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Victoria Sundberg, Music Teacher at Lake Marion Elementary in Lakeville, MN Wins Flip Your Classroom Contest

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – April 24, 2019 – In November, Atmosphere Commercial Interiors (Atmosphere) launched their first annual FLIP Your Classroom contest to provide local students and teachers with a space that fosters collaboration, teamwork, and peer-to-peer communication. The learning needs of students and teaching needs of educators alike vary throughout the day, and Atmosphere set out to provide spaces where students have choice and control over their learning environment, thus creating ownership of the learning process and making a successful outcome more likely.

After reviewing the inspiring and heartfelt submissions by a panel of three judges, local teacher Victoria Sundberg was awarded $50,000 to design a classroom that would deliver a high-quality educational experience. Sundberg is a music teacher to all 600 students at Lake Marion Elementary School in Lakeville and is passionate about providing the best space for them.

After the ribbon cutting, Sundberg walked through her classroom doors to see her newly updated music room for the first time. Followed by teachers and eager students, Sundberg wasn’t the only one whose face revealed excitement and awe! A handful of parents accompanied their children as the newly refurbished music room was unveiled bright and early Monday morning.

“It was such a great morning seeing the reveal of Ms. Sundberg’s new music room. Atmosphere did a fantastic job!” said Rachel Wand, parent of two of Sundberg’s students.

Organization and storage were two of Sundberg’s highest priorities.  Sundberg visited Atmosphere to meet with the design team where she handpicked the selections and finishes to bring her music room from vision to reality. Together, they worked to ensure that the new classroom design blended with the existing facility. Sundberg, when asked about her experience, responded, “I worked with Juli and Emily and they were in constant communication with me about the whole project, it was really amazing. They did such a good job; I can’t say enough wonderful things about them.”

Atmosphere brought in Cascades System by Smith System, a mobile and effortless organization system designed for classrooms.  A sit-stand desk was provided to Sundberg so she can change her posture and position throughout the day, increasing her overall comfort. Seating options throughout the room include Noodle Chairs by Smith System and Turnstone Buoys by Steelcase, and space was dedicated to interactive learning elements featuring Verb Whiteboards by Steelcase.

“I’m just so thankful to Atmosphere for the incredible amount of work they put into my room, for their dedication to not only just providing these products but teaching me to use them and implement them and really just doing an amazing job overall with this transformation,” said Victoria Sundberg, K-5 Music Specialist and Winner of FLIP Your Classroom.

“Atmosphere has been top-notch all the way through—from announcing it to the planning of the materials and then to executing this whole flip. I’m a whole-hearted believer in what Atmosphere can do for a classroom” said Bret Domstrand, Principal, Lake Marion Elementary.

Attendees from Atmosphere were Carlene Wilson, President and CEO; Juli Olson, Workplace Consultant; Emily Cich, Interior Designer; Jon Cremer, Workplace Consultant; Jodi Hoberg, Marketing; Scott Murlowski with Steelcase; and Bill Stoyke with Smith System.

Atmosphere Commercial Interiors is proud to serve organizations around the globe of every size, from start-up to Fortune 500, and across corporate, healthcare, education, and hospitality industries. Our focus on innovation and inspired solutions guides our partnerships with architecture and design, real estate and development, and technology industries.

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The importance of living in a sustainable way is found everywhere. The advertisements between your favorite shows, the pages within the magazine you flip aimlessly through at the salon, the new plant-based menu items at your favorite happy hour spot, and it seems like almost every other car on the road is a Tesla, at least here in Minneapolis. (Elon, if you’re reading this, feel free to send me a Model S.) But how does that translate to the workplace?

Creating a sustainable workplace has varying shades of being green, in other words, there are different levels at which your organization can move towards in an effort to decrease its ecological footprint. It’s a process. And sometimes it just simply isn’t cost-effective to do everything all in one fell swoop. But thinking practically and in an open-minded way of, “What can I logically do today, this week, this month, this quarter, this year to make this organization more sustainable and eco-conscious?” is the question we need to be asking ourselves.

Some of the variables may be out of your immediate control, such as the age of the building your organization leases its space from or where windows are placed and what type of glass they are. These are variables that require many more action steps to influence or change. However, the often-forgotten option in helping your organization become more sustainable is through the furnishings within.

