Articles Tagged with: Workplace Innovation

Effects of Covid-19 on the Workplace

Work Design Magazine published an article by Interiors Studio Leader Katherine Ahrens, LEED AP. The piece, titled “The Effects of Covid-19 on the Workplace: Reinforcing Culture, Creating an Amenity,” is part of the publication’s “Expert Insights” column.

Except from Work Design Magazine:

Creating a clear organizational culture will lead to the best possible built space as we return to work post-COVID-19. 

As we begin to think about the future of the workplace, the question persists from knowledge workers, “why should we go back to the office given that remote work has proven to be successful?” Helping to define and express how the workplace provides value, and how companies and individuals ensure that coming into the office is purposeful, will be essential goals of future workplace strategies.

Culture is essential to an engaged workforce

Creating a clear definition of company culture continues to prevail as a key element to an engaged workforce. While many software tools are available to bring together a distributed workforce, our research shows that spontaneous and ad hoc interactions help employees grow and learn. Especially for less experienced professionals, on-the-job learning is intangible and leads to high preforming employees. These informal interactions develop a strong work ethic and help them absorb cultural cues about organizational behavior. Building a virtual culture, or more importantly, balancing a virtual and in-person culture, is a critical aspect of asynchronous working. Socialization and mentorship are important factors as we continue in a socially distanced paradigm of work that will need to be supported through the workspace.

Freelancers are indicators of changing attitudes toward loyalty

Even before COVID-19, contractor culture and the gig economy were growing. As more coworking spaces have sprung up throughout the country, individual workers have started to think about the value of their own time, and their long-term engagement with companies. Freelancing goes hand-in-hand with remote work, and will continue to blossom as new ways of working emerge and are enabled. Every CFO knows that the most expensive and important asset of a company is payroll. As employee allegiance changes nationwide, it is more important than ever to compel top employees to be invested and engaged in their work and organizational culture, even if it is in a more distributed model.

Think of workspace as an amenity to attract workers, retain staff and improve culture

One way to build loyalty and culture is to think of a company’s physical space as an amenity. Amenities are often thought of as constructs that keep people in the office. In years previous, many companies built in snacks, foosball tables and other services to help keep people in the office beyond the typical 9-5. Moving forward, it will be important for “amenities” to be more work-focused, supportive of the reasons that individuals are coming into the physical workspace, and coordinated with their work-life balance. There is no longer the need to keep people “present” in the office, but while they are there, they should be highly productive.

Space will also need to build community, identity and social connections that are hard to achieve remotely. Offices can offer benefits that cannot be achieved in remote work settings, and thus encourage workers to come in. In addition to face time with mentors, spontaneous interactions and socialization, offices can offer quiet spaces for focused work, access to technology or even just a change in pace that many crave when distributed work becomes mundane.

The built environment is important to establishing culture, and can be harnessed to enhance productivity and loyalty. Exploring how the workforce views their workplace and what they would like to see improved is an important first step in developing a workplace strategy. That foundation enables companies to curate a future-looking workspace. That could mean providing possibly less, but higher quality space to help differentiate environments. Creating a physical workspace that employees want to come to and supports their work processes that cannot be done remotely (or at least not as efficiently) will require thoughtful strategies.

Old models for planning space are no longer reliable, new models will emerge

We often approach space planning challenges by utilizing standard ratios of space types, developed over years of research, coupled with our understanding of the patterns knowledge workers engage in over the course of the work day. As that typical work day becomes even more diverse, ratios will change, become more varied and less reliable. Planning strategies will cater towards more individualistic approaches and asynchronous schedules. Reliable and consistent analysis of badge and occupancy data will be hard to come by for the near future, but it will become an important tool to understand the distributed workforce. Defining and building space that has been well researched and validated through a workplace research and strategy process will help create highly utilized environments that supports company culture.

Examples of shifting planning metrics
  • Shifting ratios will inevitably affect how we plan workspaces and allocate real estate. Basic metrics that we have grown accustomed to, will shift to focus on communal aspects of working in the office. There may be less individual workspace, and more shared work areas. This seems counter-intuitive given the pandemic response’s emphasis on reducing surface contact inherent in shared workspaces, but in the long run, this balance will help support creating the office as an amenity or destination, rather than a place where attendance is the key benchmark.
  • Depending on what people’s home life looks like, there will still be a need for focused work space. Ratios of open to enclosed collaboration and an emphasis on air flow and acoustics will be important to success.
  • Understanding what activities are happening during meetings in conference rooms will define the future space need. For example, the traditional conference room with a large meeting table that everyone can sit around may not remain as the predominant space type outside of the individual work seat. Flexible meeting furnishings that allow for different configurations, and a focus on high and low tech tools that facilitate different types of collaboration will become more important.  New space types that best support collaboration, physically and virtually, will look different.

