By Janet Morra, AIA, LEED AP, and Marnie Glover, LEED AP
There is a great shift in thinking about how the qualities of a work environment affect the productivity of those who inhabit it. Professional services firms in law, accounting, financial services, and consulting are striving to create environments that inspire a much greater degree of productivity, innovation, and employee engagement. While the design solution for the ideal workplace will vary by industry and company, research shows that the design challenges to a successful workplace strategy remain constant.
Although professional services firms are following broader industry trends toward reducing private offices in favor of more open work environments, accounting firms still rely on private offices, primarily to preserve client confidentiality. And while confidentiality is critical, today’s rising professional services talent are increasingly seeking workplaces where transparency unites the workforce, removing barriers to collaboration and mentorship. The accounting sector is also in line with shifting industry standards toward less square feet per person, although workstation sizes aren’t becoming as compact as they are in corporate organizations.
Boston-based CPA firm Edelstein & Company was aware that some of their competitors were making drastic workplace changes to enhance collaboration and reduce real estate costs. After many years occupying space at 160 Federal Street in Boston, Edelstein started outgrowing the office, and — still fond of their building — reluctantly started a search for new space, assisted by Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA). MPA provided fit plans for several other buildings when serendipitously, the other tenant on Edelstein’s floor decided to vacate the building, thereby freeing up the additional space Edelstein required and eliminating the need to move. Becoming the only tenant on that floor gave Edelstein the opportunity to expand, update, and brand their office as well as the elevator lobby.
Edelstein worked with MPA to define their workplace strategy and imagine how a more open, less office intensive environment could work for the firm. Reflecting on their workstyle and needs of staff, Edelstein opted for a mix of offices and open workspace, and determined that increased transparency and natural light were both important goals for them. The firm also took the opportunity to re-brand itself, and sought to integrate the new warm and friendly palette colors and brand elements into the design. With the decision to stay in the building and build out bigger space, Edelstein was faced with a challenging phased renovation over the winter.
When construction was scheduled to start, Edelstein was heading into their busy tax preparation season from January to April when employees work seven days a week for extended days. Edelstein couldn’t have their staff disturbed during this period, and working remotely and moving staff were out of the question. From the onset of the project, the project team including MPA, CBRE New England, Corderman & Company, Inc., and RDK Engineers, collaborated on a construction strategy and devised a coordinated three-phase schedule to minimize the disruption.
It was critical that the project team meet every delivery date, as the project schedule was so closely tied to Edelstein’s business. Keeping the electricity, network, and computers functional at all times was paramount. Since there would be no ability to cut over during tax season and risk work disruption, all the electrical and data infrastructure work was pre-loaded and completed in December 2015. Starting phase one on January 1, 2016, the project team built out the newly acquired floor space while isolating the construction and associated noise from the on-site staff in the original office.
After tax season concluded and employees were in the office on a reduced, more predictable schedule, the project team commenced phase two. Edelstein’s staff moved into the new space and consolidated into half of the original space while the other half was then renovated. Over the summer, the remaining space was renovated in phase three.
Edelstein’s new 25,000 square foot “on-brand” office offers a fresh and updated workspace that promotes collaboration, supports social interaction, and increases brand awareness. New glass-fronted offices promote transparency and visibility among staff and allow natural light to penetrate to the interior work areas. Edelstein’s brand colors of orange and yellow add vibrancy to furniture and accent walls, and the new logo “e” is etched along the glass walls and printed in bright orange on the glass doors. Edelstein also added a wellness room and sit-to-stand desks to promote a healthy work environment.
To create community and opportunities for staff to socialize, a well-equipped kitchen space was an important amenity. In their old space, the kitchen was open and disruptive to the workspace, so in the new office, MPA designed a separate, enclosed kitchen space that reduces distractions to staff working in the area. During the long hours of tax season, Edelstein keeps their staff well fed. The new kitchen features plenty of counter space for buffet-style catering, as well as tables, bar stools, and banquettes for casual seating. The colorful, well-appointed space is now often used for meetings and large gatherings.
“With the glass-front offices and branded colors incorporated into the design, our staff appreciate the bright, open space ambiance, and the flexibility their workstations afford them,” says Scott Kaplowitch, managing partner at Edelstein. “The common areas and meeting areas — both formal and informal (lunchroom) — work well to enable collaboration among team members.”
While the office is an important physical asset for a company, professional services firms should consider the workplace as another tool to help staff do their jobs.
Margulies Perruzzi Architects: Workplace strategy/interior design
Corderman & Company, Inc.: Construction manager
CBRE New England: Owner’s project manager
RDK Engineers: M/E/P engineering
Red Thread: Furniture
Clockwork Design Group: Branding
Morra, AIA, LEED AP, is a principal and partner at Margulies Perruzzi Architects. Glover, LEED AP, is a project manager and interior designer at Margulies Perruzzi Architects. Consistently ranked as one of Boston’s top architectural and interior design firms, Margulies Perruzzi Architects services the professional services, corporate, healthcare, research and development, and real estate communities.
At Facility Executive Live!, a one-day event scheduled for October 3, 2017 in Chicago, a BOMI-accredited session on The Impact Of Workplace Design will be presented. Click here to learn more about this event from Facility Executive magazine.