Utilizing products and solutions within your workplace that align with the objectives your organization has set can help you achieve each stepping stone to reach those environmental patriot goals. With our partner in Steelcase, sustainability and environmental practices are at the forefront of the products we represent and endorse. Steelcase is globally recognized for its environmental efforts, recently being named one of the 2018 finalists for The Circulars award program. (A program that recognizes companies for driving sustainability practices.)

As one of the 40% of companies that shares its environmental and social impacts every year1, Steelcase:
• Helped clients donate, resell and recycle furniture assets, saving them more than $4.4 million in 2016
• Donated $5.3 million in 2016
• Reduced energy use and associated GHG emissions by 20% since 2010
• Reduced waste by 45% since 2010
• Reduced water use by 10% since 2010
• Reduced VOC emissions by 82% since 20102

In a Sustainability Spotlight article on: Balancing privacy and transparency in the world of big data: a path to a sustainable future, Angela Nahikian, the Director of Global Environmental Sustainability at Steelcase said, “I know that our job will never be ‘finished’. As citizens of a world that keeps getting smaller, we face tremendous environmental, economic and social challenges, and the scope of our efforts must always be expanding. The future will be about designing for a holistic system in which business embraces its role as a positive change agent and realized the full benefit of sustainable business design.”3

How do you incorporate environmental awareness and sustainable practices into your organization? See how we at Atmosphere practice sustainability here: https://www.atmosphereci.com/sustainability/

Sources:
1(https://www.steelcase.com/research/articles/topics/sustainability/sustainability-spotlight-4/)
2(https://www.steelcase.com/discover/steelcase/sustainability/#sustainability-at-steelcase_progress-goals)
3(https://www.steelcase.com/research/articles/sustainability-spotlight/)

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Recognizing that we needed to take a critical look at our current values, we formed a team of leaders who could provide data, insights and challenge the status quo.

In addition to the values themselves, only two other deliverables were expected. A conversation guide to help managers begin using the values straightaway, and a core value roll-out deck that illustrates how a value system drives choices and behaviors, or in other words, our corporate culture.

The project took a few months, and the development centered on a matrix that connected team member input with core value themes. We then discussed what each theme meant to our organization and derived a common term, descriptive words, and a phrase.

For example, our desired theme of integrity became ownership, which encompasses integrity, accountability, trust, and respect. Our phrase is own it.

We agreed that the phrase would be the final core value we would use in practice, because the values needed to move beyond words on a page. They needed to deliver a message powerful enough to stay in the front and center of everyone’s minds.

Lastly, we layered in a point-of-view for each core value, as a way to illustrate how core values start with us, and have an ever expanding impact on our teams, our growth and development, and our partners and communities.

We used this test of worthiness for our final core values and their corresponding visual representation:

  • Inspire us to act
  • Feel relevant to our business
  • Make decisions easier for everyone
  • Easy to use everywhere
  • Memorable
  • A differentiator
  • Charged with meaning
  • Bring the concept to life

The core values roll-out was led by our President & CEO, Carlene Wilson. She delivered a presentation that included how our corporate culture had grown, and how our purpose could be fulfilled through our ability to live by our core values.

At Atmosphere, own it means ‘I got this’. It’s individual accountability and accountability to the team. It’s stepping up. I will do what I say I’ll do.

Tune in means active listening. Being present in the moment. Listen to and respect other’s voices and opinions. If you’re tuned in to something, you have your radar up and are in full curiosity-mode.

Aim higher means displaying commitment to pursue, grow and excel in all we do. There is no one goal, only a series of steps in your journey of growth.

And better together.  To us that means promoting civil discourse, partnerships, team wins, and inclusiveness.

Our purpose is to enlighten organizations to the connection between people, purpose and place, because we believe place helps people work better together, and that enables them to fulfill their purpose. So, our last value, working and leading better together, is especially meaningful for us, and is also aspirational.  We strive to provide exceptional places to work, beyond the physical space. And we believe that our work communities can and should empower both the individual and the team.

Learn more about the history of creating our values through our Core Values Development: Part I post.

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Interview with Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT, cont’d. 