Our ability to create clear organizational cultures and to research and strategize around asynchronous and distributed work models will lead to the best possible built space, and prove to be differentiators of successful workplace design.

Ballinger’s Fon Wang to present at the Tyler School

Ballinger’s Director of Historic Preservation and Adaptive Reuse, Fon S. Wang, AIA, LEED AP, will present “What’s New with the Old” at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture. Part of Tyler’s lecture series, the presentation will illustrate challenges and triumphs of recent adaptive reuse work in Philadelphia and projects that are changing the way we view preservation. The event will take place on September 18 at 4pm.

Link to details

Linode featured in Context Magazine

Linode Headquarters  was featured in the summer issue of Context, a quarterly magazine published by the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

The adaptive reuse project transformed a historic bank into a new headquarters for the growing cloud hosting company. Ballinger led the renovation of the 22,300 SF building, retaining character-defining features while promoting workplace collaboration through ubiquitous transparency and a variety of collaboration spaces. The ground floor banking hall was transformed into a contemporary hub for gatherings and special events.
Link to article

Linode Headquarters to receive Grand Jury Award from Preservation Alliance

Philadelphia’s Preservation Alliance will recognize Ballinger’s recent renovation of the Corn Exchange National Bank Building at the Annual Preservation Achievement Awards on June 5th. Linode Headquarters was selected for a Grand Jury Award.  The Old City landmark, known for its neoclassical style and history as a former MTV Real World house, was built for the Union Bank of Philadelphia in 1902 and now serves as workspace for the growing cloud-hosting company Linode. The building is listed in Philadelphia’s registrar of historic places and considered significant within the National Old City Historic District.

The mission of the Preservation Alliance is to promote appreciation and appropriate use of the Philadelphia’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes. The annual Preservation Achievement Awards honor outstanding contributions to the preservation of the region’s architectural and cultural heritage. Linode’s founder and CEO, Chris Aker, and Ballinger’s Director of Historic Preservation, Fon S. Wang, AIA, LEED AP, will accept the award at a ceremony at Philadelphia’s Vie.

Linode Headquarters featured in Preservation magazine

The spring issue of Preservation magazine includes a piece about Ballinger’s recent historic preservation and adaptive reuse project, Linode Headquarters.

The Philadelphia landmark, known for its neoclassical style and history as a former MTV Real World house, was built for the Union Bank of Philadelphia in 1902.

Linode, a growing cloud hosting company, chose the historic Philadelphia building as their new headquarters and selected Ballinger to renovate the 22,300 SF space.

The renovation resulted in an open, authentic, transparent workspace that supports Linode’s efforts to attract and retail talent. Ballinger successfully assisted Linode in the approval of Federal Historic Preservation Tax credits, allowing Linode to apply 20% of the renovation cost, including construction and soft costs, to their tax liability.

Ballinger’s Director of Historic Preservation, Fon S. Wang, AIA, LEED AP, is quoted in the piece, reflecting on her passion for the project. “I love the idea of the building having a new life with a completely different group of people.” Published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the magazine celebrates historic places through in-depth features, personal essays, and vibrant photography.

Link to article

Ballinger revives historic landmark for Linode’s new Philadelphia offices

Ballinger recently completed the renovation of the Corn Exchange National Bank building for the growing cloud-hosting company Linode. The new headquarters is a mashup of Silicon Valley technology and historic Philadelphia architecture. Sited next to the Betsy Ross House and along N3rd Street, the city’s official tech corridor, the building offers the kind of workspace that appeals to tech workers: it’s open, authentic, transparent, and home to state-of-the-art computing.

The Old City landmark, known for its neoclassical style and history as a former MTV Real World house, was built for the Union Bank of Philadelphia in 1902. It is listed in Philadelphia’s register of historic places and considered significant within the National Old City Historic District, with a facade featuring colossal limestone columns and a granite stoop with wood, bronze, and glass sliding-pocket doors. Its urban location promises to jumpstart Linode’s ability to recruit and retain highly-qualified employees.

