plan, but fall short when the time comes to keep track of all the moving pieces?

Managing projects with only a calendar and a pen can be difficult even for the best project manager. With the help of tools like Smartsheets and Plan Grid, I was able to manage my time, communicate with clients, vendors, and contractors, and store all of my documents in one location.

Still, just having the tool isn’t enough: you have to create processes and workflows that include these tools in a meaningful way. These six strategies can help you merge your existing work methods with a few of the tools I’ve found most useful so you can finish projects on time and within budget.

Use Conditional Formatting

Many project management platforms will automatically highlight tasks in yellow (due soon) or red (overdue), so you can quickly see what you need to focus on next.

Set up Reminders and Alerts

Even if you’re not the forgetful type, reminders can keep you on track by bringing tasks that need to be completed soon to your attention.

Incorporate a Client/Vendor Dashboard

We all know how important it is to keep clients and vendors in the know. Instead of sending frequent update emails, many types of software let you automatically update them in one central location.

Take Advantage of a Centralized Repository

Instead of having documents scattered across your computer’s hard drive, upload them into your project management platform so you have everything all in one place.

Pull Data From Your Email

Connecting your project management software to your email inbox helps you keep track of all project communication in one place.

Stay on Top of Your Budget

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeFinancial reporting features make it simple to see how well you’re sticking to your client’s budget without needing to crunch the numbers by hand.

How do you use project management software to keep your projects running smoothly? I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments section!


Workplace wellness office design strategies — part II

Workplace Wellness Office
Design Strategies
— part II

 

workplace and workspace wellness rooms and spaces
Photo: Kelly Robinson + Wundr Studio

Why physical activity and exposure to nature is key for employee happiness

As you probably already know from part one of our series on designing for employee health, office design can have a significant impact on your employee’s wellbeing and productivity. Whether you’re moving into a new office or constructing your first corporate campus, your entire team should be thinking about how your employees will inhabit every space— and, in turn, the impact that these spaces will have on their mental and physical health.

In collaboration with our partner Two Furnish, we came up with four approaches we’ve deployed to help our clients design locations that help employees stay fit while they’re at work.

Think Critically About Services Placement

staircase in the midddle of office floorplanFor example, one of our tech clients in Los Angeles placed a staircase in the middle of the floorplan instead of on the perimeter. When staircases are accessible and centrally located, employees are more likely to take the stairs instead of an elevator.

As you work with an architect to design the floor plan of your new office, pause to think about how employees will travel through the space. How can you organize services (such as bathrooms, kitchens, and elevators) in a way that will encourage employees to move?

Take Advantage Of The Outdoors

Walking meetings are all the rage today— they help employees gain more energy and reap all the benefits of increased physical activity, like lower healthcare costs and a reduced number of sick days.

incorporating nature in workplace design
Photo: Microsoft

Creating outdoor spaces like gardens, a track, or hiking trails will give your employees a big push to take their meetings outdoors when the weather permits. Offering umbrellas that anyone can take when they head out for a walk is another way to encourage them to think of the outdoors as another workspace.

Microsoft’s campus in Seattle, which is pedestrian friendly includes walking paths just for recreation, does an excellent job of creating space for outdoor work and leisure. Nearby forest trails provide additional options for employees wanting to get away from their desks and enjoy some fresh air.

In 2017, the technology company created a treehouse outfitted with power outlets and wifi for use as a meeting space or outdoor workstation. Their intention was to foster a greater connection between their employees and the outdoors, which has been shown to boost creativity and wellbeing.

If building your own outdoor paradise isn’t in the budget, consider looking for an office adjacent to a public park, beach, or recreation site. If you’re seeking space in the financial district where outdoor space may be limited, consider a building with a public open space such as a rooftop garden.

Incorporate Ergonomic Furniture

70% of all full-time workers in the U.S. hate sitting, but they’re often stuck glued to their task chairs day in and day out. Long periods at a desk combined with poor posture can also lead to back pain, which can contribute to increased rates of absenteeism.

sit to stand desks
Photo: Two Furnish + Matthew Millman Photography

Offer your staff a variety of ways they can work outside of the standard office chair. This could be sit-to-stand desks, modular furniture, foam mats to make standing more comfortable, configurable tables with casters, or yoga balls. By giving employees the gift of choice, they’ll be encouraged to move into whatever position is most comfortable for them throughout the day.

