Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Connecting Culture and Productivity with Design in a UMaine Lab

Posted by Liz Zimmerman

In the spring of 2015, Kepware was presented with the opportunity to help design a Kepware-inspired lab in the Barrows Engineering Hall at the University of Maine Orono. The Kepware team approached the interior design endeavor as we would any other project that would bear the Kepware name: we collaborated with our phenomenal design team at Workplace Transformation Facilitation, led by Lisa Whited. Thus began the thoughtful approach to designing a space for UMO students that would foster collaboration, promote focus space, and create an engaging learning experience for students—all while utilizing the Kepware aesthetic and passion for a progressively-designed workspace. Kepware’s bright colors, flexible workspaces, and choice in seating and work environment all needed to translate to this learning lab at UMO. Students and faculty needed to feel like they had walked from a hallway in a university building into a space that could be found in our Portland office. 

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The "before." Stationary tables at standard sitting height and exposed storage: drab, dull, and lacking energy. Photo courtesy of Robert Brochu.

The importance of design has always played a significant role in Kepware’s progressive approach to workspace and its impact on culture. Investing in workspace design produces an environment in which employees are engaged and empowered to choose their workspace and are free to innovate and perform at their best ability. Just as important, it also provides a place that employees are proud to call their own.

This project was far more than repainting the walls, changing the flooring, and adding a few inspirational posters. The new environment needed to express our Kepware energy: innovative, progressive, and stimulating.

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The same space after the Kepware transformation: vibrant, bright, and inspiring. Photo courtesy of Red Thread.

The flexibility of choice—the ability to choose where and how to work—has become an important feature in the Kepware space. Employees choose what environment works best for them; be it at a desk for a focused and private space or in a casual seating environment where conversations can flow freely. 

Understanding how teams and individuals work is paramount to how spaces are designed. How do you make a space work for individual and team needs? We balance the need for focus and collaboration by utilizing furniture that provides you the flexibility to choose your workspace. Furniture is then able to facilitate collaborative conversations and the flow of ideas. Team spaces allow cooperative discussions while the more private personal desk space provides room for focus, and tables can be moved and reconfigured as needed for either approach. Both styles of work are found in today’s office spaces and both are equally vital to an individual team’s performance and the company’s overall success. 

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Photo courtesy of Red Thread.

Known for its work-life balance and encouragement of a healthy lifestyle, Kepware enjoys providing all employees with height-adjustable desks. Providing desks at which UMO students could stand (with the option of sitting) was an important requirement to the Kepware design team. Who better to facilitate the best furniture options than Kepware’s other workplace design partner, Red Thread? As a Steelcase distributor, Red Thread was excited to be able to offer the university a phenomenal opportunity: the installation of a Steelcase pilot space utilizing a furniture line especially designed for the higher education environment. 

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Photos courtesy of Red Thread (top) and David Dumais (bottom).

Steelcase's Verb whiteboard line was an interesting furniture component. You can define an individual's workspace by placing the boards in clips on the table between students’ spaces; you can also foster teamwork by utilizing the display board, around which students can gather to discuss their ideas.

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The design process: Red Thread and Workplace Transformation Facilitation present furniture options and available layouts to Kepware.

Flexibility in regards to desk configurations has been vital in Kepware’s approach when designing our engineering spaces. Enabling engineering teams to configure their own team layout and identify what works best for their workstyle has given fundamental power back to employees: the power to choose how they work. Standing tables promote well-being and a collective environment where ideas can be freely shared.

University students are now able to study and learn in a similar environment in which they may find themselves after graduation: a balanced workplace where the need to focus and the ability to work together are equally supported.

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Artwork presented to Kepware by Workplace Transformation Facilitation.

A visit to the Kepware office demonstrates that art is an important element to our space: visual stimulation is vital. Kepware Platform President Tony Paine provided actual Kepware software code to Kepware and WTF graphic designers (David Dumais and Robert Brochu, respectively), who transformed the code into artwork to accent the walls. This allowed our design team to transfer the Kepware aesthetic to the walls of the UMO lab.

Additional code was added to artwork on the glass transom above the doors, inspiring students to apply their knowledge from today to change the world tomorrow. The hallway graphics showcase the industries that utilize Kepware’s software and the devices to which our software can connect.

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Photo courtesy of Claude Junkins (top); artwork presented to Kepware by Workplace Transformation Facilitation (bottom).

Kepware employees were proud to see their office design elements in a University Learning Lab. A successful design project with Workplace Transformation Facilitation, Red Thread, and the UMO Facilities Team culminated in a beautiful, flexible learning space for University of Maine students and faculty.

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The Kepware team attends the UMO-Kepware lab dedication.

What Do You Think?

I'd like to hear from you! How is your work environment designed, and how do you find it affects your energy, productivity, and work experience? What would you like to see in today's workplaces? Leave me a comment below.