Guest Column - April 2009
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Design Corner: Control Central

The Control Desk Can't Be Ignored

By Keith Hayes

The major interactions between desk personnel and customers include inspecting membership cards, collecting rental and activity fees, and providing general information either verbally or through handouts and brochures. This interaction and communication generally works best when it occurs as close to eye-level as possible.

That means consideration to the "posture" of the desk personnel is important in designing the desk itself. Should the staff be standing, sitting at a standard office-chair height or at a higher level similar to bank tellers? Anything to enhance the personal touch should be the major consideration, but positioning staff to deal safely with a possible confrontational situation is also important.

Consultation with security personnel or risk managers and information technology directors is vitally important in planning and designing an effective control desk. Many costly errors can be avoided by bringing these experts into the process at the beginning.

Risk managers and security personnel can help with positioning video surveillance equipment, alarm systems and cash drawers, as well as identify secure locations for counting and disbursing cash. They can also offer advice regarding possible health-related issues stemming from staff use of furniture and computer equipment.

Today's rapid advances in computer and information technology demand the control desk design have the built-in flexibility to adjust to change. No one can predict with certainty where the next technological advance will lead us, but an IT specialist can help ensure that conduits and other infrastructure are at least adequate for the foreseeable future.

Where best to place computer monitors, keyboards, printers, credit-card swipes and telephones should be an integral part of the control desk planning process. If budgets permit, flat-screen monitors, laptops and wireless technology are space-savers that can add significant flexibility to control-desk operations.

Another primary consideration in planning control desks is the degree of control desired over the flow of customers into the facility. If "hard" control is desired, then turnstiles or some sort of gate will have to be factored into the design.

Even without hard control measures, it is increasingly important for recreation centers to plan for collecting data from customers as they enter the center. This data, often obtained through membership card swipes, can be used in reports to city councils and other funding agencies to verify levels of use and justify expenditures.