One commercial real estate expert offers a few ways that associations can use their office design to advance their missions as well.
Whether it’s the Auto Care Association, which repurposed a 1955 Nash Metropolitan convertible to serve as its reception desk, or the American Society of Interior Designers, which features a sleek, open office plan that earned WELL and LEED certifications, associations are increasingly using their headquarters to reflect their missions.
“For associations, aligning the space with the mission of the organization is really important,” said Thomas Fulcher, vice chairman and co-regional manager at commercial real estate firm Savills Studley, who added that members and volunteers are expecting this as well.
For associations considering moving in this direction, Fulcher offers a few considerations:
Find the right location. The appropriate address is integral to the success of a mission-driven association. “If one of the things I want my association to do is to communicate effectively with lawmakers on a national level, and they’re in St. Louis, then who’s actually talking to the congressmen when there are events and receptions?” he said. “I want my people [in the DC area] because one of the reasons I’m paying them is to make sure that my interests are protected on a national level.”
Attracting and retaining talent is another reason why location matters, whether that city is Chicago or Albuquerque. At ASAE’s inaugural Associations @ Work conference in October 2017, Fulcher remembers asking Steve Barker, CFO of the World Resources Institute, why location matters.
Barker replied along these lines: “To fulfill your mission, you need the right people, and it really is about finding a space that the right people will find is the right place to work.” To that end, associations should think about accessibility to public transportation and amenities, such as restaurants, when choosing a location.
Fit the workplace design to work styles. While most everybody used to work in a space that had office with doors that closed, Fulcher “now you look at peoples’ functions.” For instance, you ask these questions: What is it you do? Are you engaged in heads-down work? Are you collaborating with people a lot? Who do you need to be next to? And how often do you meet?
“There’s really been a lot of digging in to the actual functions being performed by people in the workplace, how they do things, how they can be more effective, how they can have serendipitous conversations that will enhance the work within the organization,” Fulcher said.
Incorporate your brand. Previously, branding in the workplace looked like slapping some newspaper articles on the wall or framing black-and-white photos of past presidents. But now, Fulcher said, “when you walk into the space, people focus a lot more on communicating what it is that we’re about.”
This can be done directly through exhibits or indirectly through artwork, but Fulcher said when people enter an association’s office, they should say: “I get it. I understand what these people are doing, why they’re here. It’s in the right space, it’s in the right building. It all makes sense; it’s comfortable and it feels good …”
What are ways that your office design supports your mission? Please leave your comments below.