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Estimating department ‘opens up’ to new office concept

Estimating_BeforeAlong with the New Year came a newly redesigned office space for Wilhelm’s estimating staff, and so far the response has been great!

Originally, the estimating staff of 12 was isolated into individual offices and shared a small conference room. This space was quickly becoming inadequate so they began discussing changes at the beginning of 2013 based on client office spaces.

“It’s been about a year since we started talking about switching to a more team approach,” said Tyler Blank, an estimator on Wilhelm’s staff.

He explained the space used to be somewhat typical for an office, with everyone in their own office and one meeting space. Wilhelm worked with CSO Architects to redesign the estimating department into a more open space concept. The interior walls were taken down to create a large, collaborative space. The workstations were moved to the exterior walls, and the center of the room holds long tables and chairs to allow estimators collaboration on bid and proposal preparation. This setup has also allowed space for more workstations.

According to Eric Knott, Senior Associate at CSO, this design is often referred to as an Innovative Workplace, though they refrain from giving it a specific name as to allow for the changing needs of clients.

“The open concept encourages collaboration among team members,” Knott said. “Technology allows mobility within the office, and for this reason people can work in multiple places in an open concept environment.”

Social Hub_AfterThe redesign includes a “social hub” equipped with large monitors, lounge seating and banquet seating. This space can act as a private meeting room, break room, or collaboration lounge. In addition, the design includes a “focus room” which allows one to two people to retreat from the open space concept to a small quiet room for more intense work. The center of the workplace consists of three 60-inch monitors, one 60-inch touch screen monitor, four marker boards, tables and chairs, all of which are mobile. This space can be reshaped throughout the day to accommodate the needs of employees.

Knott said the concept increases productivity, which is why many companies are adopting it. It allows multiple people to work through problems together so they can arrive at better solutions faster.

“The open concept also creates energy in a space which inspires people to stay on task because they see themselves as part of a team rather than an individual, isolated to a private office,” Knott said.

CSO conducted a “vision session” with the estimating team to identify their goals for the space and design the final product to meet those goals.

Estimating_After

“The key driver is workplace environment improvement,” said Andy Lock, Wilhelm’s Chief Estimator. “One of our company’s goals is to increase productivity. The thought was that this environment would lead to happier, more productive people up here.”

Blank said Wilhelm may consider reshaping other departments in the same way.

“We’re looking to do this throughout the company in accounting, business development and marketing, and really opening up those spaces,” Blank said. “This allows us to work more efficiently with our team and encourages communication between team members.”

Lock said the estimating staff has settled in and has had no complaints.

“We’ve had very positive feedback,” Lock said. “It really helps with camaraderie and overall team work.”

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