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Community Engagement

A building project is far more than pieces and parts that define spaces.

Projects reflect the goals and aspirations of the communities they serve.

Schmidt Associates views community engagement as an essential part of our strategic, data-based planning, giving Owners information to evaluate viable options and make good decisions. We take a proactive role in planning for public meetings that inform, gather feedback, and incorporate public input to achieve a relevant facility solution that the public can support.

In order to understand what is truly important in the eyes of the end user, we like to become part of the “fabric of the community” by gathering input directly from community members and project stakeholders throughout our process. Here are a handful of community engagement tactics we typically use:

Community Workshops

The target audience for these workshops are neighboring businesses, residents, the end users, students and parents, property and business owners, others who visit and work within the area, etc.

These workshops can range from presentations with Q&A, to an open-ended SWOT analysis, to interactive display boards where people can vote on the types of spaces, furniture, aesthetics, etc. they like the best. Depending on the scope of the project, these could be hour-long sessions, last a few hours, or be an open-house where attendees can interact and ask questions for as long as they need.

We want to hear from as many community members as possible, which can be hard to do. Some tactics we utilize to ensure these workshops are as convenient as possible are:

  • Setting up a variety of time slots, across several days, held in various locations—in the evening after the school day, Saturday morning with coffee and donuts, on a Sunday after church services, etc. It all depends on each unique community and type of project.
  • Providing childcare options, if children aren’t an integrated part of the workshop process. For example, we can meet with community members at a school with child-friendly activities held in the gym under the supervision of adults.
  • Offering a variety of input methods—like notecards, email, and limited access blogs—to ensure the quiet voices are heard and allow 24/7 access to the conversation.

Community Engagement - Community Workshops

Stakeholder Meetings

This is where we gather key targeted stakeholders and leadership in a casual environment to build interest and allow their influence on the project. We quickly share the community workshop findings and offer a brainstorming session to continue building ideas and support for the project. Our team then creates a deliverable that can be posted to a website and distributed to the community, stakeholders, and other interest groups.

The targeted attendees typically include property and business owners, developers, and neighborhood and city representatives. We take similar approaches to making these meetings as convenient for the stakeholders as we did with the community workshops. As the planning process moves forward, we often will reconnect with these stakeholders to communicate any findings, recommendations, and intent of the results.

Community Engagement - Stakeholders

Community Empowerment

The plan for any project must be intentional and community-driven so stakeholders will feel a sense of ownership. To create community empowerment, we have found that allowing physical, deliberate interaction with the space is essential. Together, we will visit the physical space and brainstorm ideas on-site, allowing the realities of the space to influence decision making.

Another approach we often take is to attend community, city council, or PTO meetings.

Community Engagement - Community Empowerment

Project Blogs

Along with our physical approach to community engagement, we also leverage technology to bring it all together. We have successfully used a blog on projects to have a way for the community, stakeholders, and Owners to see the progress and to offer input. This is a controlled way to manage feedback and disperse current information, as determined by the project’s leadership team. Each blog features a “Make a Comment” button which sends comments as emails to Schmidt Associates. This way, we can receive comments, review with the Owner, and post appropriate responses.

We have used a link to our website to post the ongoing status of the project—from planning through construction—to keep the public involved and informed throughout the process.

Community Engagement - Project Blogs

Ultimately, only community projects built on community input can maximize their influence and create shared ownership and investment. If you have questions about our community engagement process or want to learn more about how we can help you with your next project – reach out!

Designing & Building Successful Co-Working Spaces

Like mentioned in my previous blog, co-working spaces are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Although Europe has been ahead of the game when it comes to fostering a healthy work environment for individuals who don’t work a standard in-office, 9-to-5 type of job, the United States is in no way behind in terms of innovation. New co-working spaces popping up in major cities, like New York, Denver, and San Francisco, are demonstrating how to be more than just “a space to work together”. These spaces are being designed and built in such a way that creativity, collaboration and productivity aren’t just cultivated – they’re actually given the environment and community they need to thrive.

