Why workplace leaders should focus on intentionality

How to create more intentional moments at the workplace for better employee experiences
January 19, 2023
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Employees can sit at a desk staring at Zoom all day from their makeshift home offices.

What can your office offer that is better than that? 

Answering that question requires you to become more intentional about the why of your space. 

“I’m choosing to give you my time. I need to be rewarded for it, and not just because you're giving me free things, or you're giving me amenities,” says Brett Hautop, Founding Partner at Workshape. “It’s going to be that you've done this with such intentionality that I came in and said, I want to do that again. It was so worth it."

What is intentionality in workplace design?

Being intentional with your workplace means turning your office into a space with purpose. 

That purpose can vary—even within a singular workspace.

“Instead of the office needing to be used to do a very specific thing,” says Darren Murph, Gitlab’s Head of Remote, “it can actually do something much more. It can be more dynamic.”

Murph’s use of the term dynamic is important. While countless surveys show the primary reason people come to the office is to socialize and collaborate, collaboration can take many forms (small huddles, large meetings, etc.), each requiring unique designs and space types.

Plus, designing solely to support collaboration may alienate employees.

Some employees prefer to come to the office to work independently. Others can’t come to the office but don’t want to miss important moments. 

Creating an intentional workplace means defining what roles your office will play for all employees, so that

  1. Those who can come in know if, when, and why to come
  2. Those who cannot come in know if and how the office plays a role in their work life

"Before the pandemic, I look back and think, 'we were lucky that people were naturally here,’” says Lewis Barker, Director of Real Estate & Workplace Services EMEA at ServiceNow. “Now you have to put effort into it. You have to be purposeful with that activation, whatever it is, to make the biggest impact to that employee." 

3 ways to create more intentional moments

Clearly communicate the purpose of your spaces

For Barker, that means engaging with leadership more than ever, keeping them informed on events and moments happening in the offices. That way, managers can combine team-related gatherings with these moments, making a trip to the office a bigger, more rewarding event for employees. 

Lead by example

Some employees have not been to an office in years—if ever. Others are still figuring out what the office means to them. 

Leading by example orients them on if, when, and how to use workspaces. 

In 2022, Nathan Manuel, Head of Workplace Experience at PagerDuty, launched a new office experience: common space conferencing. It merges the features of a virtual-conference-enabled meeting room with the perks of open space. It's a space type no one at PagerDuty was familiar with. Do you use the table for small huddles? For larger meetings? Is it OK to be loud?

Manuel and his team helped answer these questions by using the tables themselves. They led by example and inspired others to reserve the spaces.

Treat workplace design as a product

The purpose of a workplace should not be set in stone. People’s needs will evolve. Spaces should, too. 

Being intentional with your workplace strategy means treating your designs like a product: identify the problem, hypothesize a solution, analyze the data, and adapt. 

"We believe that design is iterative," explains Julia Calabrese, Global Design & Brand Manager at Ford Motor Companies. "It's highly unlikely you'll get it right the first time."

Fortune 5000 companies use Density to understand how their spaces perform against their purpose, not just their capacity. They then couple that data with input from employees to gain context behind why spaces are being used (or not).

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