“Nearly 85% of the offices we’re actively engaged on consider height adjustable resident desks,” said Brian Buhl, Partner at Two Furnish. “It goes beyond being fad; it’s a tool amongst the extensive list of amenities and incentives that companies are advocating for. These desks in addition to a diverse mix of ancillary vignettes inspire a degree of user-based autonomy leaving it up employees to determine which posture and environment is seemingly most productive to work in on-demand.”

Create Rooms / Spaces Dedicated to Wellness

Finally, give employees space they can use to move their body and relax their mind. The workout they get from a game of ping pong, a brief yoga session, or a workout in an on-site gym can provide quick stress relief.

health, physical, relieve stress workspaces
Photos: Two Furnish + Matthew Millman Photography

And don’t be afraid to think outside the box: not all fitness is physical. Two Furnish worked with Kelly Robinson who co-designed medication pods with Headspace, creating a place where employees could step away for a moment of calm as our main featured photo. The “Lookout” also serves as a communal space adjacent to a large café and auditorium integrating a multipurpose room for a few minutes of repose.

Photo: Kelly Robinson + Wundr Studio

These are just a few of the many ways you can use design to help your employees feel better both during their time at the office and when they get home at the end of the day. When you’re ready to think about how your office space contributes to employee health, we’re here to help. Reach out to us for a free consultation.

 

Special thanks to our contributor: Brian Buhl, Partner at Two Furnish


JOANY makes use of potted plants in a creative huddle space with natural light.

Workplace wellness office design strategies - part I

Workplace Wellness
Office Design Strategies - part I

JOANY makes use of potted plants in a creative huddle space with natural light.
Two Furnish's client, JOANY, makes use of potted plants in a creative spherical garden space. Designer: Kelly Robinson and Photographer: Wundr Studio

 

Keep your employees healthy and productive with these four approaches

As the cost of healthcare expenses rises and employers grow more concerned with absenteeism, designing for workplace wellness has become a necessity for companies. Providing employees with opportunities to exercise, such as walking paths and standing desks, have become standard client requests.

But helping employees with their mental health is a trickier proposition. We know 40% of U.S. workers experience office stress, but the causes are as diverse as the people experiencing it.

Typically, improving workplace mental health has been the task of HR departments and employee assistance programs. But an increasing number of companies, including Uber and Amazon, are turning to design to provide employees with stress relief. Here are 4 approaches you can use on your next project to create spaces that foster productivity and relaxation.

Incorporate Natural Light

Sunlight was once viewed as the enemy of indoor spaces, as it penetrates through glass, heating up rooms and disrupting climate-controlled environments. But a lack of exposure to natural light at work has been shown to contribute to poor sleep and depressive symptoms — something no employer wants their workforce to experience.

Client: JOANY, Designer: Kelly Robinson, Photographer: Terrence Williams

Having natural light plus a keen awareness of materials which reflect and absorb is essential. “Having exposure to natural elements impacts your staff. Being inside all day can be uninspiring or impact your mental health – if it’s inevitable, which for many of us it is, employers have the option to adopt philosophies such as biophilic design or WELL that are proven to positively impact productivity,” said Brian Buhl, partner at San Francisco-based furniture dealer Two Furnish.

Uber Technologies’ new office in Mission Bay sought to foster connections between employees and the great outdoors. By placing all services such as elevators and restrooms at the building’s core, every employee can have a workstation within 20--30 feet of a window.

If you can’t give every employee a bit of natural light at their desk, consider placing gathering spaces around the building’s shell. They can be used for meetings, one-on-ones, or space for employees to have a moment of respite while enjoying a little bit of light and a novel view.

Furthermore, simply spending time outside has been shown to improve happiness and even give our memory a boost. Think outside the office when you design meeting rooms and gathering places. If you make spaces for outdoor interactions available, people will use them — sometimes rain or shine.

 

Bring the Outside In With Biophilic Design

Spherical garden designed by Kelly Robinson for TwoFurnish's client, JOANY

What’s the next best thing to providing space for employees to experience the great outdoors firsthand? Bringing the outside in using features like living walls in common spaces.

The biophilic design movement, which promotes exposure to natural environments through the use of indoor plants and patterns found in nature, is taking off in the tech community. One point/element of the movement is the fact that homo sapiens have spent most of their history outdoors, not in sealed office buildings. Adherents assert that incorporating these elements into workspaces will improve productivity and employee well being.

One example of this approach is Amazon’s new greenhouse located in downtown Seattle. With more than 400 species of plant life, The Spheres provide employees with a variety of unique spaces to work or unwind, including many spots that mimic natural environments like bird nests.

