50 Beyond: Swing For The Fences (Or Maybe Just Next Door)

7 August 2019

For larger corporations, maybe that means employees temporarily move to the other floors that the company occupies within the building. For small- or medium-sized companies, sometimes that isn’t an option. You could choose to sit in place and have the construction be phased, which can greatly impact the project’s budget and schedule, or maybe you work with your broker and landlord to identify swing space within the building. For our renovation, we were fortunate to have vacant space next door to us – half of which we would be expanding into for the new office, and the other half would be our home for first 4 months of the new year while our space was being built.

So, that’s great! Same building, same daily commute, and we were still located on the ground floor making it easy for clients and visitors to find us. And best of all, there would be very little disruption from the construction taking place in our office, and we could all enjoy “the big reveal” together as a team on Day 1.

As grateful as we were to have the swing space, it was definitely an adjustment for our culture and the way we work. The swing space was built out for the previous tenant nearly 20 years ago, had a much more “traditional” aesthetic, and the majority of the space was made up of private offices (we ended up fitting three of us to a room!). The biggest change for me was going from seeing all my colleagues throughout the day, to really only seeing people if I sought them out for a meeting.

If I could sum up in two words how this affected our team, I would say it made things more quiet and disconnected. You could easily go a half day without any interaction with a colleague or teammate (other than maybe on your way to the restroom!). I found myself relying more on chat and email when needing to work with a colleague, putting off in-person conversations in an effort to avoid walking through an endless maze to try and track them down (and when you eventually found them, you’d have to meet in the storage room because the two conference rooms were being used at that time!).

Sitting in the swing space made all of us more aware of what clients need to think about at the onset of a project. Often when we go through a Visioning process with clients, we spend a majority of the time talking about their workplace culture, and how their space can influence or support the way they work and communicate. Being in a space that was clearly set up for someone else’s culture served to remind us that all of those conversations are an invaluable part of the design process. It can be easy to focus just on color and design elements, but the layout flow and overall strategy of the space also effect the employee experience, for better or worse.

Post authored by

Ashley L. Dunn AIA
Associate Principal | Director of Workplace
Dyer Brown Architects

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