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Baltimore Innovation Week / Design / Jobs / Workplace culture

How small changes to your office space can foster creativity among employees

Collaborative design firm Gensler's Baltimore Innovation Week panel discussed how the manipulation of physical space can foster innovation.

Collaborative design firm Gensler's BIW19 panel of designers and media clients. (Photo by Karuga Koinange)

Fostering a good organizational culture requires motivated staff members, patience and a good work environment. A good physical work environment, that is.

As companies seek to improve their team dynamics, more and more are altering the way they design office spaces in order to facilitate creativity among employees, according to a panel on Tuesday, the fourth day of Baltimore Innovation Week 2019.

Collaborative design firm Gensler convened an experienced designer and multiple creative media clients to discuss how the manipulation of physical space can help harness creativity and innovation.

FastForward U, formed in September of 2018, is an innovation hub at Remington that is dedicated to offering training and resources to Johns Hopkins University student entrepreneurs. Gensler designers built the space with the specific intention of making students feel like they had a place they could call their own.

“This has been the physical manifestation of Hopkins’ commitment to entrepreneurship,” said Kevin Carter, student program manager of FastForward U.

FastForward U is comprised of two main areas. There is a large, open coworking space that can be manipulated to host team meetings, seminars or demonstrations. And there is a maker space that contains 3D printers, laser cutters, woodworking/metalworking benches and soldering stations.

Verbosh said most of her clients, especially those in coworking situations, request exposure to daylight and have a strong emphasis on bathroom convenience.

Carter said FastForward U’s former innovation hub was in a doctor’s office at a forgotten wing of a campus building with minimal space. In just its second year of existence, FasForward U is already reaping the benefits of its newly designed space.

“We weren’t taking anyone on tour of this space,” Carter said. “We were kind of ashamed of it. Now, every time there’s a pre-orientation or high school seniors are visiting, we’re a must-stop attraction. The space with the programming can be competitive with any university entrepreneurship program in the country. We’re just getting started.”

Gensler also worked with T. Rowe Price, a global asset management firm with locations in Owings Mills and Baltimore, to improve its design space.

T. Rowe Price’s Owings Mills campus added a “forest” room with a wooden door, wallpaper displaying trees and shrubs and sleeping pods for staff to decompress in. The firm also added an open playing station for staff to complete puzzles and take their minds off their tasks for a bit.

“I’ve had colleagues of mine walk across one side of the firm to the other just to get work done,” said Ronjon Bose, marketing specialist. “If you are more introverted, there is a space to go. There’s also a place for extroverts, too.”

Dana Verbosh, Gensler’s senior designer on both projects, said she has worked on a variety of design tasks ranging from small popcorn shops to large firms like T. Rowe Price.

Verbosh said there are certain client desires that overlap with different projects she has worked on. She said most of her clients, especially those in coworking  situations, request exposure to daylight and have a strong emphasis on bathroom convenience.

Though these similarities in requests span a broad range of clients, Verbosh said she employs unique approaches to specific clients depending on the circumstances. For FastForward U’s design, she said she interacted with several students in order to get an idea of what kind of working space young, aspiring entrepreneurs wanted.

Regardless of the magnitude of the project, her approach is unchanging as more companies seek to alter their workspaces.

“Our passion is to support creativity and support productivity,” Verbosh said. “It’s amazing to be a part of something so impactful that on the surface seems so superficial.”

Companies: Gensler / FastForward
Projects: Baltimore Innovation Week

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