Anne Penny Valentine
Vice President, Student Experience and Customer Service
Ivy Tech Community College
We’ve had the privilege of working with Anne over the years on Ivy Tech projects and presentations regarding our work. We wanted to sit down with her to get her take on one of our projects, the renovation of the Ivy Tech Central Office downtown Indy.
What was the office space like before the renovation?
The challenge with this building was that it is 3 different buildings brought together, and we were a similar hodge-podge with multiple kitchenettes, desks, break out rooms, supplies closets, etc. The offices were all really small and only half of them had windows.
Attempts were made to group functional areas together, but as the size of groups fluctuated, departments moved. I was personally in a different area than the rest of my team. It wasn’t very functional.
What is the office space like now?
Now, we have a versatile space. Every space can be used by anyone, and people work near the people they interact with. Since the renovation, we‘ve had a lot of organizational changes, and the space has allowed us to accommodate those changes while still working within the space.
The flexibility of the meeting spaces is great. We have a large variety of sizes of conference rooms, along with focus rooms. The focus rooms’ designs range to accommodate a single individual or small groups. We also combined the kitchenettes into one space, resulting in a more informal space for interaction among colleagues that didn’t happen before the renovation.
Describe the process of working with Schmidt Associates.
We had a cross-functional group of people – HR, finance, student affairs (me), and academics who met regularly to help come up with what we wanted this to look like. The great thing about Schmidt Associates was that they helped guide the discussions to make sure the space would meet our needs. They took us on tours of other open office spaces so we could visualize the results. This process was particularly important since it allowed us to see spaces that were so different than our offices at the time.
We didn’t take every recommendation from Schmidt Associates, and we also had big ideas that we couldn’t afford. Schmidt Associates helped us rank the priorities so we could maximize the budget. Our old maze of offices is now open with clear glass walls, making it easier to find people and interact with co-workers.
Has this affected office culture? If so, in what ways
This has completely changed the culture of how we interact. In some ways it’s been great, and in some ways, it has been challenging. Figuring out how to respect others whom need more focus can be a challenge. You need to be mindful of the people around you, which we never needed to do beforehand. We have extroverts and introverts. Some need headphones so they can focus.
I have a better sense of who all my co-workers are now that I can see them. It’s interesting seeing the personality of other departments come out under this new layout. Some areas decorate for different holidays, some celebrate birthdays or accomplishments with donuts and other snacks. Now that it is an open office environment, you can go grab a donut and have casual interaction with your co-workers, which is great.
Has the renovation improved efficiencies?
Prior to the renovation, we had multiple kitchenettes, storage rooms, desktop printers in every office (and they were all different!). Being able to consolidate into one kitchen area with fewer storage rooms has reduced redundant supply orders. We can actually press print from our computers and go to any printer, use our FOB, and our document prints. There’s no more loading a printer or walking across the office to the printer nearest your desk. It’s been great.
A huge bonus has been natural light no matter where you go. This is extremely important in the middle of winter to see natural light, which we never had before. Some departments don’t even turn on the overhead lights anymore because they get enough natural light through the windows, which is great.
For those whom open space is difficult, we have plenty of focus rooms and they are regularly used. This has been important for both individuals, and small group meetings. We never needed to worry about noise before since everyone was in offices. Now, we have the flexibility to accommodate everyone’s personal work preference.