Scott Rice Office Works has forged a partnership with a crucial Government Agency dedicated to facilitating domestic and international marketing opportunities for American producers of food, fiber and specialty crops. This Agency is committed to establishing avenues that empower U.S. producers to access wider markets and connect with consumers worldwide. It actively supports and empowers agricultural producers, fostering growth, sustainability, and global competitiveness within the agricultural industry.
For over two decades, the Government Agency had seen little change to its office environment, and they faced several challenges, including outdated facilities, a lack of collaboration and wellbeing spaces, and the need to optimize real estate to cater to diverse workstyles and modes of work.
With a significant portion of the workforce aged 60 and above, the organization recognized the urgency of addressing the impending retirement of experienced employees while also attracting fresh talent.
One pressing concern was the lack of collaboration among employees. Individual offices acted as isolated sanctuaries, hindering communication and impeding the exchange of ideas. In response, the USDA sought to promote effective teamwork and spontaneous interactions while prioritizing employee wellbeing and a sense of belonging by designing spaces that encouraged movement and socialization.
The office itself presented its own set of challenges, with closed-off interiors featuring minimal windows and limited natural light. This lack of illumination hindered communication and collaboration, necessitating a transformation towards a more interactive and inclusive environment. There was a strong desire to foster a more collaborative atmosphere that encouraged individuals to freely share ideas and engage with their peers.
Additionally, the break room proved to be unused and quite cramped, accommodating only three small tables and featuring just one small window. With an aim to revitalize this space, the goal was to expand its footprint, introduce additional windows to bathe the area in natural light, and ultimately create a welcoming environment where employees could comfortably enjoy snacks and meals throughout the day, fostering a stronger sense of community within the organization.
To achieve its goals of fostering a culture of communication and enhancing productivity, Government Agency partnered with Scott Rice Office Works, a commercial interior design, planning and finishing expert who provides full-service solutions to all design, furniture, and construction projects. The transformation involved modernizing the facility through complete interior demolition.
Scott Rice started with comprehensive programming, including interviews, spatial considerations, technology review, branding and organizational goals. They then developed a Block Plan for future reconfigurations and proceeded to design workstations, offices, collaboration zones and a new work café.
The 16,000 SF renovation took place in two phases, meticulously coordinated with an internal design team and several other internal divisions at Scott Rice’s including Commercial Installation and Construction (CIC) and Image Flooring.
A goal was to create a space plan that catered to the specific needs and functionality of each department and agency. Focusing on fostering meaningful connections, Scott Rice analyzed team relationships, department sizes and job functions to develop an efficient grid layout.
“We provided them with a clear explanation of how the space would work, emphasizing that it would include both the main area and an overflow space for spouses and guests during company events. Once we explained the purpose behind the layout, especially the IT area without walls, they understood our reasoning. Previously, team members were isolated and didn’t know what each other was working on,” said Vincent Horst, workplace consultant with Scott Rice.
“Their space didn’t grow, but we made it more spacious by just rethinking what everybody did there and how they did it and how often they were in the building,” Horst added, highlighting the innovative approach taken to maximize the existing space without physically expanding it.
A key element of the redesign involved removing solid walls that previously isolated the building’s perimeter, resulting in a disconnect from natural light and scenic views. Scott Rice reimagined the space by shifting away from private offices along the exterior walls, allowing everyone to enjoy abundant natural light and the beautiful surroundings.
Privacy walls were thoughtfully introduced to maintain individual spaces while promoting openness and interaction. By removing most doors, the office became more fluid, encouraging collaboration and spontaneous interactions. Scott Rice’s inventive approach extended to the design of dynamic and lively spaces, redefining the traditional conference room table to cater to the desires of a younger generation seeking a relaxed and enjoyable setting.
The once uninviting break room was relocated to the front of the building and transformed into a vibrant work café. Bathed in natural light and featuring open walls, this versatile space now encourages not only meals but also impromptu meetings and various activities, promoting a more interactive and engaging work culture.
Additionally, Scott Rice made simple yet impactful changes, like relocating the copier to a common area, facilitating conversations while waiting for copies. This shift prompted a comprehensive overhaul of their 20 offices, with a focus on creating comfortable and casual environments that appeal to a modern workforce.
The modernization project commenced in July 2019 and reached completion in May 2021. The redesign transformed the Government Agency’s workplace into a refreshing and unexpected space, breaking free from standard cubicles and the archaic idea of what a government facility should look like. The vibrant work café buzzes with conversations and collaborations, replacing the once-empty break room.
The absence of physical barriers in the redesigned office space facilitates organic discussions and fosters teamwork between senior employees and new hires, facilitating the passing on of intellectual expertise. With different job functions in close proximity, individuals can now learn from one another, leading to a truly open and inclusive work environment that encourages knowledge sharing and growth.
Feedback from employees has been overwhelmingly positive. Employees now enjoy a renewed sense of purpose and job satisfaction, rekindling their enjoyment for their work and increasing energy levels. The office environment shifted from dull and monotonous to engaging and enjoyable, significantly impacting employees’ mindset and attitudes.
“I think they’re enjoying an atmosphere that allows them to learn by hearing, by listening and not just reading something or somebody telling them to go through a checklist and learn it. They’re able to listen and learn the things they need to just by being present,” said a representative from the Government Agency.
The increased natural light and glass partitions dividing office spaces up to about 8 feet have been well-received. While some employees still value the quietness of their previous spaces, they have adapted to the changes, taking advantage of the collaborative environment while also having the option to telework.
Scott Rice also prioritized reconfigurability, saving costs in the long run and ensuring adaptability to changes over time. This flexible framework enables Government Agency to stay ahead of workplace trends, being able to adapt the space as needed without tearing down hard walls.
The positive impact of the redesigned space has influenced the hiring process. The firm has successfully hired new employees, many of whom are under 30 years old. They appreciate the collaborative atmosphere, which promotes learning through active listening and observation, contributing to their professional growth.
“The appeal of this space is a draw for the young talent that we have, knowing they can really enjoy working in this environment. I don’t think we’d have quite the same experience without Scott Rice. They were really great to work with,” said the representative.
The redesign not only addressed the need to attract new talent but also provided a space that accommodates retirees, fostering a dynamic and forward-thinking work culture. Through Scott Rice’s innovative design, USDA now enjoys a workplace that encourages creativity, collaboration and growth, positively impacting the organization’s future.