Six Things Every Credit Union Should Be Doing to Turn Their Workspace into a Competitive Advantage: Article Six: Planning an Adaptable Workplace

by Michael Downs, Momentum, Inc.

Article One: Defining the Workspace

Article Two: It’s About Your People: Understanding Your Most Valuable Asset

Article Three: A Strong Brand Starts at Home: Building Your Brand in the Workplace

Article Four: Evaluating Short and Long Term Occupancy Options for Your Credit Union

Article Five: Measuring and Benchmarking Your Workplace

In our previous articles we detailed several workplace factors that every Credit Union should consider, and how each of those factors can affect the overall performance and productivity of their organization.  We also described the ever-changing economic and demographic environment that serves as a backdrop to every decision a Credit Union makes about its workplace.  With all of that in mind, it is imperative that Credit Unions develop workplace strategies that are adaptable to change over time.

The expansion and contraction of the financial industry, driven by economic factors, mergers and acquisitions, and regulatory issues are putting stress on the capacities of Credit Union workplaces all over the country.  Consequently, their overall flexibility is being challenged by frequent reorganization and change.  Work environments that are not flexible and adaptable to changes in the organization, create frustration for Credit Unions striving to achieve their key business objectives.

As Credit Unions face uncertainties around fluctuations in workforce size, adaptable workspaces have become more essential than ever, and the workplace must adapt to change as quickly as any other aspect of their business.  In addition to enabling employees, processes and technologies to work together more effectively, adaptable workplaces must achieve greater sustainable results when responding to changes.

The Adaptable Workplace Defined
An adaptable workplace generally possesses the following two properties:

  1. It supports quick conversion of a workspace’s micro-environment into open, partially-open, and closed environments as required by a knowledge worker at a given time.
  2. It allows multi-functional activities (i.e. individual work (composing), two person discussion (collaboration), or team work (presenting) within the same workspace, without disturbing the workers in the adjoining workspaces.

An adaptable workplace allows system upgrades throughout the lifespan of the facility, which lowers long-term costs and reduces obsolescence.  Specifically, the facility must respond to changing demands in four critical ways:

  1. The adaptable workplace must adjust rapidly with minimal interruption.
  2. Reconfigurations and/or renovations must be executed easily.
  3. The space should perform economically, with minimal initial cost or operating expense.
  4. The space must perform with minimal waste of resources.

In addition, being adaptable means the space satisfies the requirements of measurable performance criteria, such as maximizing energy efficiency, improving ease of maintenance, reducing replacement cost, and accommodating the “renovation rate”.  Finally, adaptability means addressing qualitative issues pertaining to employee health, safety, productivity, satisfaction and comfort.

Important Elements of an Adaptable Workplace
Adaptable workplaces are fully integrated with all building systems to provide the high-performance capabilities required by the ebbs and flows of business demands.  In addition, the workplace must be orchestrated with specific performance criteria related to the operational efficiency of the building. To achieve this, Credit Unions need to look at the workplace as a network (or “neighborhood”) of highly integrated performance systems.

Within that network, the key elements of an adaptable workplace deliver the optimal air quality, thermal control, connectivity, lighting, and interior spaces with significant impact from and upon the building shell. As such, individual workspaces, if they are intended to support an adaptable work environment, should no longer be considered in isolation. Momentum recommends that Credit Unions look beyond the traditional “office building” mentality and approach the design of the workplace as a “neighborhood”.  Each occupant and their department in the neighborhood has unique needs and work styles that need to be accommodated in the overall workplace strategies.

  • Thermal comfort. In an adaptable workplace, thermal control systems provide enhanced individualized control to respond to various demands for heating and cooling.  Using synchronization and digital management, an adaptable workplace utilizes a matrix of zonal distribution and controls to provide adjustable thermal control at a reasonable operating cost.
  • Air quality. Air quality systems address the concerns of employee health, safety and comfort by providing filtration, ventilation and humidity control. Frequent reconfigurations and/or renovations challenge the adaptability of fixed, conventional systems.
  • Connectivity. Connectivity for voice, data and power systems can generate the greatest stress to the adaptability of a knowledge-based workplace. To be adaptable, facilities must provide wireless and wired options with access to the infrastructure that is not disruptive to ongoing workplace operations.
  • Interior spaces. Interior workspaces have undergone a gradual shift toward manufactured components that provide the greatest opportunity for achieving workplace adaptability.  Modular workspace systems can encourage collaboration and support greater flexibility, while providing for ergonomic comfort, a key contributor to minimizing work related injuries.
  • Lighting. Lighting in an adaptable workplace should be flexible for both individual and group tasks. Rather than a standardized lighting system, which is typically focused on minimizing initial cost, the high-performance integrated facility, should employ a system of affordable and cost-effective zonal distribution and controls. Sustainable designs take advantage of providing access to natural light to as much as 90% of the occupants. The natural lighting sources are then integrated with the general ambient lighting to maximize energy efficiency and enhance the qualitative aspects of the workplace.

