How the Tech Industry is Re-Shaping Workplace Design
Calgary is the new hot-bed for technology.
This city is attracting the brilliant minds of developers, coders, and their entrepreneurial-minded innovators. An industry normally reserved for Silicon Valley, these companies are changing what is available for employment and businesses throughout our city.
What can we learn from our new creative neighbours?
In short, a lot.
Problems Tech Companies Face
Technology companies face a whole host of problems that are unique to their sector. Here are just a few.
The rapid pace of development causes projects to shift, tasks to morph, and entire assignments may be re-thought as part of the innovative process. This creates challenges that a fixed physical environment does not accommodate.
Employees are not doing things the conventional way, either alone or with each other. Groups form with people working together for short periods of time, and then reform into something else, as projects evolve.
Yet, conventional space has not been considered as fluid and agile, but rather fixed and constraining, limiting creative thought.
With different problems, tech companies have different priorities … priorities that don’t always align with a typically designed office.
Different Priorities Call for a Different Approach
Here are some companies in Calgary that are doing things differently:
Helcim is a financial tech company. They use advanced technology to deliver affordable, secure credit and debit card payment solutions for merchant clients.
Hexagon’s Autonomy & Positioning division is a global technology leader pioneering autonomy and positioning (GPS) solutions. Their solutions power intelligent ecosystems in vital industries, including safety-of-life applications.
First Tower Level 20 is a 26,000 square foot office suite that has been designed, built and furnished on spec. for tech users, garnering much attention and success.
One strategy that applies to tech companies who are creating real-time solutions using technology like virtual reality and artificial intelligence is a different strategic thinking process that starts with a blank canvas, or empty workspace, to create within.
Each of these companies have found unique ways to bring their technology-based ideas to the design of their local office space.
Here are three of the many strategies that new tech offices utilize:
1 | Ensure maximum flexibility for use of space and different work styles.
2 | Design for connectedness between tasks and employees.
3 | Support culture and social needs.
1 | Ensure Maximum Flexibility of the Office Space
Flexibility determines how physical space might support a company’s innovation, culture, and effectiveness, to drive business results.
New technology requires tech companies to think about office space differently.
Visualization technology requires a large empty area which is reconfigured with great adjustability based on the day, the project, and the event.
If you were to walk through an office with this technology, you may see this area as “empty”. However, with the use of virtual reality, augmented reality and other tools, the environment “magically comes to life.” This portion of the office becomes critical for testing innovations and can be the “heart” of a workplace and a client showcase.
Using flexible design theory,
the space becomes whatever it needs to be today.
It will surely be something different tomorrow.
Helcim looks at flexibility through constraint.
It is not feasible to have a separate room or area for every task possibly required. Each space doubles-up in function.
— Need dedicated workstations? No problem. In just a few seconds, set to go.
— Is a collaborative meeting now required? Just shift a few things around and the team is brainstorming for the next great idea.
— Tummy grumbling? The lunch room is expansive and allows people to connect with nutrition.
— Time for a management meeting? The metamorphosis occurs again. Important issues and events are discussed without the distraction of furniture that “doesn’t quite work.”
Helcim’s flexible office space allows the company to evolve and grow constantly.
2 | Creating Connection
Employee commitment to an organization is increased through connection: both to their work, and to one another.
Hexagon overcame some big challenges.
Multiple floors and separate buildings all posed threats to people connecting with people. Now, a two-storey atrium space accommodates up to 600 people. It is a central, multi-functional hub with café, gym and meeting spaces that connect both the physical building and the staff.
Portable technology furthers connection and allows employees to come together in shared space without disrupting “heads-down” work. People easily communicate and have great visibility with one another – there is not a single dedicated private office, but an abundant number of private meeting and quiet spaces for all employees to use.
3 | Supporting Culture
Happiness in the workplace comes from feeling part of something bigger, forging relationships, and feeling valued. In short, company culture. Other than pay, feeling of value is the number one factor in keeping us engaged and growing.
Helcim has an incredible grasp on their values and culture as a team.
They looked to other types of spaces for inspiration to better support their people.
They found gold in an airport lounge.
An airport lounge is a hub-space and it buzzes with energy. It evokes a feeling of connection and a sense of not only arrival, but also people going places.
These same characteristics translate to Helcim’s space. Their workplace is inviting, yet stream-lined in efficiency, supported by technology, and accommodates both community and solo-tasks. This is a place for people “on the move.”
The very nature of Hexagon’s site brings reference to some of the larger sites in Silicon Valley.
The Hexagon space has global relevancy and has the feel of a university campus.
This supports the company’s commitment to the
growth and development of their people.
Hexagon promotes a social, connected culture, and puts the employee first. Amenities such as bike storage and an in-house fitness facility encourage well-being. An expansive cafeteria in an atrium filled with daylight provides an inviting work environment.
The continued excellence of their company relies on the masterminds that work there. Wall graphics using images and equations developed by their own employees showcase their accomplishments and promote pride in workmanship.
The fact that office towers like the First Tower are building spec. space, is a clear example that this is not a one-time thing. It is a trend that is growing and will continue, to support Calgary businesses.
Tech companies look at the workplace as yet another avenue to support their people. It is not just a place for employees to sit and put in their hours. The results are:
- Maximum productivity
- Human interaction
- Finding opportunities and innovations
- Higher retention
This approach is not just good for the people. It’s great for business as well.
What Does This Mean For Non-Tech Companies?
Here are 3 key take-aways with the potential to make any office space better:
1. More can be done than we think.
Question the trends, norms, and workplace strategies to ensure they propel your business forward, ahead of the curve.
2. It is advantageous to think of space as an organic, moving part of the business.
Think configurability, fluidity, and adaptation.
3. Creative space and focus space both generate high production.
Connect ideas and find opportunities within a variety of work settings.
It is time to ask yourself how you might use innovation to reinvent your office culture and “breathe more life” into your environment and revenues.
Your teams will be richer for it.
Business Development, Designer
With over a decade of experience in commercial office interior design, Brittany’s goal is to share the latest strategies that can improve how we work.
For more information, contact Brittany at firstname.lastname@example.org