To employees, their company’s facilities are a daily measuring stick of how much their company values them. Since it can affect not only productivity and morale but also the ability to attract new hires and retain talent, Human Resource and facilities managers would be wise to pay it adequate attention.
“Facilities show how the company feels about you,” states Gary Wheeler, a former President of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) in the ASID publication Productive Workplaces How Design Increases Productivity: Expert Insights.
In one survey of 3,500 “high-value, top-performing” employees from 26 organizations, work environment was identified as the most important factor influencing their desire to stay with the organization.
Yet in the daily grind, it’s all too easy to let a worn, or sterile office environment detract from the company’s image. If employees, prospects, and clients get a message of neglect, then credibility, professionalism, productivity, and morale suffer.
In order to strengthen the company brand while holding down costs, a growing number of HR and facilities managers are turning away from expensive, new office furniture and moving toward innovative design solutions that enhance the “corporate face for pennies on the dollar.” This is being accomplished with essentially no downtime while energizing employees to higher productivity, morale, and retention.
Aligning the Corporate Image
After years of growth and as-needed purchases, Midwest Food Equipment, an installer and servicer of commercial kitchen equipment, found itself with a hodgepodge collection of metal office furniture. Since much of the equipment was leftover stock bought from a furniture OEM, many of the units were of different sizes, shapes, and colors with scratches and dents that were a little too evident.
“When we outgrew our old building and moved into a beautiful new one, our office furniture was definitely sending the wrong message,” says David Boomstra, President of Midwest Food Equipment. “We had manufacturers reps visiting every day and were concerned about our company image. We didn’t want them thinking, ‘If they run a sloppy operation, what kind of work will they do for us?'”
Instead, Boomstra sought to establish credibility at a glance, especially in the front office.
Like other executives with a keen eye on the bottom line, however, Boomstra couldn’t afford to throw out his office furniture and start from scratch. He also couldn’t afford to disrupt office operations by emptying out desks, file cabinets and such, repainting them, and then returning and refilling them.
Boomstra turned to Facements, a decorative product that instantly covers the surface of desks, file cabinets or other metal furniture to transform the look and feel of an office.
The concept is dramatically simple — fabric, veneer, vinyl, or dry erase surfaces are bonded to a thin magnetic backing so they can be applied to virtually any metal surface.
With Facements the office personnel themselves can cover drab, mismatched, or damaged metallic surfaces in minutes. This provides aesthetic, quickly changeable results not previously available in office environments.
Because HR and facilities managers can choose from over 200 standard options, including genuine wood veneers such as oak, maple, and cherry, they can fine tune their company’s onsite corporate image, or allow employees to customize their workspaces. This is accomplished at a fraction of the cost and time of new or repainted furniture.
Additionally, the magnetic facades prolong the usable life of office furniture. They not only cover existing scratches and dents while protecting from new ones, but also can be instantly swapped out with a new matching façade should damage occur. In contrast, any scratch or ding in new or repainted furniture degrades its aesthetic value and is costly and time-consuming to repair.
To upgrade the front office’s appearance, Boomstra selected an aqua blue Facements fabric he felt created an elegant yet inviting and warm feeling. Matching fabric tackboards were also magnetically attached to the front of each desk, creating a uniform look and ample space to post customer specials or announcements.
“The Facements instantly transformed a cold, disjointed reception area into a warm, inviting one,” says Boomstra. “The aesthetic improvement was amazing — it gave us a more professional image for just pennies on the dollar compared to the total cost of buying new or repainting existing units.”
To boost morale, they also decided to let the office staff choose the design, style, and color to customize their work areas. What they didn’t expect was how much the quick image overhaul would also boost productivity.
Soaring Morale And A Boost In Productivity
In short order, nearly every desk, filing cabinet, and other piece of metal furniture throughout the 6,800 sq. ft. main office and 2,500 sq. ft. satellite office was revitalized with new facades chosen by, and applied by those using them.
Employees simply chose from over 200 standard options on the Facements website or selected custom materials. Their selections were then produced using a comprehensive database of industry furniture sizes so each covering perfectly fit each drawer, side, or top. Office staff simply put them in place on delivery.
“It’s amazing how energized our staff became when we let them personalize their workspaces and the process was so easy,” says Boomstra. “Transforming our entire onsite office image literally took just minutes, with staff taking charge of their own areas.”
At one public work area, staff chose a classy, oak veneer look. At a parts counter that had become unsightly, the new facades provided a much-needed upgrade, covering furniture differences, scratches and dents. Veritable corridors of black filing cabinets were covered with more pleasing, expansive colors.
In his own office, Boomstra enhanced a big, ugly fire safe and credenza files with an antique copper covering. He appreciates the ability to instantly swap out one magnetic facade for another, such as to purple, Northwestern’s school color.
But for Midwest Food Equipment the transformation was more than cosmetic. The sound-deadening properties of the decorative coverings, in fact, dramatically reduced the noise level throughout its offices. This not only improved the company’s auditory image over phone conversations by reducing background noise, but also enabled staff to better concentrate on the job. “It’s amazing how much quieter our work areas have become,” says Boomstra. “The coverings absorb or muffle sound bouncing off metal surfaces, and the sound of drawers opening and closing.”
To provide impromptu meeting space that doubles as seating, pedestal cushions were added to the top of shorter file cabinets. This facilitated communication, especially in tighter quarters where fitting an extra chair would be a challenge. Tackboards were added to steel support pillars located around the office, and to personal filing cabinets and cubicle walls. This made posting notices easier and more convenient.
In order to further improve communication, portable Jot Boards, which are dry erase markerboards complete with pen, and eraser, were placed on the metal doorframes of office doors for use as handy message boards. Additional Jot Boards were placed on the sides of desks or file cabinets, out of the way but always within e
asy reach. This encouraged creativity and communication while cutting back on paper waste.
What started out as an initiative to align Midwest Food Equipment’s onsite image with its quality brand in the marketplace has ended up paying surprisingly large dividends.
“Since putting the Facements in, we’ve seen a 6 to 7% productivity increase in both offices and it’s been three years now,” says Boomstra. He attributes the enhanced production to less noise distraction, better communication, and to energized employees who feel a real sense of ownership over their own workspaces. “It’s hard to believe how fast we changed a stark metal office into a warm, friendly and attractive workplace.”
“We achieved a complete office facelift without the expense of new furniture or the hassle and delay of repainting,” concludes Boomstra, who has conducted productivity studies. “We saved about $70,000 in direct costs, avoided downtime and lost production; plus we’re benefiting from ongoing goodwill and productivity. That’s a real payoff for what essentially takes just minutes per employee to accomplish.”