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Design Watch: Behind the Designs – Workplace Culture

In this edition, acquaint yourself with the designers who are making moves to enhance their company’s work culture and listen to their employees.

Jeffrey Dungan – Jeffrey Dungan Architects

Jeffrey Dungan, an architect based in Birmingham, Alabama, boasts over two decades of expertise. His aversion to urging employees into endless hours rather than smart work sparked a desire for streamlined efficiency. His vision? Timely project executions, delighted clients, and profits intact. Jeffrey identified time as the pivot to his triumph. Merging time and square footage data, he created a formula (square feet / time =  efficiency) quantifying each employee’s efficiency. He figured if he could operate his entire office at a more efficient rate, then he can generate more work without burnout. So, he calculated the average efficiency rate and rewarded average, above-average, and so on at an exponentially growing rate. By incentivizing based on performance tiers, Dungan unleashed a productivity surge. This ingenious strategy fueled a workforce aligned with purpose, propelling an environment of efficiency.

Elizabeth Graziolo – Yellow House Architects

Elizabeth Graziolo immigrated to the United States as a young girl. After honing her craft at Peter Pennoyer Architects for 20 years, she launched her own venture, Yellow House Architects. Here, Liz encountered unfamiliar territories, facing challenges foreign to her previous employee role. Transitioning from architect to boss illuminated stark differences. Time was her yearned-for resource – something elusive yet essential. Liz’s commitment to bonding with her team was affirmed through an exit interview that resonated deeply. Amidst burgeoning demands, Liz recognized the need to allocate time for herself and her business. Her solution emerged as a strategic delegation of responsibility, fostering meaningful connections within her team. Learning from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, she embraced the power of a managing director/CEO to share her burdens, enabling her to invest time more strategically – a crucial hire, she contends. In her vision, a culture of transparent communication thrives. Be it time or remuneration, Liz encourages employees to voice their needs openly. With architectural prowess and business acumen, Elizabeth Graziolo is deftly navigating her dual role, striving for equilibrium. 

Kimberlee Gorsline – Kimberlee Marie Interiors

Kimberlee Gorsline, founder of Kimberlee Marie Interiors, has been designing homes since her very first dollhouse remodel as a child. Her passion has grown into a commitment to enhancing one of life’s core aspects: our homes. Throughout the years of running her firm, Kimberlee has asked herself, am I doing this right? While there’s no one-size-fits-all business manual, employee morale can speak volumes. Peaking behind her seemingly harmonious team’s curtain, she discovered hushed opinions, especially across hierarchies. Tackling this head-on, Kimberlee started with herself; she knew she had to be vulnerable in order to encourage others to do the same. With a known safe space amongst everyone, she guides her team to embrace positive intentions and approach discussions with openness. Creating a team that’s comfortable with conflict, commitment, and accountability marks a promising stride toward an enriching workplace.

Michel Fiechter TPG Architecture

The post-pandemic office landscape has undergone significant transformations, prompting the need to align physical spaces with new ways of working and communicating. As employees place greater value on a healthy work environment, New York-based design firm TPG Architecture steps up. Recognizing the importance of employee well-being, TPG takes a tailored approach through innovative workplace design. “We have to give people the right alternatives to working from home so they have a reason to come into an office,” notes managing executive Michel Fiechter. TPG worked with a multinational client, introducing a lush ‘green room’ and a tranquil meditation area to the workspace. Customizing solutions to match individual business needs and employee preferences cultivates comfort and productivity. Neglecting these nuances can yield counterproductive results. While technology aids in monitoring, organizational support remains the linchpin of success. People seek a comfortable environment, and responsiveness is key. Consult with a firm like TPG or tap into employee insights to optimize workspace productivity and culture. 

Tune In

To learn more about the importance of workplace culture check out these podcasts! Beyond Interior Design explores the fusion of interior design with health, technology, psychology, sustainability, culture, nature, and entrepreneurship, The Business of Home Podcast interviews thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and creatives about the changes and challenges facing the interior design community, Happier at Work focuses on HR and business leaders aiming to retain top talent through enhancing employee happiness, and the StyleRow Podcast’s episode with Ariel Johnson pulls back the curtain to reveal how she innovates to build an exceptional culture. 

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