How Robust Employee Feedback Inspired a Complete Workplace Refresh

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Chair Of The Month

Elise Shapiro
Elise Shapiro
Elise Shapiro is a contributing editor. Little did she know that her first job, in the facilities department at Ralston Purina, while obtaining her M. Arch at Washington University, in St. Louis would foreshadow where her career would lead. She has always been a strong advocate for providing the best possible spaces for people to work – where aesthetics meet function and drive business success.

One companies’ way of refreshing the workspace to support a flourishing culture. The result – thank you notes from long-time employees!

Bethpage small meeting room
Small meeting rooms were provided as employees requested. Image courtesy of Staples Business Advantage.

Bethpage Federal Credit Union was founded for workers at a Grumman aircraft plant, in 1941. The institution now offers banking services to more than 300,000 members. Their longevity and commitment to the local community has earned them not only the respect and recognition for their civic endeavors, but fostered a loyal work force “family”. Following third party recognition for Bethpage’s health and fitness programs in the work place, a series of employee surveys pointed out that there was a disconnect between the physical environment and the well-being initiatives and activities provided for their employees.  

The executive management team led by Anthony J. Edelman, AVP Support Service, took the feedback from the surveys seriously. According to Anthony, “Bethpage’s commitment to our employees is evidenced by the weight it is given as one of our four strategic pillars.  Throughout this process we engaged with them to determine not only their physical needs, but also to align interdependencies between departments.”   After taking steps to analyze the survey feedback, they looked into the various ways they could improve the situation. They realized that they needed to find ways that their space could be improved to boost employee engagement and productivity. They also wanted to use their efforts as a way to re-set their work-space for not only the benefit of their current employees, but as a way to plan for continued growth and to provide for the employees of the future.  The decision to invest in the renovation of existing space, and the addition of new space near their headquarters was described in our interview with representatives from Bethpage, and their interior design partner, Staples Business Advantage.

What is the address of the project?
The project involves two buildings, renovations planned for the existing Headquarters at 899 South Oyster Bay Road, and additional space leased at nearby 999 South Oyster Bay Road, Bethpage, NY.

Who was the interior architect/designers?
Staples Business Advantage was engaged to manage interior design and change management for the project.

When was the project completed?
The new space in the 999 building was completed late 2016. Renovations in the headquarters (899 Building) will start this year.

What is the total square footage?
The renovation of the headquarters building is 31,000 SF, and the new space in 999 occupies 23,000 SF.

What is the square footage per person?
158 SF per user Net

Here is some additional information that may be helpful:

158 includes individual desk space and division of shared spaces/circulation spaces

Hoteling desk: 25 sf

Standard desk: 36 sf

Manager desk: 50 sf

How many total employees are there and what’s the daily population?
197 employees work in the 899 HQ building, and 120 employees occupy the new space in the 999 building.

Is there a mobile work or work from home policy or are most of the employees there all day, every day?

Most of the 999 staff work from this office daily. Some travel between this and other offices or are primarily on the road. They do have the flexibility to work from home some of the time.

How much of that space is unassigned?

13 of the 145 stations are unassigned hoteling desks. There are also 5 non-reservable Huddle spaces.

Tell us a little about the background of the project.

Once the executive team at Bethpage became aware of the employee issues with their workplace, they took those concerns as a vehicle to create an opportunity to update and reinvigorate their work space. The offices housed a “furniture museum” assortment of workstation styles amassed since the 1980’s. For example, one floor had twelve different cubicle styles. Each building had its aging furniture stock and distinct interior décor including a wall covered with low-pile pinkish carpet. Once the decision was made to update the office space, there was additional discussion on how to reorganize their work space to increase employee engagement and productivity. They planned to initiate updates to space in their main headquarters building at 899 South Oyster Bay Road and then decided to lease additional space in nearby 999 South Oyster Bay Road. The acquisition of the additional space gave them the opportunity to examine how their different departments worked with each other and created the feeling of a campus.

Working with the Staples Advantage team, and utilizing the Leesman index work place benchmarking survey, Bethpage’s project manager, Maria Stadler states that these activities enabled them to give employees a voice in how the renovated offices should look and feel. Improving the work place was a way to demonstrate the company was engaging them in in the process. The Staples team also interviewed employees to gather more information. Additional impetus for the changes was driven by the need to provide for increasing headcount and providing space that would appeal to the millennial workforce now entering their business.

The data collected created the backbone for the office design strategy for the planned tenant improvements for the 999 building and the 899-headquarters building. Stadler says this approach enabled Bethpage to locate departments near each other based on their need to collaborate to maximize efficiencies. The design approach speaks to this, too: The new offices, for example, remove private offices in favor of workstations, open spaces, and various-sized meeting rooms.

Leesman Bethpage findings

How was Staples selected and what were the advantages of choosing this type of service provider?

Bethpage interviewed several architectural firms, but Staples was chosen as a cost-effective choice to meet all their needs based on the size and scale of the work that was necessary. They were initially contacted to do a mock fit up, to show furniture options for the newly leased space in the 999 building. The Staples team’s knowledge and connections with vendors facilitated a solution that met their requirements. They were extremely flexible with change requests. The Staples team also got high marks for their knowledge, professionalism, ability to meet deadlines, and willingness to customize solutions.

Working with the Bethpage project managers and a third-party resource to provide data analysis of employee concerns and feedback, enabled them to deliver a work place that gives employees the tools they felt they needed to do their jobs.

What kind of change management actions proved successful?

