Day 9: Walking the Talk of Workplace Change

Knoll, a modern furniture company for commercial and residential spaces, recently gave a presentation to one of our clients regarding work place change:

Workplace change can be difficult for employees, and fear of the unknown is common among most people. Employees should be involved in the discussions from the beginning stages to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Preparing our clients for the huge adjustment ahead of time is an important role as Interior Designers and Architects. Below is some of the research and graphics that Knoll has combined through their own work place research and case studies, as well as examples of our first-hand experience with work place change. Well, the time has come for our own office reconfiguration, and one might ask; how does it feel to be given a dose of our own medicine?

 
RNL Denver office at Curtis & 16th Street Mall.

RNL Denver office at Curtis & 16th Street Mall.

The RNL Denver office is located on the 16th street mall in downtown Denver, Colorado at Independence Plaza. Initially, RNL leased 43,350 square feet; however, during the recession we relinquished 14,350 square feet to the landlord and had to tighten the proverbial belt. 2016 sees RNL stronger than ever and growing. While skilled in preparing our clients for workplace change, our ability to walk the talk was recently put to test as the RNL Denver office started a significant renovation and reconfiguration of work spaces, common areas and conference rooms. In order to make room for roughly 25 new hires, and give the office a much needed facelift, as we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we needed to reduce the area of every workspace from roughly 9’-0” x 7’-0” stations to 9’-0”x 5’-0”.

Thanks to some innovative thinking by our Interiors team, we were able to do this with minimal change to our existing workstation furniture components, saving on resources, money, and minimizing the environmental impact of the project. We simply removed a return work surface and switched components around, reducing the footprint of our typical U-shaped configurations and changing them to L-shaped. The removed work surfaces then became parts and pieces of the additional desks for new hires. Most work was done during normal business hours, with minimal effect on overall office productivity.

 

Take The Leap

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Change management requires support from leadership and communication through letting people know what’s going to happen, why changes are being made, and how they will be affected. Communication is essential to building credibility on the part of the designers, and acceptance on the part of the client. This communication has to be open, and it has to go both ways.
It is critical to ask people for input, to address concerns as they arise, to identify the influencers within employee groups through engaging them in your efforts, and to recognize that different people will adjust at different rates. - Knoll

This last concern was a significant factor in the planning of our office renovation - RNL is currently celebrating our 60th anniversary, and some employees have been with the company well over 35 years. Although we have not been in our current space the entire time, many of our employees have sat in their same desks at this location for over seven years! Recognizing that some RNL’ers would adjust at different rates than others, and some would be more open to the idea of their work spaces shrinking than others, the project was phased. With one pod of workstations reconfigured at a time, and spaced out over about 6 weeks, some RNL’ers had the chance to see the new layout, and get used to the idea before it was their turn.

 
Renovation of RNL conference rooms.

Renovation of RNL conference rooms.

RNL’s Baby Barker in the middle of the moving chaos.

RNL’s Baby Barker in the middle of the moving chaos.

Change IS A PROCESS

It is important to remember that workplace change is a process, not a onetime check box event. It takes time and focus, but does not need to be scary. There is no one right way. Navigating the waters of a workplace change can be an intimidating endeavor, but by having a vision and overarching plan, you can reduce resistance to the changes your organization is implementing. - Knoll

Our reconfiguration is a phased process; it took the installers one day per pod of 8-10 workstations. After actually seeing the new work space layouts, they are surprisingly more spacious than previously thought. At the same time we are getting an “office refresh”, new lobby and conference room ceilings, updated mill work, a fresh coat of paint, and refinishing of our existing cork flooring.  We are adapting quickly, despite the hesitancy of some to bite the bullet, and take precious time away from their work day, to fully unpack and move into their new digs.

 

 

Goals of Supporting Workplace Change

  • Ease anxieties of people affected by the change.
  • Reinforce behaviors & practices desired in the new environment.
  • Resolve conflicts in habits, attitudes and organizational culture.
  • Accelerate the adjustment process & minimizing disruption to normal workflow.
  • Maximize the return of physical investments.
 

The water is fine.

Undergoing a workplace change can seem daunting, but by having a vision, plan, and taking simple steps to communicate and engage your employees, you can lessen opposition to the changes your organization is implementing. Supporting workplace change doesn’t need to be overly complicated or overwhelming. And the results can be very successful for not only the overall business, but also for the people within the organization. - Knoll

The overall reaction so far has been extremely positive. We can’t wait to see our fresh and updated space when it is all said and done. It was definitely an awkward feeling to be faced with shrinking workstations of our own, opposed to designing smaller workstations for our clients, but it was a well needed lesson on “practicing what you preach”. Through constant communication from the Interiors team members who coordinated the renovation, RNL has adapted quickly and shown a positive, receptive attitude towards change.

Article By:
Christie Ellender, Associate IIDA, 

Interior Designer, RNL Associate

Rachel Bannon-Godfrey, Associate AIA, LEED AP BD+C, B Corp Ambassador
Director of Sustainability, RNL Associate