Kelly is a project manager and trained interior designer working in the commercial office interiors industry. She agreed to speak with me about her experience and share her expertise. Kelly was a valuable recourse because of her unique position of being able to provide information in relation to design trends over multiple customers, as well as personal experience as a project manager. Interviewing her about her and her clients requirements meant she was able to be a representative of those groups saving me from having to interview many individuals.
I used a semi-structured interview and Kelly agreed to have the interview recorded to that I could transcribe our conversation. The interviewee’s name has been changed to protect their identity and the recording deleted once the transcription was completed. Below is a copy of the full transcript after introductions.
Francesca: Can you tell me what your job title and job description?
Kelly: My job title is Project Manager, and my Job description would be managing projects for a commercial furniture dealer.
I would manage the scope of a full project with the furniture, so we work with clients to select furniture finishes everything and then after the furniture is ordered, I would manage the product project once it’s being installed.
Francesca: OK, and so do you influence the purchase of the furniture or is that someone else on your team?
Kelly: It will be a bit of both because there’s designers, project managers, account managers, so there’s three people on the team and we all kind of work together.
I kind of do both Project Manager, Account Manager roles, but for the most part a lot of large projects will have their own design firm that would be more selecting the furniture and whatnot, but if there’s not, then yes, we’re more involved with it.
And I would be involved with that more so because I’m part designer – because of my background.
Francesca: Yeah, so what kinds of clients do you find that you work with the most?
Kelly: Hmm, because I’m in the sales department, we work with all kinds of clients.
We’ve got like hospitals. Or just like bigger government ones – the only ones I don’t do are banks.
Just really any kind of office. Anyone that has an office we do.
Really. I don’t think there’s a specific type in sales.
Francesca: OK, and for the clients that you have just now, are you thinking that there will be a change in design trends of what they’re putting in their spaces post pandemic, or are you seeing that that trend change now?
Kelly: Yeah, I’ve just started seeing it.
So at the beginning of the pandemic everyone was wanting to get screens installed, but no one actually really did install the screens. I think because no one went back. So they kind of prepared to have the screens and then when no one went back, only a few people got screens installed, but there wasn’t a lot. There hasn’t actually been a lot of orders placed – but an example is we have one client where they were doing everything open concept That’s, going more into benching and then as soon as — they were actually getting rid of their office suites, they had like extra office suites. —
And then I just saw floor plan for their upcoming floor that they’re doing. And it’s all private offices. And it’s like barely any open workstations, so it has changed, and I think there’s a lot of bigger workstations and higher panels.
So people are changing, but there hasn’t been too many. We’ve kind of been dead a little bit now we’re starting to pick back up so it’s just the beginning of.
Francesca: So, with things picking back up, you’ve noticed a change with the workstations and offices, what about collaborative spaces?
So maybe like meeting rooms. Or lounge areas where casual interactions could happen.
Kelly: I haven’t seen a big change.
Maybe there’s less, but people are still putting those in. Uh, but I haven’t really seen a big change with like meeting rooms. I’m sure there’s a change to limit that people allowed in them, but not from a furniture aspect.
Kelly: They probably still put the same meeting table in there with the same amount of chairs. They just might say you can’t have this many people in that meeting room because of covid, right now, but, I haven’t really noticed that much of a change.
Francesca: OK thanks. So, let me ask you, do you as a project manager use Agile, or do you know what agile ways of working means?
Kelly: Because of working at my previous employer who was large corporation – I mean even before the pandemic, Agile was their favorite word. Everything was agile and that everything was bench style, and needed to be mobile. You could work from home, whatever.
So I’m used to that – I think now agile in the sense of working from home and kind of working wherever it will be more of a trend. But in a sense of agile and just benching systems, I think that’s gonna kind of go away for a little bit because people feel comfortable to be that close.
But agile, working from home agile, I can see that happening, wherever
Or areas like when I go into the office, I book the boardroom and I actually work in the boardroom a lot of the time.
Francesca: OK, and so you’re seeing that they were into the idea of flexible spaces as a as working agile wise. Did they use, or do you use agile methodologies?
And what I mean by that is like a specific framework such as like Scrum or Six Sigma, or any of those types of things?
Or is it more of the way that they work rather than a rigid structure?
Kelly: I’m judging a lot of the stuff on my previous employer because they had a really good agile system, even like we did things virtually ’cause I work with people from like Montreal and wherever so all things were virtually so we had work things on a whiteboard. There was a virtual whiteboard where you could put notes and there was a bunch of software programs like that. We used Trello.
They were really good at making agile work prior to covid.
But since coming to a small company, they’re not as agile, we’ve gotten MS Teams to make it more agile, and I can communicate like through chat now.
So I message like people I work with through this chat instead. It’s so much easier and then you can do quick teams, calls and stuff.
So we’ve gotten it better. But I mean for my current company, it’s a little bit harder because they’re smaller – they’re getting bigger, but they’re still smaller that my previous employer.
But for my previous employer they definitely were very on top of all the agile – you know from home, working from home, whatever kinds of working.