Most companies aren’t able to build their own private rainforest, but there are small ways to bring nature to your client’s employees. A living wall or adding space for potted plants can help decrease stress and reduce the amount of sick days.

 

Add Colors and Artwork

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeIf real plants aren’t an option, what about adding pops of color and art pieces that reflect the outside world?

Art can have a positive impact on our emotions and our productivity— one study found
employees working in spaces enriched with color, art, plants, or other design elements
were 17% more productive than employees working in bare, undecorated environments.

Our recent project for a tech company in Los Angeles took studies like these into consideration.
We facilitated the creation of a mural and a hanging art piece that spans multiple floors,
which adds visual interest to employee’s days every time they walk past.

Create Private Spaces

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representative

As many companies shift towards adopting open office layouts, spaces for employees to speak privately or enjoy a respite moment to themselves are becoming more important.

Consider adding phone booths in open office environments to provide privacy for a phone call. San Francisco coworking space, RocketSpace achieved this with The Bridge Group in collaboration with the design team.

Although design isn’t a panacea for depression, there are many different approaches designers can take to help workers reduce office stress. They can be as simple as adding plants to a break area, or building an outdoor patio— the benefits for an employee’s state of mind makes it worthwhile.

What design approaches does your office use to help employees to maintain with workspace wellbeing? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

 

Special thanks to our blog contributor: Brian Buhl, Two Furnish

 


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.


Strategies to control costs on your construction project

3 Simple Ways to Control Costs On Your Next Construction Project

Construction costs spiraling out of control? Here’s how to handle it.

As project managers, it’s our job to make sure our client’s office build-out is completed on time and within budget. We frequently partner with startups and companies who are growing rapidly and have a strict budget with little room for the costly overruns that can become an insidious part of the construction process. As a result, we’ve fine-tuned our ability to get our clients the best value for their money.

Here are three strategies Construction Managers, Facility Managers and Operations Teams can employ to keep costs low while ensuring that your new space meets your needs.

1. Bring in a contractor early

By hiring a general contractor early in the project, you can price the plans at various stages during the design process. Then, your team can conduct value engineering exercises as they design and prevent costly surprises once the construction documents are complete.

2. Find opportunities to cut costs

A general contractor can also identify where the costs are coming in high and make suggestions for places you can cut back. Ideally, your project management firm will work closely with the design team and general contractor at this stage to ensure sure they’re reducing costs without sacrificing quality.

3. Utilize cost comparisons

Skyline Construction created a tool called the Bay Area Cost Comparison to help guide you towards a less expensive project. This white paper will give you an idea of what an average project might cost in your area, what factors drive escalation, and what cost saving measures to look for.

We brought all these strategies together during our recent work for RocketSpace, a San Francisco based co-working space. Our team partnered with Skyline Construction, while we were still finalizing the fit plan so they were contracted and ready to price at the end of the schematic design phase. We conducted a second round of pricing after the design development phase and then, of course, at the end of construction documentation.

Our partnership with Skyline Construction helped us discover several ways to save on construction project costs. Project savings included; re-working the mechanical design, selecting less expensive light fixtures, re-thinking the door selection to each office space and finding a less expensive finish for the millwork. It would have been disastrous if we had discovered these expenses after our construction documents were complete, since it would have delayed the project and led to change orders from our design team. As it was, our team was able to make these decisions while the plans were coming together, which resulted in construction costs meeting our budget and staying on track with our timeline.

We’re not afraid of a small construction project budget. Find out how we can help with your next project or discuss some costs savings alternatives. Contact us now for your free project consultation.


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.

 

 


6 tips to transition employees to an open office layout

Six Tips to Transition Employees to an Open Office Layout

What do the offices of companies like Facebook, IBM, GE and Apple all have in common?

If you guessed that they all incorporate open office space into their design, you’d be correct. Open office layouts continue to gain popularity as many companies make the switch to encourage a more collaborative work environment.

Unsurprisingly, most of our recent projects involve at least some open concept space, although they aren’t without controversy. Many employees have complained that open workspaces have a negative effect on their productivity, make it easier for germs to spread, and dampen creativity.

I didn’t fully understand what it was like to work in an open office until I tried it for myself. Although it was difficult at first to maintain focus amid co-workers discussing their lunch plans or recent weekend trips, I eventually learned to drown out the noise and get my work done.

This foray into open seating helped me develop a deeper sense of empathy for clients making the difficult decision to move their employees out of cubicles or separate offices into one open plan layout. Along the way, I developed this list of five key actions you need to take in order to keep your employees happy and productive during this type of transition.