ACI: What would you say is the coolest, but also most functional technology that you’ve seen coming out or coming out that you want to incorporate? 

Lund: Augmented reality has a TON of application in what we do, and we’ve had a lot of success piloting an iPad based solution called InstantAR (Praxik) that integrates directly with our 3D design software (CET Designer).  In our early tests, this technology was very helpful in co-designing with clients, and rapid prototyping ideas for our own office spaces.  It’s gotten rave reviews from clients, though moving from the “Pokemon Go” style iPad-based interface to wearable will make this much more practical in large scale application. 

Beyond the critically important function of communicating design intent to our clients, AR can help us better train our installation and service techs on new products or install techniques, enhance our client tours and demonstrations within our WORKLAB spaces, load trucks more efficiently,  and continue to prototype and test space concepts with our teams and clients before the cost and time required to purchase and install physical product.  

ACI: What are possible negative implications of the more recent advances in workplace technology? 

Lund: More broadly speaking, concerns about personal privacy being balanced against the desire for personalization of experience have huge implications for us.  Putting a bunch of sensors in workspace tends to raise eyebrows, particularly given the revelations around Facebook’s handling of personal data in ways people felt might not be in their best interest.  The key is to help people understand what the data is being used for, and weight carefully the value of a custom/personal experience with the obligations to protect vast amounts of data with people’s identity attached.   

Going overboard with sensing/location management technology in workspace can push into management or cultural concerns with trust or excessive cost focus. If you offer great space but set it up with sensors and cameras like a Big Brother reality show it’s too much and people will hate working there… but if you fail to utilize a space sensing technology to understand and improve your workspace at this point you’re really missing out.  Balance... 

ACI: What would you say then, on the other end of the spectrum, is the most prohibitive technology we’re currently dealing with? 

Lund: I think compliance. Compliance activities are an interesting sort of specter–I mean, regulation is not a bad thing if the intent of regulation is to prevent pollutants from being dumped into the water, but what is the right balance of regulatory oversight versus owner-ess regulation that leads to higher costs to do business and hurts our ability to innovate and be truly disruptive. I would say the greatest inhibitor of our users is our users today. I think it’s hard for IT people, good IT people, to make some broad characterizations, as they have to be continuous learners and just be comfortable with the fact that nothing is ever constant in this business. Whether it’s a regulatory change on this end or a new disruptive technology–the budget implications, the business changing directions, whatever it is, we constantly need to keep track of all those issues, and then within that portfolio itself we manage to deal with it. At the end of the day, we try to make things as simple and intuitive as possible, but there’s a level of reliance on users just learning how to do stuff, that is a trick, and if you have a user base that isn’t the best at that, then no amount of innovation is going to bring them there.  

ACI: How do you see technology teams aligning with more traditional business disciplines within leadership teams to make some of these things happen? 

Lund: I think there’s a two-way street. We (as tech providers) must build credibility by making the systems as valuable, scalable and easy to use as possible while also being able to explain complex technical concepts in actionable business terms that non-techie leaders can understand.  We, in turn, need business leaders to meet us part way and start to understand the fundamentals of IT as a business practice, and hold their teams accountable for continual learning and being proficient with the tech tools they are being provided to do their jobs effectively. 

Sales Enablement Consultant, Carissa McNulty, shares her thoughts on utilizing technology in our WORKLAB: 

We believe that technology and space go hand-in-hand and can make or break the effectiveness of your workplace.  Throughout our design process, we will work with you to understand your furniture and technology needs and suggest solutions for your organization to help you be successful. 

We have many great solutions in our WORKLAB that support the way we work, which we can also provide to our clients.  Wireless internet throughout our space ensures that we can work anywhere within the space to accomplish the task at hand and collaborate with our colleagues.  Barco Click Share and Steelcase media:scape devices allow us to share technology in open and enclosed collaborative areas.  The Steelcase Find app allows you to search for open meeting rooms and book them from your mobile device.  We utilize a space management solution called Steelcase Workplace Advisor, which will tell you how efficiently and how often your spaces are being used over time.  This is helpful for making long term decisions about your space or to test out some concepts prior to remodels or taking on additional real estate.   

Our goal is to help you make smart business decisions and come up with a solution that supports your employees to help them do their best work. 