So, what are some elements that you should take into consideration if you’re thinking about designing and building a co-working space?

1. Get Connected. Create a co-working space that allows for people to connect to the internet with as much speed as possible via Wi-Fi and hardwire. For some people, a Wi-Fi-only co-working space isn’t as appealing as it might sound. When designing a co-working space, ensure that gives access to both types of connections.

2. Provide Options. Different types of work require different types of settings. And, work for everyone who uses your space might change from day-to-day. It’s important to offer options for people to choose from as needed – dedicated desks for focused work, library or co-working tables for coffee-shop work, and even small offices for private meetings and phone calls.

3. Offer Storage. The best co-working spaces give people a place to store the items they don’t need while working, like workout gear or after-work clothes. When designing your co-working space, be sure to include a locked storage space for members who would want to take advantage of that courtesy.

4. Consider Dimensions. The dimensions of your co-working space need to be just right in order for people to actually enjoy what they came to do: work. In most instances, you’ll want to opt for higher ceilings (ideally a minimum of 10 to 15 feet) and co-working desks that are at least 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep. If you want to offer dedicated desks for members, these should be at least 2 feet by 5 feet. Larger multi-person work stations are often built to be 6 feet by 6 feet with filing cabinets and storage built-in below.

5. Create a Courtyard. If you want your co-working space to be a place that people really enjoy working at, then you need to create some sort of indoor or outdoor courtyard in your design. This open space, which is ideally centrally located and connected to the main work areas, drastically improves the overall environment. It gives people a sense of community because it’s a great opportunity to mingle – if everyone is stuck at desks, you’re not creating much of a chance for workers to get to know each other. Including a garage door near this area is perfect for bringing in food trucks and creating a cool, relaxed social space during events.

6. Think “Neighborhood”. You want your co-working space to be designed with “neighborhoods” or pockets – not just one big park. The most attractive co-working spaces are the ones that have specific areas for people. Just like certain neighborhoods appeal to certain people at specific times in their lives, your co-working space should have an opportunity for everyone to feel like they belong.

7. Personal Touches. Popular co-working spaces always have a great personality. Whether you choose specific art and lighting or design elements like plants, consider the “vibe” you want workers to experience the moment they walk in. While you don’t want your space to feel overwhelming or chaotic, you absolutely want to avoid anything that feels impersonal or mass-produced.

8. Lots of Light. The more natural light your co-working space has, the more popular it will be (and you can charge more, too). When possible, design your space with as many windows and opportunities for natural light. While it’s tempting to put all your office spaces at the windows, it’s important to leave a lot of the natural light for your co-working spaces too. Glass walls or walls of windows are popular choices for current designs, but be sure you know your audience before you invest in that style. Too much light and not enough privacy can be an issue for some workers, so it is important to control transparency.

9. Be Convenient. Don’t overlook conveniences in your co-working space, such as a place for members to print, receive mail, enjoy coffee, etc. There should also be a plethora of outlets for people using your co-working space, as it’s not strange for people to need or want to plug in several different devices at once. Being convenient in location doesn’t hurt, either.

One of the most important factors of designing and building a great co-working space is knowing who you’re creating your space for. Don’t just choose elements because they seem cool or because you’re under the impression that they’re “what’s in” right now. Your space needs to be appealing visually, yes, but also practical – that’s the only way you’ll keep members in the long-run.

How to Create Engaging, Productive Open Office Spaces

Open office spaces are popular, but not necessarily because they make employees feel more engaged or productive. Although, in theory, they seem to check all of the boxes, some studies show that they can be problematic for certain types of workers who may need quiet, isolated space in order to focus and feel relaxed. That doesn’t mean, however, that open office spaces can’t work.

They can.

In order to make them truly effective, they need to be designed and delivered in a way that makes everyone in the office space feel involved. New research is showing that any office space can be conducive to productivity and engagement. It turns out that it’s less about how an office space looks and much more about how the design and concept makes people feel.