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeProvide phone rooms and meetings areas.  For distraction-free work and the need for private conversations, consider setting up a few hotel offices. Employees can reserve these offices for a couple of hours at a time and use them for private calls, confidential discussions, and projects that call for deep focus.

Give employees space for their personal items.  Think of the desk as your employee’s home away from home. By giving them license to personalize their space, you empower them to feel like they truly own the space. If you’re considering a hotel-seating model, which involves unassigned desks, make sure your employees have lockers where they can store personal items.

Consider acoustics. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on how a space looks. Think about how sound travels through an area and how different personality types react to various sound environments.

Offer spaces for fun.  This includes incorporating areas where employees can take their work if they need to get away, including high-top tables or casual sitting areas. I’ve even seen clients provide hammocks, lego-building areas, or yoga space so employees can take a mini-retreat during the day.

Sell the positive. Make sure you focus on the upsides of the new space instead of the potential downsides. For instance, sitting alongside your manager may make them easier to approach with new ideas. There’s also more energy in the workplace when people aren’t hidden away in enclosed offices or cubicles.

Give them time to get used to it. No matter what your personality type, it still takes time to adjust to a new way of working. Try offering headphones to people who are having a difficult time tuning out the noise. After a while, you may notice they don’t need them.

Change of any kind can be difficult for employees to handle. The most important key to a smooth transition is listening to your employee’s concerns — don’t downplay them, and don’t imply that things will be the same as they were before. Rather, empathize with their worries and then consult with your designer or facility manager and see if there are any practical steps you can take to address them.

Is your company undergoing tenant improvements or moving? Can’t decide if an open office concept is suitable for your employees?

Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

 

 


How to get your team on board with your next office move

Managing Employee Expectations: How To Get Your Team On Board With Your Next Office Move

Since most of us will spend an average of almost nine hours at work each and every day, working in a space that reflects our styles and preferences is critical for workplace happiness. For many people, moving into a new office offers an exciting opportunity to re-imagine a space where you spend a large chunk of your time. But for others, moving offices can feel like an extra stressor on top of existing responsibilities.

Team leaders need to be prepared to manage employee expectations and guide them through the transition. Before you start planning your next move, study these approaches to helping your employees view the change in a positive light.

    1. Deliver Consistent Communication – It’s critical to start discussing the move with your employees early in the process. In particular, make sure you announce the new location, when the move will be happening, and how employees can prepare as soon as you can. It’s important to give them as much advance notice regarding these decisions as possible so they can get used to the idea. Make sure to highlight some of the upsides of the new space in your communications, such as easier commutes for employees or upgraded facilities.
    2. Get Employees Involved – Employees need to feel that their voice is being heard during the design process. Before you start, consider sending out a survey to understand your employees’ needs and ask department leads to confirm headcount numbers and growth plans. You should also consider inviting team leaders to be part of the design process during certain stages, including finalizing the fit plan and furniture selection. It’s important to convey deadlines to getting information to avoid having to make changes later which can be costly and add time to the project.
    3. Give Tours of the New Site – Seeing the space during construction can help foster excitement and ease potential negatives among employees who are reluctant to get on board. You’ll need to coordinate with your general contractor, but many can accommodate hosting tours in the late afternoon when the workers have left for the day. You’ll want to keep the groups small to ensure safety on site, so send out a signup list where people can reserve their spot on a first come, first serve basis.
      The Bridge Group LLC's office build-out in SOMA for San Francisco client.

      Be sure to warn people to wear pants and close-toed shoes and ask your contractor to have hard hats and safety vests available.

    4. Hold a Move Discussion – It’s important to reserve some time during company all hands meetings to discuss the move. You may want to put together a slide deck showing the look and feel of the new space, maps highlighting neighborhood amenities, and photographs of any upgrades that the employees might enjoy, like new sit-stand desks or improved AV/VC in meeting rooms.
    5. Make it Fun – Preparing for a move can be a lot of work, so you need to add an element of fun. For example, many of our clients typically hold a purge day to give everyone an opportunity to clean out their desks and storage areas. Sounds stressful, right? It doesn’t have to be. Bring in food, drink and create contests with prizes to make the process more enjoyable.

Although most people think of moving as painful, if you get employees excited about the new location, it’s easier for them to see the payoff behind all the hard work associated with an office move. Engaging your employees in the company relocation process with the tips outlined is a valuable strategy which will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Has your organization experienced a recent move? We’d love to hear what other tips may have made your transition positive for everyone. Please comment below.