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Sept. 16, 2020
This paid piece is sponsored by Interstate Office Products.
DGR Engineering didn’t set out to create an office layout that offers extra protection for employees during the pandemic, but its choices resulted in one anyway.
The fast-growing engineering firm did set out to create an office that would give employees even more reasons to want to come to work – and it accomplished that too.
“We’re really in the services business, offering professional services that rely on people, and are only as good as the people we have,” said CFO Marlin Overman.
“We value that and strive to keep satisfied employees because they’re the core of our business.”
So when the regional engineering firm set out to modernize and expand its office in Rock Rapids, Iowa, it considered the employee and client experience first and foremost.
“We were bursting at the seams, and our current and projected workload indicated we needed additional staff, so our primary motivation first was to create space,” Overman said.
The multidisciplinary engineering firm was founded in 1952 and has more than 150 employees on its team, with four locations including a Sioux Falls office. The team’s work includes aviation, civil, electrical, survey, wastewater and water engineering services.
Since it moved into the current Rock Rapids location in 2001, the firm has worked with Interstate Office Products on its office design and furnishing needs – including the most recent addition, which added 21,000 square feet and nearly doubled the size of the office.
“As a professional services firm, relationships are important to us, so we work hard at developing relationships with the people we serve, and we like to develop relationships with the people that serve us,” Overman said.
“The team at IOP that helped guide our most recent project has been working with us as long as we’ve been doing business together, and there’s a comfort and trust in the relationship, and certainly satisfaction goes along with that.”
That relationship and trust factored in significantly with the most recent project, which ran into some COVID-related complications along the way.
While DGR and IOP began the design process in 2019, they put a concrete plan together in early 2020. As renderings and questions were being traded back and forth, “COVID hit, but we just kept going,” IOP workplace specialist Mark Payne said.
“I was there in late March before they ordered, but from there, presenting the finishes was all done virtually.”
The teams’ shared history helped, said Kristi Christensen, IOP’s executive vice president of sales and design, who worked with designer Abby Tufvesson as she was pulling together furniture finishes and upholsteries.
“We have the history with them, so Abby was selecting materials virtually. Marlin was not able to see them in person but just put full faith in our team and how we’ve taken care of them in the past,” she said.
“Abby was working from home, and I was in the office. She had most of the materials, and I had access to our resource library. We were snapping photos, sending images, jointly looking at websites and chatting back and forth utilizing our cellphones and Teams calls. We really used all types of technology at our disposal to ensure the design was one the client would be really happy with.”
The project came together, though, nearly as timely as it would have without COVID interruptions.
“It was remarkable,” Payne said. “It’s shocking how well it came out considering the way we ordered and the time frame and supply chain issues. Attraction and retention (of employees) were definitely themes here, and I absolutely think they are going to achieve that.”
DGR was ahead of the COVID curve in one element: its emphasis on individual offices. The firm’s new building addition is laid out with 27 private offices and 17 workstations.
“They didn’t need to collaborate with their neighbors. They needed privacy and focus, and they didn’t want distraction,” Christensen said. “But we added glass panels because it’s important to allow light into the space.”
The layout allows for generously sized spaces, sound reduction and enough distance that employees can be safely spaced apart during the pandemic.
“We’ve continued to work as an essential business and did have a significant portion of our workforce working from home, but the way our office is designed and constructed now, it promotes a physical distancing layout,” Overman said.
“We didn’t design it for COVID-19, we did it for other reasons, but it turned out to be a positive in that regard.”
Each work area includes a height-adjustable desk and an emphasis on work surface area along with some individual storage space.
“Even the circulation path designed in the office is helpful because it can be converted to be very directional and keep people from running into one another if needed,” Christensen said.
While employees have dedicated space for themselves, a multitude of common areas are designed for collaboration.
“There’s a mix of multipurpose rooms, boardrooms and conference rooms,” Payne said. “The furniture is a mix of standing-height tables, bistro-style and lounge furniture, and nesting tables and chairs that can be reconfigured easily.”
The setup also accommodates virtual conferencing with newly installed technology, and the range of meeting spaces allows the firm to host a variety of clients, Overman added.
“It’s especially important now as we’re trying to maintain distancing, and we have some clients who prefer to meet on site, so this gives us the square footage we need to be able to safely do that.”
A work cafe is an added bonus for employees who commute from Sioux Falls or elsewhere in the region and need a place to break for lunch. It also offers flexible space for easy meetings and flows into the firm’s new training center.
“They didn’t have the space before to get a group together and do training the way they would like, and they certainly couldn’t do company meetings, so that was an exciting addition,” Christensen said.
An upper-level mezzanine includes a well-equipped fitness center, plus employees have access to lockers and showers.
“They are trying to build for the next generation,” Christensen said. “They want to provide an exceptional environment for their employees, and this is an approach that will help support those goals.”
Early signs suggest the office will do just that, Overman said.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from our staff,” he said. “They don’t always say a lot, so when they do, it tends to be meaningful. What we have done from a furnishings and technology standpoint has been very well received, as has the overall design. Our setup is very user-friendly, and our employees appreciate the improvements.”
To learn more about how Interstate Office Products can meet your office needs in the Sioux Falls area and beyond, visit i-o-p.com or call 605-339-0300.
This firm set out to create a place where workers would want to come to work — and it succeeded.