To prioritize Why we unite will elevate our work and help our organizations thrive. The workplace is designed to foster company culture, reinforce values and identity, support engagement and facilitate collaboration. Over the past few years, our world has adapted to learn how to manage business operations virtually, but the human elements have suffered. Relationship building and collegiality, mentorship, and celebration are just a few things people lack in remote work roles.
With so many competing factors affecting business functions and workplace design, DLR Group designers have found that direct interaction with stakeholders at all levels helps create clarity for making decisions. meaningful decisions. So how do we bring our teams together to help as the world continues to evolve and innovate?
To understand the real “why” of the workplace, we need to think about company values. To have meaningful discourse, workplace leaders need to explore and uncover the values most important to the company. There is no prescriptive list that works for every organization, and in-depth discussions must be conducted to get to the essence of what the business stands for. Who are you as an organization? What is the main objective of your work? How do you best serve your customers? What are your growth plans?
Putting these elements on the table allows us to frame discussions around nine key areas:
- Culture + Identity: A project can use design to celebrate its history and context. The construction of a strong sense of belonging often testifies to the identity of the occupants and the surrounding communities. Other aspects of culture and identity deal with inclusion and a sense of belonging which could lead to a discussion of organizational transformation and how the structures of your organization can change to support larger goals.
- Health + Wellness: Project design can promote mental, physical, and emotional well-being and help users achieve their personal goals. There are several factors related to health and well-being: Is it important for your project to connect users directly to nature-related experiences? Does your project need to connect users to fitness-related activities or movements? Does your project promote healthy food choices or policies?
- Impact of materials: Building materials impact human well-being, carbon emissions (both intrinsic and operational) and costs throughout the lifetime of the materials. How important would it be to promote material transparency around its ingredients or even where the material comes from? How do material choices in the built environment impact the local economy or ecosystems along the supply chain?
- Energy + Water: A holistic approach to energy and water management includes reducing costs and consumption before working to add renewable energy generation to your project. Building systems play a critical role in achieving your project’s energy goals, and a discussion of system selection and maintenance is an essential piece of the energy puzzle. Water encompasses water quality, water and stormwater management practices, hydrological balance, and the context of water culture in a community. How can your project ensure a reliable water supply, regardless of circumstances or external systems? Would your project have a positive impact on greater connection to regional water systems? Finally, would it be important to know if the quality of your drinking water is safe and where it comes from?
- Indoor environmental quality: The interior environment of a project has a direct correlation with the health and well-being of those who occupy the spaces there. The quality of the indoor environment is determined by many factors, including acoustics, thermal comfort, air quality and visual comfort.
- Quality of the external environment: Projects can use their outdoor spaces to build community, restore ecology, and create a strong sense of place. One could think of how natural infrastructure could help mitigate flooding or filter air pollutants or reduce heat island impacts. What about your project that could improve the external environment not only for your project but also for your neighboring communities?
- Elasticity: Intentional design and planning can support the ability of buildings, sites, individuals and communities to respond to, resist and recover from stressful or adverse situations. Resilience is rooted in identifying your vulnerabilities to climatic or man-made disturbances. How can you create a clear action plan for your organization for business continuity? What could be the economic impacts of a disruption and what do you need to plan for to ensure economic vitality in the face of unforeseen events? Finally, what aspect of your project should address individual resilience and support in stressful situations?
- Access + Mobility: This encompasses transit-first design, providing transportation options, decarbonizing transportation, and improving walkability and safety. A potential example of this applied value could include electric car charging stations or programs focused on experiencing alternative transit options.
- Purchasing + Operations: Projects can establish practices that support safety and security, efficient operations, supplier diversity, and responsible sourcing and disposal of assets. Procurement and operations are often the keys to linking larger project goals and ensuring their long-term success.
While these topics include elements of green design, it is important to consider sustainability holistically and in the context of other considerations. Determining sustainability priorities can help determine which third-party rating or certification system, if any (i.e. LEED, WELL, Fitwell, Living Building Challenge, Green Globes, etc.) is best for a landlord or renter.
As organizations move forward in their efforts to document and report on their progress on environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics, defining each of these priorities will create a roadmap to better results. organizational and more equitable individual outcomes.
Every company has its own diverse set of factors that drive professionals to return to work environments in one form or another. It is up to Workplace Leaders and Designers to convene corporate real estate decision makers and lead the conversation to ensure alignment on the fundamentals of a business and the reasons we come together.