Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sharing Workplace Approaches Across the Atlantic

Art of the Future received a visit from the executive team of the VC Business Company located in the Netherlands. They were on a mission to talk directly with thought-leaders in the
field of workplace strategy. On a learning expedition organized by principals Carolien de Heer and Michael Kloprogge, VC closed their offices for several days, boarded a plane to New York and drove to Cornell to talk with Professor Franklin Becker, author of Offices at Work: Uncommon Workspace Strategies that Add Value and Improve Performance (2004) and the classic Workplace by Design: Mapping the High-Performance Workscape (with Fritz Steele, 1995). Although Becker has now turned his attention to healthcare, the VC team garnered insights from their discussion. The next day, they again fit their group of seven into a minivan and set out on a 250 mile journey to Art of the Future, located north of Boston. We were pleased to have this opportunity to share our research, experience and perspectives with this thoughtful, energetic and dedicated group.

The VC Business Company is a consulting organization specializing in the optimization of workplaces for corporate and public organizations dealing with changes induced by market dynamics. VC has a workplace concept which focuses on activity-based working; meaning that the types and number of spaces are tailored to the needs of the user. They start with an investigation of the customer needs, utilizing online surveys, interviews, occupation measurements and technical information about the building. Their workplace concept consists of modular blocks that are combined into a lay-out. VC also takes part in strategic discussions regarding the future of the workspaces, the workplace and the use of real estate. They take qualitative aspects into account along with the quantitative, building a business case for the customer, so that they can make a well-reasoned decision.

VC is seeking to strengthen and further think through this workplace concept. Hence, their learning journey to the U.S.. They report that they found their interview with Art of the Future very inspiring, giving them new views on workplace dynamics. We noted that the Art of the Future approach begins further "upstream," working with clients to integrate their strategic context with their workplace plans in order to engage employees and improve productivity, which translates into better customer relations and business performance. Once the client organization has identified the right mix of places, technologies, policies and processes to optimize their workplace solution, Art of the Futures works with a firm such as VC to translate these insights into design solutions.

The team from VC says “It was surely a good idea to share experiences. We also hope that we have more discussions on the various topics that we reviewed...” Lunching together after the interview, we all gained a better understanding of our respective American and Dutch views on culture, politics and society. Following their intensive interviews with Becker and Art of the Future, they took a day or two for sight-seeing in New York City and were soon hard at work back in the Netherlands.

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