This article is co-written by Jodi Hoberg, Marketing Assistant, and Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT.

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Interview with Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT  

Space design oftentimes is led with the aesthetic of the space-how can we make it trendy and cool? But another component that is vital to the efficiency, productivity and well-being of employees is the technology that enables those same employees to perform in their positions. We sat down with Jason Lund, our Director of Audio, Visual and Information Technology to discuss the impact of technology on the workspaces of today and of the future.

ACI: Looking at the technology in our space, would you say we’re on trend, and what trends would you like to add?

Lund: The ability for space to adapt to the user with a custom experience without you having to actively do or learn something is an important trend and expectation driven by user experiences with consumer technologies. When we designed the Minneapolis WORKLAB technology suite, we tried to leverage intuitive design and behind-the-scenes automation so things “just worked.” People learned to trust if they had to plug a video cable into their laptop, their stuff would pop up on the screen moments later. If they plugged in a USB connection in a video conference room, their computer would recognize the room’s camera/microphone or speakers and set them up in Skype.

ACI: What are some of the biggest difficulties you see in today’s workspaces, and how can technology aid in that?

Lund: While there are a lot of workspace issues technology can help solve, two of the biggest workplace issues that impact team satisfaction + productivity, particularly in “open” plan offices, are dissatisfaction with temperature and background noise.

In Minneapolis, we deployed a SoftDB brand sound masking system that measures the background noise level and adjusts itself throughout the day to make sure the soundscape of our space protects privacy while also remaining comfortable for our teams and partners. The system was cost competitive with other solutions but provided significant added value by addressing the frequent changes in background noise level within our space without IT needing to log in and tweak the system constantly.

Temperature is something we can’t change at a granular level as we are in a multi-tenant space with centralized HVAC service. However, advances in modern workspace occupancy sensing solutions (like the new Asure OccupEye platform) now include temperature, average sound level and other key space characteristics that we can report on over time and share as part of a wayfinding system to help team members connect to spaces with the amenities and characteristics that best match their work style.

ACI: When does technology hit its life expectancy and how far can you extend it before you’re pushing it beyond the minimum output level? How far can companies extend that dollar, in a sense.

Lund: Traditionally, for an IT investment such as a laptop or a phone, three years. However, the change to cloud computing and using apps as a service is putting less demand on end-user devices (laptops, phones, tablets, etc.) Our strategy is to replace devices before they hit the point at which they are most likely to fail proactively, rather than waiting for a device to actually break and cause an unpredictable outage for our user.

ACI: Do you find organizations are able to achieve a great level of personal flexibility and customization when providing technology to their employees?

Lund: It used to be that IT’s role was to tell users, “you’re going to use this solution because this is our standard,” but now people want a personal experience as advances in consumer facing technologies have often outpaced their commercial counterparts and set different expectations. As an IT services provider, we need to balance giving our clients the greatest flexibility possible while also maintaining a reasonable cost to provision, support and securely deliver services. It’s a stimulating challenge to balance these factors in determining the best solution to provide to our business users, but it’s part of the evolution of IT as a business service rather than the “fun police” role it might have played a decade ago.

This evolution is not unique to IT, expectations of workspace flexibility are also evolving and balancing a variety of user expectations. As a “nomad” without an assigned desk, I’m able to use technology to quickly find a space that fits my needs and work in an ideal space and then change locations throughout the day as my needs change. Not only am I more productive and engaged, we’re able to fit more people into less space which means the company’s real estate investments are providing a greater value.

Client Coordinator, Taylor Sweetman, shares her thoughts on utilizing technology in our WORKLAB: 

When I first started at Atmosphere (transitioning from a small business setting with desktop computers and limited technology options), I was really impressed with the variety of options to connect and share information with other team members/clients in our office, as well as team members/clients outside our office. On any given day, I’ll be connected to my laptop and two additional monitors at my desk, then move over to one of our many media:scape tables to connect and collaborate on current projects with other members of the Hospitality team, then move to one of our conference rooms to attend a vendor’s presentation. The ability to be mobile/agile within the office as needed, without compromising productivity, is a huge perk of working here. Our office feels like one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, only each employee at Atmosphere can choose their own adventure – a.k.a. how and where they work each day within the office. I still spend 5+ hours each day at my own personal desk because I prefer to be near my Hospitality team members (and three screens FTW!), but I’m thankful our office provides us with many options of how to work, how to connect, how to share information and how to collaborate. 