Francesca: Okay. So would you say then that your previous company that you worked for – the equipment they provided you assisted in this way of working versus where you’re working now?
Kelly: Yeah, they had more. Even more, I mean my current employer’s got a lot more now, but I definitely had more software. Which is understandable being a large company.
Software dedicated to working agile so we could do things online easier and it was because we worked with people all across Canada.
Kelly: That’s kind of why it was more forced to be Agile than where I am now. It’s less forced because obviously while working from home – we have software to help us work from home now. Like VPN, you know all. That kind of hardware VPN going on.
Francesca: Yeah, so if you had a client come to you and say we’re opening a small new office, but we want to implement agile ways of working. What would you say that you would start recommending in terms of the furniture and the equipment?
Kelly: For the furniture wise that I would do – like, I think personally we should do as well – The kind of touchdown stations where you could go in and in that way it’s not a dedicated workstation, so you could go in wherever, maybe little areas to work, so you could book areas
Uh, which is good, again, what my previous employer actually had. They had phone rooms, focus rooms, they had different rooms you could book to go work into different environments.
Kelly: Uh, so something like that would be good, but it’s just now with Covid I think you’re gonna have all these screens and higher things like they’ll start doing that.
Software wise you would have a VPN where you can connect into your server.
Programs like MS Teams, Zoom, Trello – things where you can communicate without actually being there are preferred.
I mean not that we deal with software, just in my experience when I’ve enjoyed using.
Francesca: Do you think that, if you pretend there is no covid – what do you think that the future of working will look like after we get through this whole experience and you don’t have to worry about screens, but we’re all a little changed?
Kelly: I imagine people will go back to the office, but maybe they’ll be a little bit more flexibility on whether they can work from home.
’cause now you – everybody knows they’re capable of working from home, so I think they’ll be, you know, in the office and out of the office a little bit more you’ll see that.
’cause, also companies, well, I know some companies completely closed their office.
My cousin worked for an engineering company. They shut down the office, they are working from home for now on, you know.
Kelly: So, he didn’t go back.
But then I think there are some that maybe will use it to their advantage of having touchdown stations where they can have less leased space.
And have more people working from home and just touchdown whenever, book space.
That’s kind of my guess as to what would happen. But I do think the offices will still be needed. People will still be going back at some point.
Francesca: OK, so in terms of like going back and these touchdown stations and products that are on the market – Do you have any likes or dislikes about some of these features or specifying them in your projects?
Kelly: I like collaboration areas and I’ve seen a lot of like kind of chairs with high backs, so you could kind of fit with the laptop so you’re sitting in a lounge spot, but you’re in different spots, so I like the idea of working wherever, like, in different environments where you feel like working.
Kind of getting away from your desk is nice.
I don’t dislike anything about it other than the fact that maybe because of Covid people might be a little uneasy about going to a different spot where someone has already sat. I think that might be the only concern – but if everyone respects each other and you know cleaned up after, wherever they were.
It’s not their space, so people have to make sure they’re being tidy at each space. You’re using the same space as someone else, that would be the only concern.
But otherwise, I like the idea of going wherever, working wherever. Standing up or working at a hub table instead of sitting down.
Francesca: Yeah, OK, so like changing your environment or your position of your body. You mentioned standing and lounge sitting.
Kelly: Yeah, gives you a little bit more flexibility and how you work, and I like that.
Francesca: Yeah, do you find at home you’re doing the same things, like sometimes you’re standing, sometimes you’re on the couch or?
Kelly: I don’t have a sit stand desk so I can’t really do that.
Sometimes I’ll, you know, make my way down stairs so I’m sitting on the couch. But rarely do I do that. I’m normally sitting at home, but I do tend to like, you know, go for a walk at lunch like I get out a little more.
I actually try to take a break depending on how busy I am, but if I had a sit/stand desk I would use it.
It’s harder at home because I always use my screen. In the office, my screen would be at my desk. And if I wanted to work in the boardroom I would only probably send emails – whereas if I was doing work that I needed a second screen for, I would want to be at my desk.
Francesca: OK, so at home you’d probably need to change your like equipment and furniture to match your working style.
However, that being said, in the summer when we were at the house, I could work out on my patio, so I did switch it up more in the summer, but right now I don’t. I typically stay at my desk instead of going down, but there’s not really any places to go, whereas in the office I get my desk or the boardroom.
Or I could go to the filing area and kind of work standing on the filing with my laptop.
Francesca: OK, and what about if you need to meet with your team, how do you do that just now? And do you think it’ll change?
Kelly: If I did need to meet with my team, we can do it through team Microsoft Teams, so we just book a meeting and then we meet, similar to Zoom.
We can share our screen which is really helpful.
If we want to book a meeting in the office, we’ll book a boardroom and then we all just sit in the boardroom and kind of work there.
But it’s pretty easy to do the teams meetings over the computer and sharing screens and everything. So I think that’s been quite good.
Francesca: Cool, so I think that’s been quite good. I think, to finish, what would be one word that you would use to help describe agile ways of working?
Kelly: I would say probably mobile, or flexible.
Francesca: Brilliant. Thank you very much for your time.
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