How a Well-Designed and Well-Planned Office Space Can Improve Employee Morale and Enhance Your Organizational Culture

June 30, 2017 in
By Erin Pitera, FMP Consulting, President

Photo of FMP office space, focusing on keurigs and coffee mugs

I can’t believe it has been one year since our company, FMP Consulting, moved to the Village at Shirlington in Arlington, VA! When we initially contemplated a move, my first reaction was ugh…the expense, the logistics, the unease of knowing how hard it would be to please everyone – it was not my idea of a fun project and I was dreading it. But being a strategic consulting firm focused heavily on talent management, and having read so much over the years about places like WeWork and new approaches to the office layout, we saw this as a real opportunity to improve things for our people. At the time, our office was designed in the “cubicle-dwelling” vein of the great cult film “Office Space” (1999) – we even have the red stapler to prove it! Clearly, it was time for a change – time for our workplace to better represent who we are as a company. Here’s how we did it:

  1. Location, Location, Location. Working with Newmark Knight Frank (NKF), a local commercial real estate company, we analyzed the market and brainstormed our options. Our main considerations were cost, amenities, and commute time. Using a drive-time analysis of our current staff, we were able to narrow our list to a few key markets. Armed with this knowledge, we toured buildings and collected as much information as we could from the various Business Improvement Districts on our staff’s top priority – amenities, of course! In the end, we were looking for a location that reflected who we are as a company, and Shirlington was the perfect fit. The Village has a real community atmosphere with lots of outdoor space and easy access to everything you need in your daily life. These days, you will often find our staff at the Energy Club – a local gym conveniently attached to our building, on the nearby bike and running trails, or at many of the great restaurants for lunch and happy hour.
  2. Engage and Empower. Once we nailed down our location, we sent out a short survey to ask employees what they value most in their workspace. This gave us direct insight into the features that were at the top of their list. We also found small ways to empower staff over decisions that were important to them, like their office/workstation chair. We selected a few chair options that fit within our budget and reflected our design aesthetic, and then we let our employees take them on a test drive and vote for their favorite. We certainty couldn’t have people vote on every aspect of the design, but by giving employees choices on key things that were important to them, we were able to engage and empower our staff.
  3. Smart, Flexible Design. While FMP Consulting is a nimble, flexible, and innovative firm, our office layout at the time was the complete opposite. At the onset, we had spirited debates about whether to move to a completely open plan. We knew we wanted natural light and a much more collaborative feel, and recognized the need for a flexible design that could grow and contract with our business. But like many organizations, we also do a lot of heads down work and need a space that is free from distractions. To resolve these tough, and often conflicting ideas, we worked with FORM Architects to conduct a visioning (or imaging) exercise. It was a ton of fun – we plastered our conference room walls with images of office designs we liked and used that information to develop common themes for our future space. Using this exercise, along with the results from the survey, we were able to create a bright, fun, and contemporary layout that includes a mix of open collaboration spaces for team meetings and social events, as well as private spaces for more independent work. Most importantly, consistent with our original themes, our new space is collaborative, functional, social, and perfectly reflects our brand.
    Images of sample room designs from visioning session with FORM Architects

    Sample of our visioning session with FORM Architects

    Photo of FMP's kitchen

    Current photo of our kitchen in our office

    4. It’s all about the Hype. Let’s be honest, the logistics of an office move can be tough, and we knew we needed to keep everyone energized. So what did we do? We created an “Office Hype” team. Leading up to our move, we featured many of our design choices in our lobby (e.g., carpet, chairs, backsplash, paint), so employees could get a feel for what was coming. At one of our staff meetings, we had a “New Office Fair”, where employees could go on a virtual tour of the new space, get a feel for Shirlington amenities, and participate in an interactive activity to decorate their workstation and receive a prize for the best design. We had lots of giveaways from local businesses, cookies from our favorite bakery Best Buns, and ended the event with a happy hour in our new neighborhood. For move in day, our Office Hype team made sure that everyone had a gift bag on their desk, complete with coupons and swag from local businesses.

Looking back and reflecting on our 1-year anniversary, I can now say that this was the best decision we ever made. What started out as my nightmare of a project, turned into a fun, energizing, and inspiring adventure – one that has improved morale and enhanced our culture. Ultimately, we created a space that we are proud to call home. If you would like to learn more about what we did and who we worked with to make this all happen, just come visit us and we’ll take you on a tour!

Erin Pitera is the President of FMP Consulting and provides strategic leadership and direction for the company. She has a Master’s in Industrial Relations with 16 plus years of human capital consulting, management and leadership experience in both the public and private sector. She’s an avid Washington Nationals fan and outside of the office she can be found camping, hiking or kayaking with her husband and their 3 and 5 year old boys.