This article is co-written by Jodi Hoberg, Marketing Assistant, and Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT

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The technical approach in our showroom today focuses on a few key concepts: mobility, simplicity, value and credibility.  This is a significant change in strategy that was fully realized with the remodel of our Minneapolis WORKLAB in 2016.  In prior years, utility- or cable-management was all the rage, so technology was often a design afterthought, as well as a frequently cited source of frustration for teams and the tech providers supporting it.  It also hurt our credibility with clients, requiring specialized resources to conduct telepresence meetings or present technology solutions to clients.  Our leadership team embraced a cable-free, ease-of-use approach and focused on great products, AV and technology solutions. The four pillars of this new strategy included: 

Mobility is all about giving our internal clients choice and control over how they work and where.  At its core is a “mobile–first” wireless infrastructure and WAN services optimized to reliably deliver high quality voice, video and fast file copies for our marketing and design teams.  It also provides the ability to support nomadic workers and realize the savings of working in a smaller space that costs less per square foot but doesn’t negatively impact productivity. The move to Skype for Business versus traditional phones untethered team members from their desks, reducing clutter and making it easy to work anywhere. Eliminating hardware PBX solutions also saved significant money for the dealership in direct IT costs for maintenance, PRI circuits and service contracts, in addition to requiring fewer switch ports and physical cabling in our buildings.

Simplicity as a technical design concept focuses on the “UX / User eXperience” by implementing solutions that are predictable and consistent throughout our space.  In collaboration space design, this required a focus on fewer options, but making the design as intuitive and automatic as possible.  Eliminating “control panels” in favor of “when you connect it, things just happen” automation made rooms simpler to use and leveraging Skype for Business as a standard collaboration tool for individual or group meetings of any size means users can focus on becoming proficient with a single versatile tool rather than many specialized solutions. 

Value is often mistaken for low cost in the IT world, and our pre-renovation technology portfolio demonstrated this by costing little to implement, but a lot in lost productivity and lost credibility. We consider technology investments in the context of 3-5 years and include the often–missed impact on productivity, real estate costs, support/maintenance requirement, as well as how a bit of kit fits into our WORKLAB narrative. (What did we learn and how do we share it?) 

Credibility is the last, but in my opinion, most important element of this strategy.  In terms of our space design, any bit of technology installed must be justified within the context of meeting our own business needs – we don’t show things that don’t get used and don’t have a genuine value to our business that can be explained and shared.  If our applications of technology and space are credible, it elevates our credibility with clients, and then not only do we make thought-provoking investments that are easy to explain, but we also show we are smart with managing our resources.  It’s also important to build credibility with our end-users; if they don’t trust our technology, it’s impossible to be credible with our customers, so we need to listen and adapt quickly when necessary. 

Senior Interior Designer, Kelsey Wickland, shares her thoughts on utilizing technology in our WORKLAB: 

I love how simple and easy it is to share content in our space. By just clicking a button, we’re able to display our screen, no matter what device we’re using. This is great from a design perspective as it allows us to co-create alongside our clients, providing a more efficient and agile experience. Our team can work collaboratively with clients and keep them actively involved in the design process. 

This article is co-written by Jodi Hoberg, Marketing Assistant, and Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT

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Interview with Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT, cont’d. 

ACI: What would you say is the coolest, but also most functional technology that you’ve seen coming out or coming out that you want to incorporate? 

Lund: Augmented reality has a TON of application in what we do, and we’ve had a lot of success piloting an iPad based solution called InstantAR (Praxik) that integrates directly with our 3D design software (CET Designer).  In our early tests, this technology was very helpful in co-designing with clients, and rapid prototyping ideas for our own office spaces.  It’s gotten rave reviews from clients, though moving from the “Pokemon Go” style iPad-based interface to wearable will make this much more practical in large scale application. 