Because moving employees is about more than packing boxes, Bethpage also was successful working with Staples Business Advantage to develop a change management plan. This included conducting sessions to review office space and furniture designs and collecting feedback. The sessions, which also involved the company’s HR team and project managers, were a way to demonstrate the company’s transparency in this process, and communicate about progress, Stadler says. Additionally, the feedback helped refine plans, such as the modifications made to a manager’s workstation design.

“The Staples team was instrumental, Stadler continues, adding that their constant communication about design options, choices and the process for making them a reality,” made Bethpage’s managers and employees comfortable with the changes.

“The design team shared a considerable amount of change management information used for the conversations we had with staff,” Stadler adds. “They shared articles and information that helped me understand how to address change management issues. What are the communications that we need to get out to make people comfortable with what we are doing? Do we see individuals who are excited? Let’s make sure they are front and center and share that energy with others.”

Which furniture brands and architectural products did the team specify?

After reviewing several options, the company selected Allsteel Terrace and Gather Collection furniture for its product quality, flexibility and modern aesthetics. Acoustic remediation from Lencore Sound Masking Systems is utilized in the open office areas to mitigate ambient noise issues. The kitchen area also has furnishings from Allsteel’s Gather Collection. The furniture specified supports this flexible space which can accommodate a meeting or use an occasional quiet work zone. Meeting room tables from Allsteel’s Gather Collection and National Office Furniture’s Mio Tables were sized and configured to foster productive meetings based on room size and use.

New open meeting space in Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s new offices. Image courtesy of Newsday / John Paraskevas.

How is the company’s brand reflected in the design?

Staples worked closely with the Bethpage teams, especially the Marketing team, to create signage and design elements that reflected their brand standards. 2/90 Sign Systems also worked with Staples to create a timeline wall display and signage with the Bethpage logo throughout the office. Color selections were complimentary to the corporate colors and selected areas of bright colors were used to reflect the company culture.

Bethpage brand inclusion in wall
Creative and impactful branding elements are a design feature throughout the new office space. Image courtesy of Staples Business Advantage.

How was data utilized to help in the redesign process?

The original survey data helped Staples to identify how people were working currently in their existing facility, – what departments are they working closely with, how many people are in an average meeting – as well as how they felt about their work space. The discovery was that the culture at Bethpage was a familial culture of community involvement and internal support. It was what kept people at Bethpage with long tenure, despite having a work environment that didn’t match their culture.

The Bethpage leadership wanted to create a space that embodied their culture and would allow them to grow for years to come. The initial survey data also brought up areas that created more questions for the team. They analyzed the data and reviewed the findings with Bethpage. After that review and analysis, focus groups with representatives from each department were engaged in the continuing discussions on how the new work space design could support their work. The Staples Advantage team also spent time at Bethpage’s offices, observing how they work and determining from there what the new work environments should incorporate. For example, they discovered that people were frequently having 1-2 people join them in their cubicles for conference calls and training sessions. The survey data showed that most meetings had no more than 3-6 participants. People noted that they lacked small meeting rooms. In the new space, several small breakout rooms that accommodate anywhere from 3-8 people were incorporated into the new work place design. In the new building, people are using these spaces frequently, and the post-occupancy survey showed that the employees enjoy having those areas available to them.

What was the most useful or surprising feedback you got from employees during the design process?

Originally, the manager cubicles were specified with a guest seat.  Most managers and AVP’s were leaving offices to go to these cubicles, and the guest seat was an important part of that transition. However, when employees toured the mockup of the workstations, the managers and AVP’s chose to have additional storage both file and locker style for documents and personal items over the guest seat.

What was an unanticipated challenge faced during the design/renovation process, and how did you handle it?

The Staples Advantage team knew that they would encounter many challenges. The existing space was dated, and people were working in areas that did not support their work style. What was unexpected was that some departments resisted the idea of moving. People were attached to and used to their existing work environment, it was “home”. There were many conversations to explain in great detail what was being planned to obtain approval from the individual department, so work could proceed. Bethpage’s leadership decided during the design process that private offices were unnecessary in the new space. Originally, there were plans to incorporate them. With that decision, there was more room for small meeting spaces and break-out collaborative areas. These are now some of the favorite new spaces that people cite as one of the features in the new space they most appreciate.

Staples small meeting space
Meeting space is incorporated into the open work space to enable employees to get together when enclosed meeting space is not required. Image courtesy of Staples Business Advantage.
bethpage conference room
New, large meeting options at Bethpage offices. Image courtesy of Staples Business Advantage.

Please share any illuminating, surprising or hoped for results you might have gleaned from post occupancy surveys.

Bethpage measures employee engagement a few times a year and recently was named one of the top three large companies to work for in New York Council SHRM 2017 list. Their ranking moved up to # 3 from # 8 in one year.

The offices at No. 999 were completed late in 2016, so Bethpage is still collecting more post occupancy data. However, early indications are positive, Stadler says.

Co-locating departments near each other, such as consumer and mortgage lending, appear to be facilitating more collaboration between those teams.

Employees leave thank-you notes on the internal company website, and the digital technology team celebrated its new workspace for testing web and smartphone applications. “We worked with them to make sure we correctly designed their work space, and to make sure that we were able to meet their needs,” Stadler says. “They came back with their monthly update report; there was a whole page just thanking us for space, which was nice.”

This project profile was sponsored by Staples Business Advantage.

Elise Shapiro
Elise Shapiro
Elise Shapiro is a contributing editor. Little did she know that her first job, in the facilities department at Ralston Purina, while obtaining her M. Arch at Washington University, in St. Louis would foreshadow where her career would lead. She has always been a strong advocate for providing the best possible spaces for people to work – where aesthetics meet function and drive business success.
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