Case Study: Designing for Now & the Future National Guardian Life Invests with Strang

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Designing for the future is an investment. By placing the focus on long-term benefits rather than short-term costs, office spaces will remain flexible and fruitful – now and into the future.

 

This issue of SyncMagazine examines the future of office design, and Strang’s recent partnership with National Guardian Life Insurance (NGL), encapsulates our forward-thinking approach. Recognizing early on that a post-COVID workplace would look very different from their current workplace, NGL began working with Strang to start reimagining their workplace shortly after stay at home orders were issued in 2020. NGL saw the stay-at-home orders as an opportunity to reimagine, redesign, and rebuild their workplace while their staff remained safe at home. The pandemic provided an opportunity to test out how efficient the different departments would be working from home. Throughout the planning process surveys were sent out to the staff to gather data on the pros and cons of both working from home and working from this office. The information gathered from the employees and leadership transformed into three guiding principles for the project

 

The Approach

The following guiding principles were created to capture the purpose, vision, and core values of NGL as part of our workplace master planning process.

 

GUIDING PRINCIPLE ONE

Create a workplace grounded in the service of both clients and team members, a place to make connections, collaborate, and work in partnership toward aligned goals and mutual achievement.

Through the Visual Preferencing Survey it was determined that large social spaces, similar to this cafeteria at American Family, were desired by NGL to help facilitate the transformation of their office environment into a hub for collaboration and socialization.

GUIDING PRINCIPLE TWO

Provide an empowering, transformative expansion of work options offering the best balance of in-office and off-site remote connectivity, mobility, and collaboration tools to support the overall wellbeing of the team.

Informal zones located adjacent to primary work areas and acoustically private glass enclaves or huddle rooms along the west perimeter provide opportunity for collaboration. Technology upgrades including sound masking and increased laptop use allow employees to move about more freely throughout the space and choose the work environment that best supports their needs.

GUIDING PRINCIPLE THREE

An optimized, efficient, and flexible work environment that is accommodating of current operations but is laser-focused on the future.

The overall priorities of the leadership team and staff was determined through a priorities survey. The results, shown above, indicate that workplace options and increased technology are major objectives for their new workplace.

 

As we discussed in "The Future of Work: Is The Energy of Change", these guiding principles of collaboration, autonomy, and flexibility are key facets in future office design. As office design ever evolves, this is the future we foresee.

The Process

Before designing a space, the first step is to listen to its users. Strang started our work on this project with an extensive review process including the creation of a Departmental & Priorities Survey for all employees. The primary central theme that was extracted was flexibility. NGL staff were enjoying the freedom of working from home and wanted to maintain a certain level of flexibility after the pandemic to continue working from home a few days a week.

 

Strang Madison Office, Collaboration Zone/Shared Workstation

Next, we focused on benchmarking, assessment, and analysis of both future space needs and the existing facilities. Analyzing future space needs meant designing for flexibility and crafting a space that would remain adaptive to future needs. Facility assessments were conducted that resulted in recommendations for overall accessibility, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and life safety needs.

 

Space utilization analysis of the existing building office and furniture layouts also concluded that significant space inefficiencies needed to be addressed. Consequently, departmental spatial needs and headcount projections were used to calculate optimized required floor area projections. Facility assessments and space analysis helped define a space for NGL that would remain comfortable, accessible, and safe for all employees.

Utilizing all the information gathered, we then developed preliminary floor plans to demonstrate how NGL’s spatial needs fit on all floors. Based on our research, the floor plans assumed that most staff would be working in unassigned workstations/offices and that on any given day 30% of employees would be working remotely.

 

The final master plan considered the feedback of both employees and departmental stakeholders which allowed Strang to design for the current as well as future space needs of National Guardian Life. Our initial careful observations led to the design of increased collaboration spaces and an optimized floor plan that both employees and stakeholders desired. With NGL’s collaborative spirit and Strang’s forward-focused approach, this project was representative of the future standard of workplace design.