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Lead Employee satisfaction becomes office designers’ priority



New User-Friendly Environments Promote Teaming Concept

The mantra for business etiquette usually is to please the customers. But these days, businesses are looking not only to put their customers at ease, but their employees as well. In creating positive and accessible work environments, businesses are turning to office design firms to add a little pizzazz and pleasure to the interior of the workplace.

Noting everything from movable desks, ergonomic keyboards and ambient lighting ,brighter lighting in the ceiling fixtures , businesses are looking to create a more user-friendly and teaming environment in the general office, said Vonda McAllister, an interior designer for The Stichler Group, a local full-service design firm.

Workstations in business have become scaled down and abundant.

“Workstations have become much more mobile and flexible so that people can bring them together for teaming,” McAllister said. “Teaming has become a real big buzzword in business and it is encouraged among employees.”

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– Mission Statement A Design Element

Branding, or creating an image that reflects a business’s mission statement, has resurfaced from the 1990s as a popular service for The Stichler Group, McAllister said.

McAllister said, “It’s a very different approach,” she said, that the design firm uses to research the history of a company and then apply techniques to change the way the company is perceived by consumers.

Mission Federal Credit Union approached the firm three years ago, seeking guidance on gearing their image to the community, not just educators, which had been their main membership.

In its Terra Nova, Vista and Escondido branches, Mission Federal Credit Union installed cyber-caf & #233;s for online banking, as well as area lounges and greeters to welcome incoming members , all this to create a “user-friendly, technology-based environment, that’s still warm and fuzzy,” McAllister said.

“Clients are looking for a complete package, full-service design firm,” McAllister said. This could be anything from structural and electrical engineering, to marketing and design.

“This industry is 100 percent service based,” said Vincent Mudd, president of San Diego Office Interiors.

Originally, San Diego Office Interiors just sold furniture. Now it designs all aspects of an office, including the construction, the wiring, designing, furnishing and improvements. The firm recently added ergonomic consultation to its list of services.


– Modern Approach Benefits Business

Mudd, like a lot of his competitors, realized that forward-thinking benefits his bottom line; it ensures he has one. And probably the most important aspect of that agenda, for Mudd, is the introduction of new ideas to his clients.

“We try to use Europe as our guide,” he said. “A lot of the things that Europe is going through today, we’ll go through in 10 years. So when it comes to office interiors we try to bring ideas from Europe to the United States now because when you negotiate a lease for a building sometimes it’s a 10- to 11-year lease.

“So if you’re going to negotiate an 11-year lease and you’re going to use the same ideas that are in existence today, or the same ideas you used in your last building, your (office design’s) going to be 20 years old by the time the lease expires.”


– Well-Designed Offices Are Recruitment Tools

That’s important because more companies are beginning to use their offices as recruitment tools. While similar firms offer similar compensation packages, what sets them apart are most often the office layouts, Mudd said.

Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc. recruits that way, said Beth Bemiss, president of San Diego-based Furniture Network. The firm specializes in furniture products, facility relocations, move management and office design and layout.

“That was part of the premises that they used because they wanted their facility to be a recruitment tool,” Bemiss said. “They’re in a competitive industry.”

Part of staying competitive for the majority of firms means listening to their interior designer.

“A lot of what my company does is education,” Bemiss said. “We inform the clients of different options” so they think of interior design in the long term.

In Bemiss’ experience, companies only upgrade their office furniture when they move. “Because if they’re not real clear about the progression (of office d & #233;cor) they could end up with something that’s obsolete in two years.

“A lot of the changes being seen in office furnishing are being driven by technology and its pace,” McAllister said.


– Hospitals Have Particular Concerns

Making sure your d & #233;cor is still in style can be quite an obstacle, especially when you have to compete with technology’s rapid pace.

But particularly in the health care industry, while some of the hospital designs may be technology driven, the industry is not in a big push to be a trendsetter, according to McAllister.

“The industry in its design, is trying to reflect a more human-based environment and one that takes into consideration the healing process,” McAllister said.

Theories in color and design are being used to provide softer and more comfortable imagery in cancer centers and emergency rooms.

McAllister added that the environment is also driving design.

Linoleum, carpet and fabrics made from recycled materials are some of the requests The Stichler Group receives to create environmentally sensitive work areas.

Collins and Aikman, a carpet manufacturer with representation in San Diego, offers a program that reproduces and sells carpet made from a percentage of recycled products.

Toxic emission and off-gassing , toxins emitted through carpet installation , are avoided, and using recycled materials helps against sick building syndrome, which can cause headaches and nausea among employees, said McAllister.


– Healthy Environment Has Positive Impacts

A workplace that is healthy and environmentally sound will have a positive impact on employees’ attitudes.

“Good service starts with happy employees,” she said.

Shelley Deegan, owner of Feng Shui Interiors, a local home and office design firm, couldn’t agree more.

For the past seven years, Deegan has been using feng shui (pronounced fung shway), a 3,000-year-old Chinese art that uses proper placement of furnishings to create balance and positive energy in a workplace or home office.

“Businesses want to put more emphasis and value on their employees,” Deegan said. “If employees feel at ease, they will want to come to work, be more productive and less people will be tardy or call in sick.”

Feng shui, which means “wind and water”, goes beyond ergonomically correct furnishings to asking, “Does your office bring in a creative sense to you?,” she said.

What you see, how you feel, what you hear and smell in a room are questions Deegan asks clients in order to help them arrange their setting in a way that is inspiring and makes them feel good about their workplace.

“Art is very important. What you see on a regular basis inspires you,” she said.

Deegan uses d & #233;cor ranging from mirrors and plants, to mobiles hanging on the ceilings and candles in a restroom.

“We take positives in an individual’s environment and use them to create more energy,” she said.

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