Make Flexible Work

By Mia Brown
News • Thoughts
21st September 22

The worlds of design and data collide – mediated by Zac Goodman’s unique position as landlord, property manager, prop-tech advisor, and investor.

Last week, Zac hosted a webinar with workplace pioneers Alejandra Albarran from ROOM and Nellie Hayat from Density. Leading modular furniture meets pioneering prop-tech.

Objective? Develop a flexible workplace strategy – that works, for everyone.

Here are the key takeaways.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU WITNESSING ACROSS-THE-BOARD?

The Google Slide Phase is officially over. Once upon a time – 10 years ago – everyone wanted to make their office the most fun place ever. Beanbags boomed; ping pong proliferated.

Prior to that, we had a decade of open information flow, succeeding a decade of ultimate privacy.

General themes have always homogenised the workplace.

Now, we enter a new period: Intentionality.

This is what we hear from everyone – that we have to invite people with intention, purpose, and authenticity. To make flexible work, happy hour alone will not succeed.

The new generation wants transparent intention: Why are you asking me to come in? How can I show up to be my best?

 

HOW DO WE DESIGN SPACES MORE SYMPATHETICALLY – BUILDING A BALANCE THAT WORKS?

Start with an informed strategy. Interview employees and leaders – compile surveys with actual data. Understand what’s happening, what’s working, what’s not.

Identify what your people need and what kind of activities are most important.

It’s about giving choice. The workplace is now a network of forums with alternative conditions. This creates unique challenges as there needs to be balance between needs and resources – the office cannot be Disneyland.

Ask: does the space bring ROI?

Allow spaces to evolve over time – keep gathering live data, keep communication open.

Ultimately, the office needs to become something that it never has before: transformable.

 

WHAT FLOORPLATE CHANGES ARE YOU SEEING?

It is not the end of the office: it is the decline of the desk. As offices become collaboration hubs, getting rid of rows of desks frees up a lot of space for floorplate flexibility and common areas.

Instead of enclosed meeting spaces, meetings are now happening more casually in the open.

Meanwhile, for privacy, people jump into an enclosed booth.

The way we relate to space has completely switched.

 

WHAT ABOUT MONDAYS AND FRIDAYS?

One phrase we’re hearing everywhere is the “critical mass conundrum”.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays: the hum and the buzz are tangible. Meanwhile, the workweek bookends – for anyone in a tumbleweed office – can be demotivating, demoralising.

So how can we better design spaces for variable occupation?

Modular furniture, partition walls on wheels, and cosy seating create intimacy within a big space with fewer people. They provide flexibility on an hour-to-hour basis, fitting the specific needs of the day.

Step into the mindset of the user. Adopt a tech-way of looking at space.

 

YOU HAVE A MIC, A STAGE, AND A ROOM FULL OF 3000 EGO-DRIVEN EXECUTIVES HESITANT TO ADOPT A FLEXIBLE WORK MODEL. WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THOSE LEADERS?

A true leader knows how to show humility. If we’re asking how to deal with old-school thinking, the crux is understanding exactly what’s aggravating them. For most, it’s that their office is empty on Monday and Friday. Talk to them on Tuesday – they’re happy.

Ask, “What specifically bothers you? What’s making you revert back to an old model?” Often, it’s issues of control.

Start by clinically addressing that – while changing the narrative of what a modern office looks like.

Rather than policing, establish working principles.

 

THE MOST SUCCESSFUL OFFICE SPACES?

Where there is the perfect balance between community and privacy.

A lot of people that have tried to adapt their space post-pandemic have gone way too far to the community side – at the expense of privacy.

The two work best together.

To make flexible work, a trial-and-error approach should also be built into its DNA.

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