According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, this research has led to a better understanding about “place identity.” If employees connect with a space and feel like they have ownership and a sense of belonging, they automatically report “more engagement…more communication…and a stronger connection to the company.”

So, to make sure that your open office concept really gets the job done, here are a few key elements to consider:

  • Adjustable Furniture and Spaces. Adjustable furniture doesn’t just mean that heights of chairs and desks can be personalized (although that’s good). Allowing open concept office spaces to be able to adapt to daily needs, like the rearranging of desks, chairs, and tables, gives employees an opportunity to make the space their own. The more versatile and multi-purpose open office space designs can be, the more likely that workers will feel comfortable to work and collaborate regularly and effectively. If a design allows for spontaneity and imagination, then there’s a better chance that the concept will flourish. It is also a good idea to offer employees a chance to get away from all the openness. There are times where they will need to focus, without interruptions that come naturally with an open office. Providing focus rooms or small conference rooms prove to be helpful spaces to include in this design.
Ivy Tech Open Office - Focus Rooms

Ivy Tech Cental Office – Focus Rooms

  • Meaningful Details. To make open office spaces work, employees need to feel like it has been designed with meaning. Even more importantly, open concepts need to feel purposeful and personal. To keep employees from complaining about this type of design from feeling “noisy” or “distracting”, you need to make sure they identify with the space. Achieving this type of organization-wide inclusion isn’t always possible, but the more you can collaborate with employees about the design, allowing for opportunities for input and ideas, the more they will take ownership of it. This type of ownership is what will transform the “noisy” and “distracting” descriptors to the “energetic” and “collaborative” nomers you want.

 

  • Enthusiastic Design. When approaching a new project, especially if workers will make the transition from traditional to open work space with you, it’s important to stay positive and enthusiastic. Conveying the why behind the changes will help employees understand the concept – and will hopefully help garner their support. While in the design phase for Ivy Tech’s Central Office, we had a demo day for staff to try out and choose from accessory options to customize their space. Research shows that the more positive leadership can be when transitioning from one office design to another, the more the employees will match their attitude.

 

  • Be Open to Change. It is important to get users engaged early in the design process. As your open concept office space begins to take shape, it’s important to listen and acknowledge their needs. While something may have seemed like a good idea in the beginning, it could be apparent after a week or two that it isn’t functioning the way you want. Don’t resist changes. If employees offer a suggestion for how to make the space more engaging and productive, listen attentively and see if there’s a way to make the adjustment.

One of the best attributes of open office spaces is that they really do allow for better interaction between teams. This type of “cross-pollination” between groups within an organization can foster new ideas, creativity, and a sense of excitement at work.

To see more of our office work, check out our Workplace portfolio

Co-Working: The Future of Small Business Workspace

The concept of co-working spaces originally started on the West Coast in the mid-2000’s, driven by tech-focused start-ups. Breaking through the traditional, cubicle, 9-5 mindset has started to spread geographically and across industries. We now see a wide variety of professionals sitting alongside the traditional coders, web developers, and freelance designers within a co-working space. And co-working isn’t just for individual users, you can also find entire companies within the same walls. This environment and concept is perfect for small start-ups or people who work remote.

When compared to finding a traditional office space, a co-working space has a lot to offer:

  • Low-cost, flexible model – offering a start-up something they couldn’t afford while they are just getting going with short-term commitments and simple leases.
  • Community of like-minded people – broadening your connections within your community and increasing chances for collaboration outside of your current organization.
  • Change of scenery – something new and refreshing from the common office or home office setting to spark creativity.
  • Hive-Mentality – some comforts of home while providing the connectivity and convenience of an office.

