The Importance of building a space that supports your employees

Recruiting Social Interviews Nick Boyd

 Christian De Pape from Recruiting Social Interviews Nick Boyd on How Workplaces Affect People & Productivity

Originally published by Recruiting Social from an interview with Christian De Pape

“You can really tell the difference in a company that spends the time building a space that supports their employees.”

That’s Nick Boyd, President of Vancouver-based business interior design–build company Fusion Projects, talking about the important role workplaces play in an employee’s day-to-day work experience and productivity.

“It really makes a huge difference,” he adds, “because the people make the organization.”

Vancouver-based Fusion specializes in office tenant improvements for industries including tech, legal, corporate, and healthcare. They’ve built offices for the likes of ColliersiQmetrixBaja MiningHUB InsuranceSequel Naturals and Hootsuite. Current projects include Sony Pictures Animation’s new 75,000 square foot headquarters and Coastal Contacts’s new head offices. Clearly, successful and growing companies believe well-designed workplaces can help power their business, and they trust Fusion to make them happen.

But what makes an effective workplace? How do you build an environment that enables employees – and your business – to thrive? A workplace that helps attract and retain the talent your business needs to succeed?

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Nick kindly agreed to a little Q&A …

How do you reflect a business’s culture and identity in an interior environment?

At Fusion, our process is to go in, meet the client, and ask a lot of questions about who they are, what their culture is like, where they want to go as an organization, and what their business plan is. Based on that intake process we’ll try and bring the right designer in to suit the client and the project. Someone who can tie in all of those key elements of the organization into spacial design.

Some clients have a pretty good understanding of what they want. For Hootsuite’s HQ2, [CEO Ryan Holmes] had a designer that he knew and who he felt understood his vision for the new space: that whole Whistler ski motif with all the cabins, the grass walkways in the offices, the outhouse the antlers and all that sort of stuff. Ryan had a good idea of what he wanted Hootsuite to be, how it supported his brand, his company and his culture.

By comparison, to find the right designer for Sony Pictures Animation’s new headquarters, we put three different design groups in front of the client and did a bunch of Q&A. DIALOG, a firm based here in Vancouver, came up with a design that really suited the brand. They put together several different schemes, and the client gravitated to one and we took that and ran with it and created a whole design concept for them.

The beginning is the most important part: it’s the foundation of the whole process. While there are different ways of doing it, it starts with asking a lot of questions. Some clients know what they want, some aren’t sure what they want – we just have to bring ideas and our experience to the table to figure it out.

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Why should employers put this kind of thought, energy and care into developing their workspaces?

If you take the number one most important – and most expensive – aspect of your business, your employees, and you put them in a space that doesn’t support collaboration, doesn’t allow people to interact and to really be able to flower and do well at their job, then what are you doing? How does that benefit you?

When you create an environment that’s really thoughtful, that understands the culture, the subcultures, how these people all work together, what will allow them to optimize their own performance in the workspace – you can’t really quantify the performance and financial benefit, but it’s huge.

We even did it here at Fusion. When we moved into our current office, it was probably twenty percent more space than we really needed. But we were able to add a shower for people who ride their bike to work or run at lunchtime, we built a nice big kitchen, we’ve got a client area, we’ve got a bar and wine fridges, Ping-Pong, all these things. It feels good to be here – even if you have to be here for eight, ten, twelve hours.

If you feel good about the space you’re in, you feel good about what you’re doing, it really does enhance performance. And it makes your company that much better. That’s what we help our clients do.

“If you feel good about the space you’re in, you feel good about what you’re doing, it really does enhance performance.”

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How are workplaces changing?

Right now we’re seeing spaces that still have a lot of open, collaborative work areas but offer private areas, breakaway spaces, too. It’s a partial-open, partial-closed hybrid that works for different types of personalities.

And we’re seeing a lot of light. Open workspaces are along the windows. If you have to have individual offices, we’ll put them on the inside of the space, but with windows so you can still get that connection to the outside light. Kitchen areas are not relegated to the small, less-ideal spaces anymore: they’re on a window, they’re a feel-good space, almost like a home environment.

Flexibility is key: being able to move environments around. Using modular walls to replace conventional drywall is now becoming more and more mainstream. People can take down three or four offices and create an open area virtually overnight, without disrupting business. It’s become really easy to adapt your space to your business as it changes, versus having to shut down and move and rebuild. That’s how the office is evolving.

What mistakes do you see companies making with how they’re building or managing their places of work?

Some business leaders believe: “It’s my company, you guys work for me and I’m going to build the space the way I want it,” and don’t get that input from their employees who actually run the company

The generation that is starting to come into the workplace today – Generation Z – is worldly. They can work anywhere. Companies need to recognize that, understand what environments they are used to functioning in and build workspaces that reflect that and support this new talent. You can’t just drop them into an old-fashioned ‘corporate America’ row of cubicles.

Having a really good design team that can help the company leadership gather that information, understand what employees need from a workspace to do their jobs well, and who can develop a space that supports those needs – that’s what I do think that a lot of businesses miss.

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What’s the first thing a company should do to create the right workplace for its employees?

They need to look internally, do a deep-dive and know who they are as a company today and who they want to be in the future. They need to do that before they go out and find someone to help design and build their space.

Top employers take the time to work on their company. Part of that means they take the time getting to know their employees, getting to know the people they’re hiring, and getting to know the environments they’re people are coming from and want to be in.

“… Look internally, do a deep-dive and know who [you] are as a company today and who [you] want to be in the future.”