Home of Building Operating Management & Facility Maintenance Decisions
Insider Reports

FacilitiesNet eNewsletter
eNews Best Information Tool For Busy FMs
We will keep you updated with trends, education, strategies, insights & benchmarks to help drive your career & project success.
Sign up for eBook




« Back to Facilities Management Commercial Office Facilities Category Home

Three Tips for Successful Office Buildouts

Office Workstations



By Adam Felson

Making office buildout and redesign decisions without the benefit of constructive employee input can cost businesses dearly in terms of employee productivity, morale, and retention. On the flip side, making your employees a part of the buildout and redesign process will enhance  employee productivity and morale, and even raises your chances of recruiting top talent in the future. Seeking input from the end users is critical because good office design directly leads to high levels of corporate productivity, recruitment, and retention. 

A survey by International Interior Design Association found a correlation between office design and the bottom line. The survey queried 1,206 full-time U.S. employees at companies of various sizes.  Respondents to the survey exhibited attitudes that suggest there is a strong correlation between good office design and retention. In the survey, sixty-three percent of respondents who are highly satisfied with their workspace agreed with the statement, “When I get up in the morning, I feel like going to work.” Of the group less satisfied with their workspace, only 24 percent agreed with the statement.”  

While the above might be obvious, two issues commonly occur when an office build out project is mismanaged:

• Too many people in the organization providing input in the design process, ultimately derailing the schedule and obscuring the needs of employees.

• The build-out space misaligns with design and functionality goals of end users (your employees).

 Here are some tips for a successful buildout:

1. Engage Employees in the Process Using a “Bottom Up” Approach

A key step in avoiding problems to is to create a survey that goes to all of the employees to get a high-level understanding of what they hope to see in the new office and what issues they have with the design of the current office that shouldn’t be repeated to a new workspace.

But don’t stop there. Interview each department head to understand headcount and space requirements. Review the employee survey to vet through the survey data and prioritize concerns that were raised. 

With a select group of key project stakeholders and the design team, conduct a design charrette — a “roll-up your sleeves” brainstorming working session where objectives and goals of the new workspace are identified and initial concepts are developed.

Employee input on design will improve the end user experience —this information just needs to be strategically obtained. 

2. Don’t Buy Cheap, Bland Furniture

Organizations building new offices commonly neglect to realize that stylish and functional furniture are essential to completing the objectives of their ideal workspace.

Create alternatives. Companies often fail to create open office soft seating areas for collaborative and alternative workspace environments.  By giving your staff places to have casual conversations outside of formal conference rooms and their desks, a hospitality environment is created fostering powerful synergies. 

These days they say that “sitting is the new smoking.”  Sit-stand workstations are becoming a corporate standard and improve ergonomics.  Consider purchasing the integrated sit-stand workstations verses the top mounted stands that stack on top of desks for maximum flexibility.

A professionally built office translates to corporate credibility, and quality furniture choices play an integral role.  Visiting clients will be sitting at conference tables, interviewees will be scouting out their future workstations, and a reception desk is like the front door to your business.  Quality furniture makes your organization shine.

The choices available for materials, color palates, and textures for commercial office furniture have evolved immensely over the past few years.  Selecting corporate office furniture can allow for you integrate your brand within the workspace to give your employees and guests a unique experience.

When developing a project budget, allocate generously for interior furnishings to completely achieve your functionality and quality goals.

3. Don’t Make Demolition A “Christmas Morning” Surprise

We all know that every construction project is bound to have unforeseen field conditions that the project team will need to work around. This can be anything from hidden pipes in a wall to abandoned mechanical units in a ceiling. The discovery of existing conditions from previous generations of build-outs in the space shouldn’t feel like the surprise a child feels on Christmas morning when opening presents.

Site discovery may have a tremendous range of cost and schedule influences on a project.  Encountering a 1-inch copper pipe requiring re-routing would likely have minimal cost or schedule impact.  But other discoveries, such as asbestos-containing flooring mastic or ductwork mounted lower than expected, is likely to derail a budget and schedule, and also might require compromising design intentions.

Taking a peak beneath “the wrapping paper” to better understand existing conditions won’t uncover all that may be discovered during demolition, but it will help mitigate risk.  Below are a few recommended areas to survey in advance of swinging any hammers:

• Above the ceiling. Your contractor should open ceiling tiles and take photos in all the areas of the your suite that will be having work done to it.  Ask the building management if there are mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire sprinkler as-built drawings available to identify red flags. The survey and review of the drawings can likely be done in about 4-6 hours each, depending on the size of the space.

• Beneath the floor. Your contractor should attempt to peel up each of the existing flooring types to best understand the substrates.  This survey should take less than an hour.

• Wall conditions. Opening up a few holes in the existing drywall throughout space can help mitigate the risk of unexpected findings. For example, if your design calls for an exposed column look, it would be valuable to understand what the appearance of the bare columns is by opening up a few exploratory holes in the drywall in advance.  This survey can be conducted typically in less than a hour.

• Hazardous materials survey. In addition to ensuring proper safety protocol, understanding if the existing premises contain asbestos, lead, or other hazardous materials before demolition is a key technique to avoid project halting surprises. An environmental hygienist should be brought in to survey all materials to be demolished as soon as a demolition plan is developed.  This survey can usually be conducted in one day and lab results can be obtained within two or three days.

The time investment in these surveys is minimal and can easily be performed well before the project is ready to start. The cost is typically a fraction of a percentage of the overall project costs. The result is better planning and the reduction of the risk of schedule delays and cost escalations resulting from an unanticipated change of course.

Adam Felson is the principal founder of officemorph, a San Francisco-based commercial project management firm and the author of "13 Mistakes to Avoid When Building Out Your Next Office."


Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »  


posted on 6/20/2018