How to prepare for an office renovation

It’s time. You’re ready to transform your outdated, underperforming office into a modern, chic and productive workspace. Here are 3 tips to get started.

October 15, 2017

You’re ready to transform your outdated, underperforming office into a modern, chic and productive workspace. Now what?

Here’s the rub: If you’re like most people, this is an entirely new process for you. This type of project doesn’t come around often (every 10-15 years for most organizations), and requires specialized expertise to execute on your vision—or even to identify what that vision is.

Early planning prevents later mishaps and makes sure your project is a success from the very beginning. Here are three steps to starting your workplace renovation off on the right foot.

Ask yourself why you want to renovate

An office renewal is a major undertaking, and requires serious time and financial commitments. You need to be clear on your objectives not only to know what you’re working toward, but also to get the executive buy-in you need to get started.

While reasons for renewals are many, they often come down to two things: the well-being of the people using the space, and the productivity goals the company has for those people.

Attract and retain the best talent.

When you’re competing for the best people, creating a space where they’re inspired and motivated is a logical—and valuable—reason to undergo an office transformation.

Talent attraction and retention is a primary driver of new office design, and we’re hearing more stories from clients about how deep its impact really is. Many prospective employees—particularly millennials—will decide whether to accept a job offer based on what the office looks like. In fact, one of Ed’s clients shared a story about an interviewee who was so turned off by the lobby that he walked out before his interview even began—after commuting for nearly an hour to get there.

Once people are on board, the design of your workplace is crucial for keeping employees interested in coming into the office and enjoying the time they spend there. And—perhaps most critical to your business—for doing their best work.

Drive bottom-line business value.

For years, and particularly during the early days of the recession, many companies saw real estate as a line item from which to cut costs. But that story has changed. In JLL’s 2013 Global Real Estate Trends report, we began to see that the most forward-thinking companies view the office as a place to enhance value, not pinch pennies.

A smart office design—one that makes people feel important, valued, healthy and connected, and that’s developed to help them do their best work—reaps rewards in everything from increased happiness to better health and greater engagement. And those all contribute to better performance.

  • Happy people are 12% more productive than their “meh” counterparts.
  • Better indoor air quality and other green measures reduce employee illness and absenteeism.
  • Active disengagement creates toxic work environments, and strong employee engagement has been correlated with higher earnings per share among publicly traded companies.

All in all, a well-planned workplace will tick both the people and productivity boxes simultaneously. So how do you get there? Consult those who know your office best: your employees.

Find out how your people work

To create a better workplace in the future, you need to know how it functions today. And for your renewal to be a resounding success, you have to create the best workplace for your people—not the “typical employee” or the generalized needs of a generation.

There are two paths to understanding how your employees use space now and what can be improved in the future: employee surveys and workplace utilization studies. You can get support for both by letting your employees know why it’s important for the company to understand their use of the office—and what’s in it for them when you do.

Employee surveys

A critical component of your workplace “before” state is knowing how employees perceive it. How does the space support their work? How about hinder it? What would they change?

This is where the survey component comes in. If you’re interested in how to pull this off, we have a whole article about employee surveys in the redesign process here.

Workplace utilization studies

While surveys are great at getting to know what your people really want, we all know that what we say isn’t always what we do. To get to the heart of the matter, there’s another way to understand your people’s use of space, or workplace utilization—you monitor their actual work habits.

There are smart, unobtrusive and thoughtful ways that you can accurately study employee behavior. From low-tech observation studies where a trained professional walks the halls of your office to high-tech sensors that track everything from coffee preferences to the usage of desks, workplace utilization studies give you a real handle on what makes your office tick.

When you understand how your people use all the types of space available to them—and the kinds of space they desperately desire—you’ll be able to determine the right mix of traditional offices, workstations, conference rooms, huddle rooms, social areas and quiet zones to best support your people day to day.

Ultimately, you’re looking to create a space with intention: the one that that best suits your culture, your employees and your bottom line.

Assemble a team with diverse strengths

After you know what you’re aiming to accomplish, and the broad strokes on how to get there, it’s time to assemble the team that will deliver on your ambitions.

A redesign takes quite a bit of choreography, and your individual project will determine their timing and level of involvement. Regardless, a core team with various skillsets will ensure that every corner of your project is considered.

So there you have it: The vision, the insights and the team to get started on your workplace transformation. All that’s left is the dirty work.


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