Common Mistakes
Workplace adaptability poses many challenges, but there are several common mistakes that Momentum routinely observes in Credit Union facilities.

A lowest-cost mindset. Conscious and rigorous attention to first cost is critical but, by ignoring the implications of life-cycle costing and the impact of building systems on total workplace performance, Credit Unions risk spending more in operating expenses and productivity losses. Achieving justifiable and cost-effective solutions should be the objective.

  • Ignoring qualitative issues. No one benefits from an investment in open-office flexibility if acoustical issues disrupt the work process, or if the lighting is a glaring sea of fluorescent monotony. Qualitative issues are perhaps the most undefined challenges facing the adaptable workplace because they affect people’s performance and must therefore confront subjective responses. Justifying resources to satisfy qualitative demands is nearly impossible after the fact.
  • Conventional thinking. Outdated assumptions continue to associate adaptability — incorrectly — with ease of movement through an open office. This type of thinking disregards the measurable value of building a workplace that can respond to changing demands driven by people, technology and work processes because the dominant assumption is that such value cannot be measured.

To design an adaptable workplace, Credit Unions should look to abandon old assumptions about adaptability. Digitally managed and fully integrated facilities enable Credit Unions to consider a range of adaptability once thought to be financially unjustified. The old argument between the “open” office environment and a “closed” or private office is becoming less relevant as organizations look to improve flexibility and functionality of workspaces. The real issue is to enable change — from an open environment to a private one and back to open — in the right place, at the right time, and for the right reasons, in a cost effective manner.

Adaptability means more than a universal plan or an open office. Contrary to prevailing assumptions, the intangible value of the adaptable workplace is measurable through the output of employees and work processes. If output can be increased and sustained, then the effectiveness of an adaptable office environment will generate a positive return on workplace assets.

With an integrated design, not only can adaptable workplaces avoid these pitfalls, but they also raise the level of performance and expectation to new heights. They can extend the life of the workplace facility or support an easy exit. High-performance facility synchronization and integration provides the ability to create a workplace that achieves the optimum balance of cost, operating efficiencies and quality-of-workplace-life. It replaces product-oriented conventional design and construction methods with a systematic, holistic approach that delivers optimum return on investment.

References

  • Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International Foundation. “Integrated Systems: Increasing Building and Workplace Performance.”
  • Barber, Christine. “Brave New Workplace.” Facilities Design & Management.
  • Fisk, W. J. & Rosenfeld, A. Estimates of improved productivity and health form better indoor environments. Indoor Air, 7, 158–172.
  • “It’s a Matter of Balance: New Understandings of Open Plan Acoustics.” Herman Miller, Inc.
  • Morrow, Wayne. “Personal Environments and Productivity in the Intelligent Building.”  Intelligent Building Institute Intellibuild.

Article One: Defining the Workspace

Article Two: It’s About Your People: Understanding Your Most Valuable Asset

Article Three: A Strong Brand Starts at Home: Building Your Brand in the Workplace

Article Four: Evaluating Short and Long Term Occupancy Options for Your Credit Union

Article Five: Measuring and Benchmarking Your Workplace

This series is co-authored by Michael Downs and Greg Barrett of Momentum, Inc. Mr. Downs holds both a Bachelors and Masters of Business Administration, completed the ABA School of Bank Marketing at Southern Methodist University, and has more than twelve years of experience working with clients on strategic planning and marketing. Mr. Barrett holds a Bachelors of Science in Finance and has worked with and for financial institutions for more than nineteen years. Mr. Downs, Mr. Barrett and the Momentum team work with credit unions to facilitate strategic planning, evaluate facilities growth needs, and implement systems for ongoing measurement and benchmarking. Learn more at www.momentumbuilds.com or connect at www.twitter.com/plandesignbuild

Michael Downs

Michael Downs

Michael Downs is the Vice President of Client Solutions at Momentum, a strategic design-build partner that takes a people centric approach to helping credit unions across the nation thrive. Web: www.momentumbuilds.com Details

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