Ballinger Principal, Keith C.H. Mock, AIA, and Director of Historic Preservation and Adaptive Reuse, Fon Wang, AIA, LEED AP, were tasked with rehabilitating the structure’s many striking original features while creating modern and functional offices for engineers, product development, sales, marketing, and customer support. Philadelphia specialists Materials Conservation Co. refurbished original wood lacquer, handmade plaster tiles and balustrade, hand-painting them to blend with the original. Masons uncovered brick walls and removed builder-grade floor tiles to showcase the original marble flooring. The team also rescued and rehabilitated the building’s 100-year-old wooden windows. Wang was energized by Linode’s commitment to restoring the building: “It was an honor working with an owner who fosters a true love for the building and its history. A lot of details that could have fallen to the wayside were saved and reinvigorated.”

The main bank room was designed to become a tech hub for social engagement. The underground bank vault, at one point the infamous Real World “confessional,” is now a break-out room, accessed through the original, restored metal vault door. Ballinger worked with state and city officials throughout the project to ensure that all work followed building regulations, and preservation and accessibility guidelines— a task that was challenged by the building’s age and landmark status. The result is a sophisticated design that highlights historic features and renders the building systems practically invisible.

Ballinger successfully assisted Linode in the approval of Federal Historic Preservation Tax credits, completing Parts I through III of the application and working with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PMHC) and the Philadelphia Historical Commission. The tax credit allows Linode to apply 20% of the renovation cost, including construction and soft costs, to their tax liability.

The building officially opened in June 2018 and has been well received by “Linodians.” Summarizing her passion for the project, Wang said, “One of the principles of historic preservation is continued use. My hope is that this adaptive reuse serves as a precedent to other buildings in need of a new life.”

Ballinger Presents at Tradeline Space Strategies 2017

Ballinger’s Terry D. Steelman, FAIA, LEED AP and Katherine Ahrens, LEED AP, along with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Senior Vice President Doug E. Carney, AIA, LEED AP, gave a presentation at the 2017 Tradeline Conference on Space Strategies. Their talk “A Workplace Innovation Process to Harness the How, When, What and Why of Your Organization’s Working Style,” explored how Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) approached the launch of a more progressive work environment.

Ballinger Featured in Interior Design Best of Office

Ballinger’s renovation of 98,000 SF for a corporate client in Branchburg, New Jersey is featured in Interior Design’s hardcover publication “Best of Office.” A two-page spread describes Ballinger’s unique solutions for converting a warehouse into an engaging workplace.

With a foreword by Interior Design Editor-in-Chief, Cindy Allen, the book features inspiring office interiors from around the world.

Tradeline Features Ballinger’s Workplace Strategy Team

Ballinger’s Workplace Strategy team was recently featured in a Tradeline report entitled, “Culture Drives Collaboration; Space Design Enhances It.” The article focuses on Ballinger principal, Keith Mock, AIA and Ballinger designer, Katherine Ahrens, LEED AP, and how they combine an understanding of a client’s office culture with a library of industry metrics and research on space utilization to arrive at a tailored workplace strategy and design.

The report presents a number of case studies across a range of industries. In the case of the University of Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, the University’s desire for a strong sense of community inspired a design that combines lab modules, open collaborative areas, and amenities such as shops and restaurants to promote formal and informal learning.

At a Boeing helicopter factory in Pennsylvania, Ballinger’s Workplace Strategy team was tasked with reorganizing the space to integrate engineers into the factory to optimize collaboration while allowing for sufficient space for focused work.

For Merck’s New Jersey headquarters, Ballinger engaged in a year-long research project that included a 27,000 SF pilot workspace to create a custom solution that reflected the Merck culture and work style.

To learn more about Ballinger’s methods for leveraging office culture to create successful workplace designs, read the full article.

Ballinger Thought Leaders Present Research on the Changing Culture of the Workplace

Ballinger Principal Keith Mock, AIA, and interior designer Katherine Ahrens, LEED AP, led a session at the 2013 Tradeline Space Strategies Conference, held in Scottsdale, AZ.

They analyzed the extensive research supporting the power of collaboration and presented Ballinger’s recent findings on the topic, collected through real-world implementation.

Focusing on several elements that impact design such as technology, socialization, flexible work arrangements, and utilization of space, they illustrated effective design and implementation strategies and showed how creating space for collaborative work is affecting and ultimately changing corporate culture.

Merck Branchburg

Link to Presentation