Beyond the critically important function of communicating design intent to our clients, AR can help us better train our installation and service techs on new products or install techniques, enhance our client tours and demonstrations within our WORKLAB spaces, load trucks more efficiently,  and continue to prototype and test space concepts with our teams and clients before the cost and time required to purchase and install physical product.  

ACI: What are possible negative implications of the more recent advances in workplace technology? 

Lund: More broadly speaking, concerns about personal privacy being balanced against the desire for personalization of experience have huge implications for us.  Putting a bunch of sensors in workspace tends to raise eyebrows, particularly given the revelations around Facebook’s handling of personal data in ways people felt might not be in their best interest.  The key is to help people understand what the data is being used for, and weight carefully the value of a custom/personal experience with the obligations to protect vast amounts of data with people’s identity attached.   

Going overboard with sensing/location management technology in workspace can push into management or cultural concerns with trust or excessive cost focus. If you offer great space but set it up with sensors and cameras like a Big Brother reality show it’s too much and people will hate working there… but if you fail to utilize a space sensing technology to understand and improve your workspace at this point you’re really missing out.  Balance... 

ACI: What would you say then, on the other end of the spectrum, is the most prohibitive technology we’re currently dealing with? 

Lund: I think compliance. Compliance activities are an interesting sort of specter–I mean, regulation is not a bad thing if the intent of regulation is to prevent pollutants from being dumped into the water, but what is the right balance of regulatory oversight versus owner-ess regulation that leads to higher costs to do business and hurts our ability to innovate and be truly disruptive. I would say the greatest inhibitor of our users is our users today. I think it’s hard for IT people, good IT people, to make some broad characterizations, as they have to be continuous learners and just be comfortable with the fact that nothing is ever constant in this business. Whether it’s a regulatory change on this end or a new disruptive technology–the budget implications, the business changing directions, whatever it is, we constantly need to keep track of all those issues, and then within that portfolio itself we manage to deal with it. At the end of the day, we try to make things as simple and intuitive as possible, but there’s a level of reliance on users just learning how to do stuff, that is a trick, and if you have a user base that isn’t the best at that, then no amount of innovation is going to bring them there.  

ACI: How do you see technology teams aligning with more traditional business disciplines within leadership teams to make some of these things happen? 

Lund: I think there’s a two-way street. We (as tech providers) must build credibility by making the systems as valuable, scalable and easy to use as possible while also being able to explain complex technical concepts in actionable business terms that non-techie leaders can understand.  We, in turn, need business leaders to meet us part way and start to understand the fundamentals of IT as a business practice, and hold their teams accountable for continual learning and being proficient with the tech tools they are being provided to do their jobs effectively. 

Sales Enablement Consultant, Carissa McNulty, shares her thoughts on utilizing technology in our WORKLAB: 

We believe that technology and space go hand-in-hand and can make or break the effectiveness of your workplace.  Throughout our design process, we will work with you to understand your furniture and technology needs and suggest solutions for your organization to help you be successful. 

We have many great solutions in our WORKLAB that support the way we work, which we can also provide to our clients.  Wireless internet throughout our space ensures that we can work anywhere within the space to accomplish the task at hand and collaborate with our colleagues.  Barco Click Share and Steelcase media:scape devices allow us to share technology in open and enclosed collaborative areas.  The Steelcase Find app allows you to search for open meeting rooms and book them from your mobile device.  We utilize a space management solution called Steelcase Workplace Advisor, which will tell you how efficiently and how often your spaces are being used over time.  This is helpful for making long term decisions about your space or to test out some concepts prior to remodels or taking on additional real estate.   

Our goal is to help you make smart business decisions and come up with a solution that supports your employees to help them do their best work. 

This article is co-written by Jodi Hoberg, Marketing Assistant, and Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT.

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At Atmosphere, our culture can be described as accountable, team-centric, learning-oriented, and high-performing. We are deeply engaged, focused on growth and development, and love the work that we do to enrich the work lives of those around us.  We also continuously strive to be a market leader and an employer of choice, which means the importance of strengthening the connection between our purpose and those day-to-day decisions that matter so much for the contentment and self-actualization of our team members and our overall success.

As our organization grows, we want to empower team members to make the best decisions for the clients they serve, the teams they work in, and for themselves. Providing a foundation on which to base decisions will help us meet operational and revenue goals, and provides a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment that results from personal growth and accomplishment.

