Reapproaching Base Camp: Identifying Our Next Design Plan

During our Base Camp redesign project, keeping employee behaviors, expectations and needs at the core of decision-making remained a priority. At the same time, we wanted to ensure the design and culture of our global headquarters remained intact.

With key redesign objectives top of mind, we tapped Perkins + Will, the architecture firm that led the initial design plan for Base Camp, to help develop several design scenarios based on the number of building occupants on a given day.

The initial designs help our core project team determine where and how Base Camp would need to adapt – and on what scale. From there, we finalized our design plan and began to execute it.

Looking at Capacity & Utilization

One of the first steps of engaging with Perkins + Will for the redesign included their design team looking at Base Camp’s reservable space at 10%, 20%, 60% and 80% capacity, meaning they examined what it would look like if we provided ergonomic, socially distance workstations at each of the four populations.

With this exercise, Perkins + Will showed how the space could be, or would have to be, reconfigured at each capacity level. At the same time, we asked the design team to analyze the previously underutilized spaces in Base Camp and identify new ways to utilize those spaces in the future.

As we discussed our options, we knew in-person collaboration was something our people missed most about being at Base Camp – we would need to optimize and reallocate space beyond just conference rooms to provide spaces that supported in-person group meetings.

For example, we determined the executive conference room offered significant square footage previously underutilized and could provide a new opportunity for safe, socially distanced team collaboration. We wanted to redesign the space with all employees and teams in mind.  Over time, we determined to make that room a “hackable” space, which could be redefined and adjusted to meet a variety of needs – all of which provide plenty of distance for meeting participants.

After reviewing the proposed design plans, and our employee survey feedback, our core project and leadership teams decided to design for 20% reservable space to fit our current needs at Base Camp.

We found that the 60% and 80% capacity scenarios required us to place desks in areas designated as open-collaboration or lounge spaces. The extra space required between workstations forced us to move pods of workstations into those areas, which would limit our ability to create more safely distanced spaces for people to gather as a group.

With our rapid adoption of remote work and our telecommuting policy, we understood that most employees would not choose to come back to the office every day for individualized, quiet, focused work. Instead, employees will come to the office when they plan to engage in meetings and collaboration, so allocating more space in Base Camp to individual workstations in the building would not be prudent.

We selected the 20% plan because it allows for flexibility within our spaces, maintains the aesthetic and feel within the building, and ensures we can easily make the space more usable as needed, for the short and long-term. Similarly, it allows us to repurpose and redeploy our current assets and furniture, targeting the bulk of our project-related expenditures towards assets that support collaboration.

Pre-pandemic, employees used a variety of workspaces for independent and collaborative work. For the immediate term, we know most will not choose to come back to the office every day for quiet, focused work. Instead, employees will come to the office when they plan to engage in meetings and collaboration. Image: Nick Merrick, ©Hall+Merrick Photographers

Redesigning with Flexibility in Mind

The pandemic has taught us all that flexibility is key to our built spaces.

Once we determined the target occupancy level, we worked with Perkins + Will to identify three options for adapting our current spaces with social distancing requirements, work choice, employee needs, and physical and psychological safety at the forefront. The three options included varying levels of commitment in rearranging spaces, finances, optimization, and more. Here’s an overview of each:

Option 1: Leverage Current Set-Up with 100% Desk Reservation System

For the first option, we would not move or adjust any desks or workstations within the space. Instead, we would rely on the desk reservation system to signify which desks could be reserved, using the system to create social distancing between workspaces.

While this option does not require significant downtime in terms of rearranging furniture, it limits the number of usable workstations. In addition, people who are wary of returning to Base Camp want to see more noticeable changes to the current space to feel comfortable returning.

Option 2: Removing Workstations to Create Distance

The proposed second option would require the removal and reorganization of workstations to create distance. This also entailed relying on the desk reservation system to reserve available desks with some focus rooms.

This option presents benefits like all available stations are usable, and the number of workstations increases. On the other hand, the costs associated with furniture movement and temporary storage would be significant, and we would need to invest in additional aesthetic pieces for the workstations. Finally, as building utilization increased, we would have to move desks back into the building and effectively redesign, or undo, everything we put in place.

Option 3: Hybrid Approach

The final option is a combination of the previous two plans. For Option 3, we would reorganize and remove workstations only on the first floor. We would install the desk reservation system for all workstations, as well as some focus rooms.

This option allows for the majority of current furniture to stay in the building while also offering an appropriate number of workstations for current utilization as well as anticipated utilization in the future.

Ultimately, we opted to move forward with the third option, which involves minor adjustments to current workstations on the first floor, the installation of the desk reservation technology throughout, and reoptimized collaboration areas. This design plan will require changes in employee behavior but provides a safe space for collaboration among teams. In addition, it allows for previously underutilized spaces to be reorganized and adjusted to support the need for more meeting spaces.

Featured image: Nick Merrick, ©Hall+Merrick Photographers

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