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The One Space Churches Won’t Invest in That Could Reap Big Rewards Blog Feature
Lynn Pickard

By: Lynn Pickard on August 17, 2016

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The One Space Churches Won’t Invest in That Could Reap Big Rewards

Church Design | Project Profiles | church facilities | interior design

It’s one of the least thought about spaces in the church. No one wants to spend money to update it. As a matter of fact, no one even really wants to talk about it. Know what it is? It’s not the storage closet or the coat rack. It’s the church office!

It’s not that churches don’t care about their staff. They do. It’s just that for most churches, it doesn’t feel like good stewardship to spend time and money on staff offices when there are so many other needs and ministry programs where the money could be spent.

But what if I told you that investing in church office space that’s attractive, efficient, functional, multi-use, and financially responsible could reap rewards for your staff and your ministry? That rethinking your church office layout could be one of your best efforts toward spatial stewardship?

Gensler, a large architecture, design, planning, and consulting firm, published a study that helps validate the power of well-designed workspace on the overall productivity of a team. The Gensler research looks at how people work and the ways in which built space affects people’s productivity and effectiveness. It also looks at the generational influence of Millennials, the largest generation ever to come into the work world, and the impact of globalization and technology on how we design workspaces. The results make a compelling case for a new approach to office workspace, an approach that could reap important benefits for church staffs.

Getting in the Zone

One of the key takeaways of Gensler’s study is the concept of “zoned” workspace. Instead of the common seating chart-style office spaces that define owned/individual desks with one employee’s name on it, today’s offices are being designed according to zones or neighborhoods. Employees choose where they’ll work within the office based on the type of work they’re doing. Workspace is selected for its functionality, and employees are free to move around as their tasks change during the day.

The five typical zones are: Collaborative, Focus, Social, Learning, and Rejuvenation zones. Let’s take a look at what each of these zones might look like.

The Collaborative zone – This is the group work zone, a space where staff might sit if they are working together on a project, or meeting with other pastors, congregation members, etc. It could be as formal as a conference table, or as casual as a kitchen table. It could be a grouping of lounge chairs with personal pull-up tables, or even a foosball table!

The key to creating an effective collaborative zone is to offer various seating options so that groups, whether they’re comprised of two or fifty people, can work effectively together. And don’t forget to enclose, or at least semi-enclose, some of these spaces. They can double as private meeting spots for counseling, small groups, or executive team meetings.

The Focus zone – This one is for individual, heads-down work. It’s a space where people can work uninterrupted. When someone sits in these spots, you don’t talk to them, you don’t ask them questions. This could be a row of individual cubicles that are visually separated, or individual lounge seats. Steelcase created a product a few years ago called Brody. These innovative workspaces are excellent for the focus zone. Be sure to enclose some of these individual, focus spaces as well.

The Social zone – This is where people can work individually, yet still be around people. It’s community space that can also function as a venue or event space. A lot of these spaces could look like the collaborative zones, so large tables with chairs or lounge groupings.

The Rejuvenation zone – This is where people go for a respite. As technology has advanced, we no longer work a 9-5 day. To accommodate this, offices need to have spaces where people can get away and recharge. Remember the foosball table from the collaborative zone? You could use it for the respite zone too. The respite zone could be a peaceful place to eat lunch, maybe an outdoor seating area with a fireplace, or maybe just a small, enclosed room with one lounge chair where someone can get comfortable and read for awhile.

This just touches on a few options for zoned workspaces. Every church would need to create zones that are unique to its own staff’s needs. So that means make sure the zones fit with who you are and the DNA of your church. Make the zones specific to what you do, the functions of all of your staff.

Rules of Engagement

As you define your zones, create the ‘rules’ for each workspace. What are the time usage and reservation requirements for each zone? Is it a quiet zone? And by quiet, do you mean absolutely no talking, not even on the phone? How about food and drinks? Are they allowed in the zone? And define what it means to clean up the space when someone leaves. Does all the furniture need to be put back in place? Do the whiteboards need to be cleaned?

There’s also a tech element that needs to be determined in each of your zones. For instance, do people need monitors to plug into? How about landlines? How are the printers handled? Is there a docking station that makes it easy to plug into all the technology needed?

There’s also storage elements to think about. What do people do with all their ‘stuff’? Do we go back to the college model of carrying backpacks? Or is there a corner with lockers for files? Zones create lots of things to think about!

Zoning In On the Benefits

So what’s the advantage of all this? Why should churches contemplate investing time and money into a zoned office space?

Well, for starters, the zoned approach has been shown to improve the efficiency of staff, mainly because it’s based on functionality of work instead of dedicated desks for each staff member. The zoned approach is modeled after college libraries, so the Millennials on your team will be familiar with this type of workspace more than a traditional office layout. A zoned layout will help ease their transition from student to full-time staff.

By far the biggest advantage I see is that the office can now become an extension of the lobby, a space everyone can use. Staffers at Community Christian Church-Yellow Box, for instance, frequently work in the church’s lobby, which is designed with several of the zones described earlier. It serves as an excellent way to utilize the entire church building throughout the week and provides a comfortable work environment for the church staff.

So what do you think? Can you envision how a zoned approach might help your church staff to be more efficient and at the same time create effective multi-use space? Share your comments below.