After a Destination Dinner by Density that kicked off an evening of inspiring conversations on shared struggles, 50 pioneering industry leaders from companies like Genetech, CBRE, DoorDash, Amazon, LinkedIn, Cruise, MetLife, and Samsung came together on February 10, 2022, to share their stories and challenges about managing physical space in 2022 and beyond.
"Traditional conferences focus too much on telling the end-user what a sponsor wants to say, not asking them what they need to hear and discuss," says Simon Davis, Founder of Purposeful Intent. "I am truly grateful for Density for setting the bar so high with the incredible dinner in Phoenix and look forward to collaborating with them on future events."
Below are some of the key takeaways from the first-ever Purposeful Intent Round Table Discussion.
Creating the “aha” workplace moment
There is a clear appetite for understanding how buildings are being used and the employee behaviors inside of those spaces. But how do you get employees back into those spaces?
People come to the office for many different reasons — in-person meetings, team huddles, and even heads-down desk time. By creating a space that empowers all of these activities, you make it easier for employees to keep coming back to the office.
Give your team their aha moments, triggering them to remember the value behind coming into the office and creating the best experience for them while they are there.
Companies like Humana are creating pop-up offices in ideal outdoor locations, allowing people to connect in unique ways while providing a safe and comfortable environment. The desire for fresh air has proven to create an overwhelmingly positive response to returning to work.
Some companies have implemented hot desking to interpret which space designs and setups employees use and prefer. They’ve also added amenities like gaming spaces in open-air tents, fully equipped with Playstations, that are set up for both work and leisure. And entertainment isn’t the only thing adding value.
Playstation saw a 140% increase in office attendance when they brought hot food back to the office. Cloudflare and Twitter employees enjoy imported international food and cash cards for visits to local food favorites. Helping people connect is imperative, and food seems to be a leading driver in adding to that connection.
The key is to think of your workplace as a service or product. Employees can work anywhere, so why should they want to work in the office? Create an experience for them every time they walk through the door, and soon they will see the value for themselves.
Preserving culture is another challenge high on many workplace leaders' lists. Setting a top-down leadership example of the importance of an office return has been the first step for many. But tread lightly with this top-down approach. Culture isn't top-down only; it's not a one-way street. Employees have a voice, and you should listen to them. For example, many companies rely on Zoom to communicate across locations. These teams may choose to default to “cameras on” during Zoom calls as a way to build culture. This is great — if employees are willing. But if they feel forced to comply or have little say in this decision, you could push them away.
Other companies default to asynchronous communication, with a clear respect for the value of someone's time. But one drawback of this is work/life boundaries can begin to blur. Let employees create clear, defined boundaries that work for their lives. While a call at 7 a.m. may work for some, it’s not the standard for many. Be sure to empower employees with the ability to determine how work works for them.
Many employees were hired throughout the pandemic with no knowledge of what the office once was. Conveying the bigger picture to the team, with a clear focus on collaboration, employee feedback, open communication, positive experiences, and the underestimated power of free food, is what will help employees embrace the culture that exists and what it can become.
Supporting work — wherever work is
Many extroverts love going to the office to commingle. Many introverts would love to go to the office for heads-down work.
Workplace leaders have to support both.
Menlo Security is helping support all working preferences by publishing community norms in their spaces. This gives clear insight into how to make each space work for everyone.
Supporting work-from-home efforts is also gaining acceptance. Tech reimbursements help curb the expenses of faster internet needs and increased mobile usage, with some companies providing allowances toward home-based workstations. A few workplace teams have taken it one step further and implemented training on how to work from home by creating safe spaces and proper setups.
Companies that allow people to choose how they return to work are leveling the playing field. With a level field comes the need to make your office value clear. No one has all the answers. Our dinner in the desert brought up questions that highlighted the challenges many are experiencing.
What is clear at this moment is that while it may look a little different, the office is here to stay.
Understanding the why behind your spaces can help provide actionable steps for change. We need to commit to accountability as a whole and embrace that what employees want is what will indeed bring them back.