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How to prepare your IT for office expansion and grow your business
Growth is the name of the game for any business operating in 2016. High rapid growth is pretty much the standard for technology and software companies. Usually, accommodating that growth means increasing headcount. A lot of times companies can overlook basic aspects of growth such as where new employees are going to sit, how will their commute to work be, and most importantly, how do you create a workplace environment that is conducive to both employee satisfaction and expectations for productivity?
When preparing for growth, always remember technology is your friend, not your enemy (but sometimes it doesn’t always feel that way!). Technology is a key driving factor in today’s office design. It affects all aspects of the office environment from how employees work together in the space to methods of working with remote teams around the world. Technology also impacts the social aspects of office space in the ways we interact as we’re getting a cup of coffee or socializing together at the end of the week. Great office design plans for current team needs as well as those in the future – thanks in large part to technology. Ultimately, the space you design today will enable teams to be productive now and when the space is at full capacity. Here at Opsview, we recently expanded into new office space in the Boston area and used smart technology planning in the design process. Here are some suggestions for incorporating technology with office expansion.
The Modern Employee
Office design and technology is mostly visible at each employee’s workstation. Cubicles and desks need space for laptops, tablets, multiple large monitors and cord management to avoid tangles of wires. Even just five to seven years ago, most employees were still working off desktops. The advent of cheaper, accessible laptops has made desk real estate open up, which in turn, means more people in smaller areas with more technologies! Having enough well placed electrical outlets, especially ones that accommodate oversized power supplies, assists with productivity and are extremely important in a time when every employee seems to increase the number of outlets needed every year due to cell phone/laptop charging, monitor plugs, and land lines. All in all, more technology means more outlets!
Modern office design has moved away from individual offices to shared open space with few walls or partitions, mainly because open floor plans encourage collaboration within and across teams Managing noise and sound attenuation is now part of the design process in the layout of the space and materials selected for panels and furniture. Ask anyone who has tried to work in a silent library: a lack of noise is just as bad as too much noise when one needs to concentrate. If a space has no noise mitigation in place (think about how hard it can be to talk on your cell phone in the middle of the Fenway bleachers), it can be impossible to hear a caller on the phone or concentrate. Office areas combined with small meeting spaces scattered around our space foster collaboration and also offer quieter places to take customer calls.
Secure areas for IT now must seamlessly blend into the office space. In some cases, these rooms are not located close to the professionals who manage the equipment in these areas. Resources for monitoring the equipment in these rooms are included with the office design. Open office areas also need to include spaces for more device charging, 3-D printers, wireless printers, scanners and interactive whiteboards – all of which need power and data. No more searching for Ethernet jacks behind file cabinets or snaking extension cords across the doorways to get more power where you need it! When office floor plans included many small offices, tucking away that noisy paper shredder was pretty easy. The noise of the paper shredder has given way to the hum of the 3-D printer.
Hidden Money Savers
Energy savings and resource management play a factor in today’s office moves. Natural light and motion sensitive, energy efficient task lighting are linked to using fewer resources, thus saving electricity costs. Green building design helps property management save money on heating and cooling by reducing heat/cooling loss and re-using resources such as rain water to water the green spaces. For companies that are running many servers, solar power can reduce the total power cost. For example, exposure to natural light, especially in the morning, has proven to increase alertness, metabolism and improve the mood of people – all good things for your workforce! The new Opsview office has an entire wall of windows to let in natural light. Even our plants use soil technology (disguised in modern metallic looking containers) to reduce watering.
Office space design incorporates the needs for meeting space, work space and social space all in one area. Social spaces include informal gathering areas, kitchen and breakroom functions, and meeting areas. Our social space allows us to host a meet-up event for current customers, have team lunches at the bar height tables, or be utilized for an all-company meeting. Convertible and movable furniture makes this possible with the addition of the proper technology such as video conferencing and projection capabilities, lighting control, and sufficient Wi-Fi access points. By recognizing the many uses of one space during the design phase of construction, having multiple uses for a space can save a considerable amount of money when looking for new offices. The lesson to be learned: always be thinking about versatility instead of specificity.
Money is one of the largest obstacles when considering office expansion. Companies are seeking space with more amenities for their employees such as being near public transit, quality of life outside of the office and a skilled labor force. For many companies, locating near but not right in the middle of the most highly desirable areas significantly reduces the rent without compromising on the amenities. If building out a brand new space is out of the budget, finding an office that has minimal construction needed also saves money. Opsview moved into office space that was formerly used by another technology company. We were able to use most of the existing layout since it was already open floor plan. In addition, we moved into another building owned by the same company which saved us money on back-end logistics. Our new office is a few miles outside the city, but comes with public transit access and a host of other amenities that were free including garage parking, a new green building with copious natural light, and easy access to dining/shopping.
Get IT Involved Early and Often
A large component of IT is invisible to the daily user. However, allocating budget, design, and maintenance for this technology is essential. Access control systems, data storage, lobby signage, video conferencing and life safety systems all require careful coordination, installation and future monitoring. Designing redundancy into data feeds and file storage requires advance planning to make sure server racks and IT rooms have enough space and cooling. Often times, these systems need to be installed before walls are closed up or tied into the existing building systems. Such systems may need periodic updates or remote monitoring. Getting the IT department involved to not only survey areas, but consult on how the infrastructure will be set up, will save time and money when you realize that your server room is actually next to the heating vent.
Designing great office space is possible when technology professionals are included at the beginning of the process. This is, by far, is the most important bit of advice. Including sysadmins, end users and IT leadership in the planning process assures a smoother build and move. Select vendors who can help you define objectives and future needs while including the company in-house IT team helps identify the equipment needed to scale the business to learn how much space is going to be required for this technology. Starting early in the planning process helps manage long lead times and research cost savings solutions. Vendors who offer support and troubleshooting while scaling with the company can provide long lasting value. If you need to find a vendor who can best serve your particular needs, be sure to ask your property manager or Operations/Facilities/IT professionals at similar businesses.
Essential Office Move Checklist!
On a truly macro level, these are the seven essential concepts to keep in mind when moving/building your new office:
• Identify company growth and expansion plans. This should also include where employees are living. Personally, I always assume we’re going to fit 20% more people in the space than we budgeted before another move occurs.
• Cast a wide net when searching for office space and use a local broker to assist in your search. They can help identify hidden gems and match budget/quality/amenities. From start to finish, even a small move/build can take a minimum of 6 months.
• Utilize company experts to help identify a needs list for technology, social, and culture/values; the backbones of good office environments.
• Use local external resources for best practices (and visit current examples of their work!)
• Think creatively! Use a space for more than one purpose! Look for great values on new and used equipment.
• Build excitement at your company in anticipation of the move and get employee input by naming conference rooms, picking commissary items or other fun projects.
• Have fun!
The new US offices for Opsview were built on the collaboration between multiple internal teams, external vendors and both a short term/long term set of goals for our space. By including IT resources and local experts in our planning from the start, we were successfully able to seamlessly expand and move to our new space!
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