People naturally rely on their inner compass when making decisions or modeling behaviors. And, when seeking a job, people will gravitate toward organizations whose corporate culture and core values are in alignment with their personal values.

Core values are a key component of a corporate culture, because they are the principles by which we make decisions, set and achieve goals, and connect with people and partners.

Five years ago, our core values were carefully crafted and published on our website and in the team member handbook. The values were relevant and inspiring, and yet not one person in our organization could recall them, much less describe how they lived our values every day. Team members couldn’t recall them because we as an organization hadn’t supported them and used them to their fullest potential through our everyday work.

We decided that to strengthen and enrich our own corporate culture, we needed to develop new core values, and more importantly, demonstrate how and why being a values-oriented organization helps us deliver on our purpose, holds us accountable as  individuals and as an organization, and creates a positive and nurturing environment in which to work.

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Interview with Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT  

Space design oftentimes is led with the aesthetic of the space-how can we make it trendy and cool? But another component that is vital to the efficiency, productivity and well-being of employees is the technology that enables those same employees to perform in their positions. We sat down with Jason Lund, our Director of Audio, Visual and Information Technology to discuss the impact of technology on the workspaces of today and of the future.

ACI: Looking at the technology in our space, would you say we’re on trend, and what trends would you like to add?

Lund: The ability for space to adapt to the user with a custom experience without you having to actively do or learn something is an important trend and expectation driven by user experiences with consumer technologies. When we designed the Minneapolis WORKLAB technology suite, we tried to leverage intuitive design and behind-the-scenes automation so things “just worked.” People learned to trust if they had to plug a video cable into their laptop, their stuff would pop up on the screen moments later. If they plugged in a USB connection in a video conference room, their computer would recognize the room’s camera/microphone or speakers and set them up in Skype.

ACI: What are some of the biggest difficulties you see in today’s workspaces, and how can technology aid in that?

Lund: While there are a lot of workspace issues technology can help solve, two of the biggest workplace issues that impact team satisfaction + productivity, particularly in “open” plan offices, are dissatisfaction with temperature and background noise.

In Minneapolis, we deployed a SoftDB brand sound masking system that measures the background noise level and adjusts itself throughout the day to make sure the soundscape of our space protects privacy while also remaining comfortable for our teams and partners. The system was cost competitive with other solutions but provided significant added value by addressing the frequent changes in background noise level within our space without IT needing to log in and tweak the system constantly.

Temperature is something we can’t change at a granular level as we are in a multi-tenant space with centralized HVAC service. However, advances in modern workspace occupancy sensing solutions (like the new Asure OccupEye platform) now include temperature, average sound level and other key space characteristics that we can report on over time and share as part of a wayfinding system to help team members connect to spaces with the amenities and characteristics that best match their work style.

ACI: When does technology hit its life expectancy and how far can you extend it before you’re pushing it beyond the minimum output level? How far can companies extend that dollar, in a sense.

Lund: Traditionally, for an IT investment such as a laptop or a phone, three years. However, the change to cloud computing and using apps as a service is putting less demand on end-user devices (laptops, phones, tablets, etc.) Our strategy is to replace devices before they hit the point at which they are most likely to fail proactively, rather than waiting for a device to actually break and cause an unpredictable outage for our user.

ACI: Do you find organizations are able to achieve a great level of personal flexibility and customization when providing technology to their employees?

Lund: It used to be that IT’s role was to tell users, “you’re going to use this solution because this is our standard,” but now people want a personal experience as advances in consumer facing technologies have often outpaced their commercial counterparts and set different expectations. As an IT services provider, we need to balance giving our clients the greatest flexibility possible while also maintaining a reasonable cost to provision, support and securely deliver services. It’s a stimulating challenge to balance these factors in determining the best solution to provide to our business users, but it’s part of the evolution of IT as a business service rather than the “fun police” role it might have played a decade ago.

This evolution is not unique to IT, expectations of workspace flexibility are also evolving and balancing a variety of user expectations. As a “nomad” without an assigned desk, I’m able to use technology to quickly find a space that fits my needs and work in an ideal space and then change locations throughout the day as my needs change. Not only am I more productive and engaged, we’re able to fit more people into less space which means the company’s real estate investments are providing a greater value.