When it comes to the design of an effective, efficient, and successful environment, there are several elements to keep in mind that are specific and unique to co-working:

  • Flexibility – Choose furniture that can be pulled together and scooted around easily, increasing the ability for users to create their own private work area or group collaboration spaces. Also think about elements of the space that could benefit from having movable walls – like an area that could be a small conference room by day but then open into one big room by night. A stage in the middle of a large room is a great example of an area that could be used two totally different ways. Also make sure your furniture is sized appropriately – you’d like to have room for a keyboard, monitor, monitor, keyboard so that people can work across from each other.
  • Definition of Space – You will need a variety of work environments in a co-working space to properly accommodate for the variety of users. This could mean suites for larger groups of people within one company, small and large conference rooms, private booths, open spaces with pockets of different furniture, and the list could go on. You will want to provide structure so that people can use the space in ways that are best for them on any given day. A user may need to focus privately by themselves one day and then chat in small groups the next.
  • Atmosphere – You want this type of space to feel homey, cozy, and relaxed. Bring in a mix of furniture you’d find in your living room, local artwork, and finishes you’d use in your own home. Keep in mind that most of your users will be from different types of backgrounds and cultures, so it is important to create a space welcoming to all. Creating a “coffee shop” or “café” space within the building can help to define an area as highly conversational, organically creating a separation from the “quiet zones” and a social hub without having to set strict rules.
  • Technology – This may be the most important, but most often forgotten aspect of co-working! The building needs to be equipped with the highest internet speed possible, tech that allows for video conferencing, and pervasive wi-fi coverage for user mobility. Work cannot go on without technology to support the people within the space.
  • Events – while the day-to-day business of a co-working space is the steady income, having a space that is available for large meetings, community events, and other functions (i.e.: weddings – you’d be surprised, but it happens!) will provide an additional stream of income as well as introduce a whole new group of people to your business. And experiencing the space in person is a much better way to attract new users than any other form of marketing you can do.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge and opening or renovating a co-working space, feel free to reach out to us!

A Word from an Owner – Anne Penny Valentine

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.

Focus Rooms

Larger Conference Room and Desks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Dining Area

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

To view more project details, check out the project page or the Flickr album.

Improving your Business Through Office Design

Have you ever noticed that walking into some office spaces fills you with a sense of energy and excitement while others make you want to curl up and take a nap?

Good design can help engage employees and create an environment that makes them more excited to come to work every day.

Studies show that adjusting certain design elements can have a direct impact on improving your business through the effects it has on employees. Thinking through how you develop your office space can help create an environment that allows for happier and more productive employees, reduce turnover, and increase your bottom line.

Take a look at how we’ve designed for productivity, collaboration, and innovation – using Regenstrief Institute Headquarters as our project example.

Office Everywhere

In the forty years since Schmidt Associates has been designing work spaces, building and business owners have had a lot of new pressures placed on their shoulders, thanks in large part to the ways in which the latest working generations have approached the way they earn a living.

The Rise of the 1099 Economy

The growth of non-employer, or “gig” employment has outpaced the growth of traditional payroll employment in most major US cities for the past few years. The types of jobs in which people are earning income are twofold. The first is contract work and common freelancing jobs. The second, time or task-sharing enabled by new technology. You might recognize this kind of non-employer income by brand names like Uber or Airbnb.

According to Forbes, freelancers make up more than a third of the US workforce. Whether they’re behind the wheel or behind the coffee bar, the attitude that work consists of a single task at a single work station is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Millennials Enter Management

In 2013, there were more Millennials in the workplace than Baby Boomers. By 2016, they were the plurality of the workforce, surpassing Gen Xers. More and more Millennials will enter the upper echelons of management as they head into their forties in the next six to ten years, and they’re bringing their outlook on work to the workplace with them.

The first generation to grow up with the Internet, Millennials don’t think about how to fit technology or flexibility into their spaces, they assume it will exist.

What Does This Mean For Design? 

Everywhere’s an office. For dedicated office spaces, the amenities and comforts of home or the coffee shop don’t seem out of place, because those places are offices too. For residential design, carving out the space for the home office isn’t just for a minority of freelance authors or artists. Nearly every job is blurring the home/work lines and at some point, that home office space will be put into use. For retail, it means accommodating with compact yet comfortable places that people want to work in, but maximizing space for low turnover.

These are the kinds of design challenges that we love to help solve at Schmidt Associates. We work with our client owners to find all the requirements and make incredible spaces for people to work in.