This month we had the pleasure of speaking to Sean Hill, the Director of Business Development at Britacan. As a leading design agency for commercial construction projects the Britacan team is well-positioned to know what is coming next for the future of workspaces. We had some questions for Sean about trends in office redesign and how employers are checking in with their workforce to find flexible solutions to the challenges ahead.
How has the last year affected Britacan’s operations?
We made a decision early on to have the entire team work remotely, which we were able to do quickly because we had a good IT infrastructure and some other advantages that have allowed us to pretty much exclusively operate on a work-from-home model. Recently we’re starting to use our office for specific purposes such as pulling finishes or holding a client meeting, but the majority of our work is still remote.
In terms of our projects we have had to shift our focus multiple times. In the beginning of the pandemic, we focused on how to redesign offices to make them safer. Obviously that became obsolete quickly so we shifted to workplace strategy with our clients, and focused on being a resource for them. The majority of our clients are working to understand what a return to the office looks like, and how they can engage their staff. Resoundingly the answer seems to be the hybrid office.
What does the New Office Space look like?
Most of our clients are preparing for a flexible workspace where their employees can come in to work and collaborate 2 – 3 times per week in addition to working from home. Using the physical workspace as a way to engage with staff while encouraging collaboration and productivity is one of the ways we are designing for the future.
One approach to office re-design is the creation of destinations within the office. Rather than grouping divisions together by job function in largely uniform spaces, we create various types of environments that are conducive to different types of work that anyone can access. For example, we have different experience areas such as a café, a library, or a creative area where cross-disciplinary teams can meet and collaborate in whatever environment suits them. The New Office is designed for function and has thoughtfully planned spaces that facilitate productivity.
How important is it to align with the right construction company on these projects?
From a design perspective it’s very important to align with the right construction company. Having the right relationship with a construction partner brings the whole project together. Because of the nature of the work, synergy is very important. When you have a trusted construction partner that you can lean on to deliver a great result, it makes the little things fade away for the client and leads to proactive problem-solving.
Designing and building a space is never a linear process – there is a lot of back and forth on projects so it is important to be collaborating with the right people. When the collaboration is strong and operates as a turnkey solution between the designer and the contractor, it is easier for the client because they are only managing one relationship and the flow of information is streamlined and more precise.
Value Engineering is also important to us. The right contractor will be able to make recommendations throughout the course of a project that will solve problems as they arise, or perhaps help us fulfill a client’s vision with a different material to stay on budget, and even allow us to try new things with their input on how an idea comes together in the field.
What advice do you have for readers who may be planning a redesign to their workspace?
Right now in particular, it is very important to get buy-in from your staff before making any final decisions on your workspace design. Staff engagement is crucial in the early stages of the process, so you make an informed decision before committing to an office of a certain size or a location that may not actually suit your needs. If you know how your staff is going to want to work and what they need to be inspired and productive, then you can form a better plan and not waste resources.
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