Client Coordinator, Taylor Sweetman, shares her thoughts on utilizing technology in our WORKLAB: 

When I first started at Atmosphere (transitioning from a small business setting with desktop computers and limited technology options), I was really impressed with the variety of options to connect and share information with other team members/clients in our office, as well as team members/clients outside our office. On any given day, I’ll be connected to my laptop and two additional monitors at my desk, then move over to one of our many media:scape tables to connect and collaborate on current projects with other members of the Hospitality team, then move to one of our conference rooms to attend a vendor’s presentation. The ability to be mobile/agile within the office as needed, without compromising productivity, is a huge perk of working here. Our office feels like one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, only each employee at Atmosphere can choose their own adventure – a.k.a. how and where they work each day within the office. I still spend 5+ hours each day at my own personal desk because I prefer to be near my Hospitality team members (and three screens FTW!), but I’m thankful our office provides us with many options of how to work, how to connect, how to share information and how to collaborate. 

This article is co-written by Jodi Hoberg, Marketing Assistant, and Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT

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The technical approach in our showroom today focuses on a few key concepts: mobility, simplicity, value and credibility.  This is a significant change in strategy that was fully realized with the remodel of our Minneapolis WORKLAB in 2016.  In prior years, utility- or cable-management was all the rage, so technology was often a design afterthought, as well as a frequently cited source of frustration for teams and the tech providers supporting it.  It also hurt our credibility with clients, requiring specialized resources to conduct telepresence meetings or present technology solutions to clients.  Our leadership team embraced a cable-free, ease-of-use approach and focused on great products, AV and technology solutions. The four pillars of this new strategy included: 

Mobility is all about giving our internal clients choice and control over how they work and where.  At its core is a “mobile–first” wireless infrastructure and WAN services optimized to reliably deliver high quality voice, video and fast file copies for our marketing and design teams.  It also provides the ability to support nomadic workers and realize the savings of working in a smaller space that costs less per square foot but doesn’t negatively impact productivity.  The move to Skype for Business versus traditional phones untethers team members from their desks. PBX solutions further support team mobility and saved money for the dealership both in real estate expenses and direct IT costs (less cabling, less network hardware, less phone infrastructure, etc.) 

Simplicity as a technical design concept focuses on the “UX / User eXperience” by implementing solutions that are predictable and consistent throughout our space.  In collaboration space design, this required a focus on fewer options, but making the design as intuitive and automatic as possible.  Eliminating “control panels” in favor of “when you connect it, things just happen” automation made rooms simpler to use and leveraging Skype for Business as a standard collaboration tool for individual or group meetings of any size means users can focus on becoming proficient with a single versatile tool rather than many specialized solutions. 

Value is often mistaken for low cost in the IT world, and our pre-renovation technology portfolio demonstrated this by costing little to implement, but a lot in lost productivity and lost credibility. We consider technology investments in the context of 3-5 years and include the often–missed impact on productivity, real estate costs, support/maintenance requirement, as well as how a bit of kit fits into our WORKLAB narrative. (What did we learn and how do we share it?) 

Credibility is the last, but in my opinion, most important element of this strategy.  In terms of our space design, any bit of technology installed must be justified within the context of meeting our own business needs – we don’t show things that don’t get used and don’t have a genuine value to our business that can be explained and shared.  If our applications of technology and space are credible, it elevates our credibility with clients, and then not only do we make thought-provoking investments that are easy to explain, but we also show we are smart with managing our resources.  It’s also important to build credibility with our end-users; if they don’t trust our technology, it’s impossible to be credible with our customers, so we need to listen and adapt quickly when necessary. 

Senior Interior Designer, Kelsey Wickland, shares her thoughts on utilizing technology in our WORKLAB: 

I love how simple and easy it is to share content in our space. By just clicking a button, we’re able to display our screen, no matter what device we’re using. This is great from a design perspective as it allows us to co-create alongside our clients, providing a more efficient and agile experience. Our team can work collaboratively with clients and keep them actively involved in the design process. 

This article is co-written by Jodi Hoberg, Marketing Assistant, and Jason Lund, Director of AV and IT

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