When HR Moves Into Office Design, It Can Reap Big Rewards Regarding Culture, Morale And Productivity

Office space and design should be more than efficient; they should work to convey a company’s corporate image and vision. The author of this article uses the redesign of Thompson Legal and Regulatory Group’s St. Paul, Minn, headquarters as a case in point. Thompson’s CEO wanted his company space to convey his fast-paced collaborative corporate vision and believed that an attractive and efficient workspace would also help him to retain top talent. Some of the more interesting results were:

  • A fourth floor “Main Street” where workers walk past the accessible glassed-in offices of the company’s top executives;
  • “Downtown” features that included a traditional cafeteria and a coffee hangout called Cafe.Com where workers conduct business in private nooks or in the open sipping coffee; and
  • An employee store where workers can purchase anything from food and greeting cards to logo-wear clothing.

Turnover fell from nearly 14 percent in 1999 to 7 percent in 2001, cycle time for production fell dramatically and they moved from producing one new software title per year to two or three.

A number of experts are quoted as strongly advising an HR aspect to office design to ensure that the best people have the right focus and facilities to work effectively in collaboration. The author admits that there is a lack of design training in HR curriculum and a lack of business training in design schools. Further, CEOs have historically treated facilities as a cost center, funding design and construction on a per foot basis. Facilities managers have had to stay in budget, with no incentive to explore ways to make the office environment more attractive and supportive. The author hopes that companies will come to realize that real estate cost, less than 10 percent of operating costs, can have a profound effect on human resources, 80 percent of operating costs, and result in a payoff of higher performance and stronger decision-making.

Source: Robert J. Grossman, HRMagazine, September, 2002

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