The WorkTech series continues to attract thought leaders across industries to the intersection of space, technology, business, and people. The first day of WorkTech17 New York, hosted by high-growth conference space provider Convene, saw presenters approach topics including the changing labor landscape, the knowledge economy, and the spaces where work happens. Mingling between presentations in Convene’s amenity, coworking, and collaboration spaces served as a physical manifestation of the disruption traditional workplace models are experiencing today, and of the new spatial models clients are now seeking: networked, accessible, global, and embedded with the benefits of hospitality, community, and culture.
Chris Kelly, Co-Founder of Convene, and Ben Munn, Managing Director of The Instant Group, shared how experience-driven, employee-centric tenant demands are increasing landlord openness to more creative and user-centric compositions of their building stack, from coworking in the lobby to indoor cycling in the basement to an event and community space on the rooftop. The expectation, now more than ever, is that the entire building provides a hospitality experience for tenants.
Organizations are seeking to delight and connect their internal customers and employees in more innovative ways, especially in today’s competitive talent market where evolving employee expectations and rapid business transformation have become the norm. Siemens, an international manufacturing and electronics company, and R/GA, a digital agency, recently partnered to develop an internal Siemens branding initiative that delivers on the same customer and community experience principles that have been foundational to the company’s consumer-facing initiatives. By leveraging digital technology to help employees seamlessly navigate onboarding, peer-to-peer connectivity, and learning and development, Siemens is transforming how they engage their diverse employees to further internal communication.
The employee-centric approach Siemens developed to engage their employees is reflective of an emergent organizational design that incentivizes traditional operations departments to deliver exceptional experiences to employees, and serves as a good reminder that organizations are now expected to serve the employee as much as the customer. The benefits of employee-centric operational models reach across the board: provocations from our fellow Wharton People Analytics alum Ryan Fuller explored opportunities to leverage “people data” to drive better organizational decisions, while Diana Rhoten of Ideo emphasized the importance of such new organizational models to enable successful internal workplace experiences.
From presentations at Convene to experiential learning at Hudson Yards, the second day of WorkTech17 New York was defined by an unconference format, with tours of Boston Consulting Group and R/GA, followed by panel-style conversations on workplace topics pertinent to both firms’ new offices. PLASTARC’s own Melissa Marsh moderated the R/GA panel, bringing the conference surroundings to the center of the conversation through perspectives from Kai Tier, Executive Technology Director of R/GA; Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny, Partner at SITU Studio; Barbara Greenberg, Founder and CEO of Changeship; Kristi Woolsey, Practice Lead, Creative Environments for MAYA Design; and Bill Dowzer, Principal at BVN.
R/GA has enabled their new office to become a “living lab” of their digital offerings, from wayfinding to connected lighting and furniture. The transformation is documented in Gary Hustwit’s film Workplace: The Connected Space Documentary, in which R/GA’s founder Bob Greenberg reflects on the power of space. Workplace was filmed over the course of the construction of R/GA’s Hudson Yards HQ, which was designed by Foster + Partners.
While the firm incorporated many digitally-driven tools to advance occupant UX, it also took steps to create human-sized spaces where employees can disconnect, embedding spatial diversity and multi-sensory thoughtfulness in ways panelists Kristi Woolsey and Bill Dowzer referred to as critical to the success of open environments.
Many WorkTech participants’ provocations from previous conferences echoed through this year’s conversations. As we reflect on WorkTech events of years past, we’re reminded of Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny’s emphasis on the “hackable office,” a topic explored in much of PLASTARC’s approach to workplace design. We’re reminded of Bill Dowzer’s discussion of redefining antiquated organizations and industries through a new era of law and banking environments. We’re reminded of Melissa Marsh’s predictions about the importance of spatial and social data to inform the future of real estate. Our excitement builds as we see that, rather than just talking about these concepts, we’re finally entering an exciting era of design in which we’re seeing our words come to fruition across the workplace landscape.