Keys to successfully designing a smart office and fostering collaboration amongst teams

Nearly two years ago, we began work on our new 208,000square-foot, seven-floor global headquarters (GHQ) with a move in slated for August 2017.

There’s a huge focus on collaboration and innovation at WWT, and one of our main goals when constructing our new headquarters was to create a smart office that offered our employees a space to collaborate with teams in the office and remote.

As the head of the corporate properties team, I was a part of the innumerous decisions that needed to be made for this incredible building to come together. The toughest part was making these decisions on behalf of over a thousand employees more than a year before they moved into the space.

To help combat this challenge and ensure the decisions we were making would make our new GHQ successful, we relied on receiving feedback from employees, understanding how our employees work, deploying the right technology and collaborating across the various teams supporting this huge project.

Importance of Feedback

It was important that we listened to the feedback we received from employees to understand what our workforce wanted and didn’t want in the new facility.

Some employees said they wanted to move around more during the day and be able to choose from a variety of workspaces. To meet this need, we built different sized rooms equipped with furniture that would enable employees to have breakout meetings with a couple of peers, or even smaller quiet rooms if an employee needed a private area to complete a task or have a phone conversation.

The challenge we faced with these different workspaces was determining the quantity of each, given how many employees would be in the building. The research and development team from our vendor, Steelcase, helped us with this first step.

There’s a methodology that Steelcase employs called “power of place,” where you take a closer look at the physical space allotted for each worker. We gave the Steelcase R&D team our floor plan and the number of people expected to fit in different spaces, and they presented us with detailed floor designs. From there, we were able to take a close look at customizing each element and modifying the design to fit our workforce.

With this approach, we shrunk some traditional workspaces but afforded employees the choice to work in a more collaborative setting. For employees that aren’t in the office or at a specific desk very often, it makes sense to shrink some of their space and provide other choices such as quiet rooms or closed-off desks. For employees that are in the office every day, you have to keep some of their comfort and space available, such as dedicated seating with built-in monitors at workstations.

It was important that we incorporated various styles of meeting rooms as well, with different furniture to reflect the diverse interactions that take place.

Our ideation rooms allow participants to change the configuration of furniture based on what makes the most sense for different brainstorming exercises and the number of participants. Team studio rooms lend themselves to collaborative meetings. The ability to break apart tables in these rooms creates a focus on getting participants involved and engaged with the whiteboard. Other conference rooms are simpler and have traditional-style tables and seating. By offering employees and visitors a variety of rooms, we hope to encourage a more collaborative dynamic.

Departmental Differences

One thing I’ve realized in making decisions for GHQ is that not everyone works the same way. We continuously try to understand how our people work and what their needs are when it comes to their physical work environment.

We’ve listened to separate teams and departments to come up with specialized layouts based on their unique needs. For example, we worked closely with our finance department and found that they have their own style of meeting and working. Because they’re comfortable in more traditional meeting rooms, we ended up replacing the collaborative furniture we intended for that area with a setup that reflects their conventional way of conducting meetings.

We’ve worked with every branch of the company, similar to how we interacted with finance, to understand how we can offer them the best environment for their personal workstyles and encourage innovation within and between teams.

Technology Features in GHQ

The technology for finding a room

For years, we’ve had remote employees and people who need to travel from building to building who struggle to find the rooms they need, along with needing to guide visitors to the appropriate departments and conference rooms. We wanted to alleviate this pain, especially given that GHQ is double the size of our previous headquarters and has added 70 new conference rooms to our existing facilities.

In GHQ, there are interactive digital displays facing the elevator doors that map out each floor in detail.  From there, you can find specific conference rooms and departments, as well as other areas throughout the facility such as kitchens, quiet rooms and stairs. These maps even allow the user to select a specific room and see the path that needs to be taken in order to get there.

The technology for booking a room

A pain point at our previous headquarters was the overbooking of conference rooms. To alleviate this issue, we incorporated more capabilities in the GHQ that integrated seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook.

We incorporated a mobile application called Teem, which allows our employees to easily book rooms without having to open Microsoft Outlook. The mobile app shows available rooms, updated in real time, so users always see the most recent status of rooms in GHQ.

Digital screens outside each room that show the name of a scheduled meeting and number of participants allow users to check into a room at the start of the meeting. If a room isn’t checked into within 20 minutes, it becomes available again.

The technology in the room

Technology certainly plays a huge role in how the room performs.

With the various styles of rooms featured in the new facility, we wanted to make sure that the technology incorporated would allow full functionality in any room setup. The addition of Cisco MX units in the conference rooms allowed us to do this with the PresenterTrack feature, which focuses the camera on whoever is speaking.

Implementing Proximity access in every room offers easy connection to personal computers, which makes meetings run more smoothly and efficiently. These capabilities offer users the ability to focus more clearly on meeting agendas and easily connect with remote participants.

Cross-team Effort

For everything to come together, we collaborated constantly with our IT and the unified communications teams. They have been tremendous in going out and researching the newest technology, whether it be the PadZilla on the first floor or the Prysm walls we’ve incorporated both in the GHQ and on campus, which allow multiple people to use the walls at the same time, save off work, pull in video and display our technology lab portal all using interactive touch.

Our combined goal is to make sure we are learning about these systems and getting people trained up on them so they can demonstrate their full capabilities to our customer and internal teams.

We’re fortunate as a facilities group to have talented people in the organization who throw out ideas and allow us to bring everything to the table for discussion. There are several groups within WWT, from IT Operations to the Advanced Technology Center team, who are active members of our facilities team when it comes to making decisions about what aspects to incorporate into new projects.

Having management that is so influential and cares about these decisions has made a huge difference for us as well. We have great leadership at the highest levels that has always been available for us to bounce things off of, whether it’s the shape and look of the building itself to even the smallest design features.

Like with any facility, our work is never done. It is crucial that we learn to embrace iteration as we’re making changes and working on improving the environment based on feedback from employees that have moved into GHQ.

We’re continuing to learn lessons in the process as we build out and remodel our facilities throughout the world. Evaluating the latest technology, trends in work styles and shifting needs is an ongoing practice that allows us to make the best decisions for our employees, partners and customers.

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  1. Carl Nicholson says:

    Great job Justin you are a great person and WWT will always strive for perfection i know as long as you are there.