Many tech companies are struggling to determine the right mix of amenities for their facilities. Does it enable a productive, collaborative and user-friendly experience? To do this, they need to define their goals around: Keeping people at the office or pushing them out into the community; Encouraging others to visit; Enabling specific behaviours or activities; Promoting health and well-being; Reflecting core values/purpose; Appealing to specific demographics; Competing with other companies; Attracting and retaining talent; Promoting balance; Building community; Rewarding people…
The User Experience (UX)
Organization must focus on creating a curated workplace experience that includes à la carte environment with a menu of services, locations and support. Connecting individuals with each other is a priority, and informal social spaces can help define the culture and mood within an office. Physical offices also provide opportunities to engage teams through high-impact videos, colourful graphics and other technology. Future connections could extend outside a company’s walls. Developers, architects and city planners are embracing the notion of “open architecture” – bringing the outside in and the inside out – so that people and businesses can engage more with the surrounding community. Creating woonerfs, the Dutch-inspired concept of a “living street” shared by autos, bicycles and pedestrians, can provide more vibrant precincts that blur the lines between buildings, private and public spaces.
Innovation on Display
As competition intensifies, tech companies should take opportunities to highlight their innovative cultures for prospective employees, customers and investors. In-house innovation centers can accelerate ideation and showcase a firm’s R&D activities, products and services. Companies can demonstrate a commitment to data security by creating Cyber Security Operation Centers (CSOC) that bring together IT, cyber, compliance and security teams in state-of-the-art scrum spaces and ready rooms where they can effectively monitor and address pending threats.
Exceptional amenities will continue to differentiate tech firms as appealing environments for building and nurturing careers. Progressive employers will support work-life balance by assisting with a range of personal tasks – from finding or providing places to live; to assisting with child care, elder care and pet care; to offering concierge services for daily errands. Providing a wide variety of gathering spaces and food and beverage options is important for building community and meeting people’s physical and social needs. And high-quality coffee is a valued perk. Employers may also provide their people with access to co-working or communal work spaces, whether through corporate memberships to external co-working centers or by creating their own shared spaces.
A renewed focus on occupant well-being will drive space to be more interactive and physically engaging. Environments that support holistic health by promoting the ability to connect, bond, refresh and incorporate movement will help employees flourish—and companies thrive. Overly sedentary work environments create unintended consequences like decreased productivity. Studies reveal that active workers are happier, more engaged and more productive. Movement also stimulates cognitive and brain functions, improving problem-solving skills and creativity. The growing emphasis on health and wellness is also driving demand for healthier food options, including organic and farm-to-table solutions that can be consumed on site or taken home. Other companies offer rotating on-site food trucks and pop-up vendors.
The inability to disconnect is contributing to a dramatic increase in stress levels among today’s workers, with 70% reporting that they feel overwhelmed daily.The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that ‘techno-stress’ —the stress of constantly being connected to and overwhelmed by technology—will be one of the largest health issues in the coming decade, costing business in excess of $300 million.Companies can promote mindfulness by giving their people control over their work environment— providing them with options or add-ons that enable user manipulation. A balance of active spaces and quiet zones provides individuals with opportunities to gather and connect or engage in deep, meaningful thought.
Rather than simply addressing environmental sustainability, companies need to create high-performance spaces that generate their own energy, treat their own water, and prioritize human health and wellness. The incorporation of biophilia and authentic, natural elements into high-tech work environments mitigates the negative impact of stress and enhances the well-being of occupants. Circularity is created when we take materials and elements from an existing space and give them a new purpose, leading back to the point from which they originated. When reclaimed or repurposed materials are given new life, we create a link back to our heritage and legacy while contributing to a more sustainable future.
The lines between historically siloed sectors will continue to blur. Hospitality, healthcare, retail and education environments are influencing the corporate workplace and vice versa. The interweaving of signature design elements creates ‘space fusion’ and drives innovation.
Our human senses control how we interact with our built environment. Positive experiences— such as pleasant smells, natural daylight, warmth, sounds of nature and natural views—can evoke immediate acceptance of a space, while negative sensory stimulation can cause us to reject it outright
IoT and Thick Data
The IoT will enable tech businesses to prepare space, identify issues and inefficiencies, control building systems, and better manage their facilities and other assets. Employers will leverage thick data to identify the patterns and preferences of their workforce so they can enhance building operations and improve the user experience.
Location, Location, Location
The suburban campus model that has been prevalent for the past 50 years developed in response to poor living and working conditions of the 19th century industrial city. Its primary goal was to attract young talent through the design of separate zones and facilities for living, working, learning and playing. After decades of suburban growth, this approach is being challenged by a new urban model that emphasizes blended, mixed-use environments that are revitalizing urban zones and catering to neo-urbanites. This trend is informed by an unprecedented migration to urban settings. Fifty-five percent of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, and the United Nations predicts this will increase to 68% by 2050.
Twitter and Airbnb have opted to locate in former industrial buildings in downtown locations. Yelp, LinkedIn and Salesforce.com are also investing in downtown cores but moving into vertical campuses featuring interconnected atriums. Uber is transforming an old Sears building in Oakland. And Amazon created a university-like campus in downtown Seattle.
Walkable cities, public transportation and access to shared amenities are all benefits of downtown locations. But limited space and site options, zoning restrictions and the cost to build in urban locations continue to present challenges. And a significant segment of the middle class – the bedrock of a city’s workforce – continues to relocate to the suburbs, posing additional challenges for urban locations that aspire to serve as thriving work centers.