By Sarah Wilen - 15th February, 2018
This year’s 3-day Future Offices series attracted executives from the top Fortune 500 companies and more, and joined them with key figures in the workplace strategy field to convene on cutting-edge workplace trends that will shape the modern workforce.
The conference began with a series of workshops aimed at helping attendees identify barriers to change within their organization and learn methods for overcoming them. The workshops culminated in a session led by HLW’s Matt Triebner and Michele Neptune that prompted attendees to apply these learnings in a fun simulation. Workshop groups were challenged to implement workplace strategies that would increase employee engagement and uphold brand authenticity, all within a given budget.
In a panel on "Addressing Workplace Needs Through Trends & Tech", PLASTARC’s Melissa Marsh joined representatives from Accenture, Honeywell, and Cooper Carry. Melissa presented the common principles of attractive workplaces– based on workplaces where people choose, and even pay, to work– and emphasized the need to leverage technology for these efforts. With a surplus of data being collected on occupancy and space utilization, the main need today is to leverage this data to use it effectively.
The jam-packed conference also featured exclusive site tours of some of the most coveted workplaces– Google, Twitter, Boston Consulting Group, Alley, and DELOS. Though each office held its own character and appeal, these offices shared common threads of beauty and functionality, sustainability and wellness, alignment between brand and office space, and a workforce empowered by its management.
While speakers came from a mix of roles, and from a variety of industries, a common message could be found. Many presentations highlighted the importance of creating cohesion between the diverse forces in creating workplace changes, whether they are physical, technological or cultural changes. Many presenters expressed a dire need for greater cohesion between user interface for occupants (such as mobile apps), and the data that facilities is now collecting on a daily, even hourly basis. These industry leaders envision a seamless door-to-door workplace experience for their employees, from parking their cars to booking meeting spaces. Melissa Marsh emphasized the need for strategic management of this data (with occupant permission, of course!) to fully take advantage of the insights occupant data can reveal.
Meanwhile, it seemed that the need for synchronicity not only applies to data and user interface, but also to the people, or stakeholders, in the process of building the workplace. Red Hat’s Regional IT Manager, Mark Grey and Head of Workplace Innovation, Anthony Parzanese, spoke about their experience joining forces from two very different sectors of their organization to transform Red Hat’s long-term real-estate workplace strategy. Twitter’s Global Head of Workplace, Tracy Hawkins described her process along the same lines, explaining that she requires the input of departments like facilities and operations from the start.
When stakeholders come from multiple generations, organizations face an added challenge in integrating space and culture. Pay Wu of TD spoke about the need for big companies to attract and retain the digital talent of the future by offering choices and cultural permissions to work differently. But when workers from a different generation are not used to the autonomous spatial and policy arrangements that younger talent is looking for, it can be hard to make that shift. Getting senior leadership on board from the beginning is crucial to ensuring smooth changes to both space and culture. Representatives from SmithGroupJJR and their clients at Ally and Google, though, also emphasized the importance of engaging with all levels of employees to understand and change culture - while leadership is helpful in shepherding through change, it is crucial to have buy-in and input from as many members of a team as possible.
So what does the future of culture-driven workplace facilities look like? Leaders from NBA, UnderArmour, and Twitter agreed that prioritizing comfort and wellness is key. For example, Tracy Hawkins said that her team seeks out homey furniture to warm up work spaces with a more residential feel. Brendan Robinson spoke to UnderArmour’s focus on active spaces and occupant wellness helped balance the transition away from assigned desking. By looking to occupant satisfaction and space utilization as measures of success, workplace teams can understand whether they are achieving their spatial and cultural goals and creating a vibrant workplace experience.
All in all, the Future Offices series depicted a creative, innovative vision for tomorrow’s workplaces. A lot of work needs to be done, and many barriers within older, less flexible organizations stand in the way. The key to success is in recognizing the multidisciplinary players, including operations and facilities, employees, IT, and health experts, who can all uniquely contribute to transforming the workplace.