Lessons from Copenhagen: developing a new hybrid strategy

This Academy briefing draws on some of the insights and lessons learned from Denmark – including how companies such as EY and LEGO are shaping their hybrid journey and designing their workplace transformation

While most organisations have made the initial steps to forge a strategy to return to a post-Covid world of working, there are still many large organisations who remain cautiously static on creating a plan for change. These organisations are waiting and watching to gain learnings and inspiration from those who are already implementing hybrid policies and return-to-work strategies. A recent 2021 study by Ernst & Young (EY) found that as many as 17 per cent of employers are still standing on the side-lines waiting to take action on their post-Covid future workplace strategy.

Learning from peers has never been so critical as organisations look for inspiration to plan their futures. A recent WORKTECH Copenhagen event in October 2021 showcased the latest hybrid workplace strategies from global enterprises such as EY and LEGO and how they are integrating their learnings with transformation workplace design.

Learning from EY

As a global company with more than 300,000 employees, EY sets a world class example for future workplace strategy. Claus Christensen, workplace of the future strategy leader at EY explained at WOKRTECH Copenhagen that the consultancy company started its journey to  workplace transformation early on in the pandemic.

EY understood almost immediately that the physical workplace and digital needed to be integrated. It developed a holistic model of workplace transformation through the lens of ‘Bricks, Bytes and Behaviours’ – an approach which integrates HR, IT and Real Estate functions together.

‘A key lesson learned is that you need to first start with employee behaviours before building space and technologies into the workplace…’

One of the key lessons learned by EY is that you need to start with behaviours. Christensen explains that learning how employees work is critical before implementing the ‘bricks’ and ‘bytes’ to enable that way of working. This model was exercised in EY’s global pilot project to create a strategy for hybrid working.

EY’s Stockholm office was the first operative pilot program for its new hybrid working model. EY started by evaluating the behaviour of its 1,550 Stockholm-based staff through surveys and focus groups, then it measured how people were using the space through sensors and utilisation data. The company then used this data and borrowed methodology from customer experience mapping to create different working personas.

EY used Microsoft Workplace Analytics to understand how the workspace – the ‘bricks’ – was being used. It measured utilisation of meeting rooms and collaboration patterns to understand where people should be located to do the most effective work and what services they might need. To enable these behaviours, technology such as sensors and Microsoft Teams rooms were fitted into the workplace – the ‘bytes’ aspect of the model.

EY is now working with Microsoft’s Viva platform to map out the workplace experience. It is developing its own AI powered recommendation engine to integrate with Microsoft Viva and provide individual employees and the organisation with the insight to make better, more informed choices over where and how people should work. It plans to use this system in the future to help navigate hybrid working and ensure the right people can meet in the right spaces.

Learning from LEGO

LEGO has developed a hybrid working concept called ‘Best of Both’ for its approach to future working. Tim Ahrensbach, head of workplace experience at LEGO explained at WORKTECH Copenhagen that the hybrid future will centre around shared experiences that enable people to build connections across the organisation. This concept has provide the basis for its new developments at its headquarters in Billund.

Globally, LEGO has set a standard that employees should work three days per week from a LEGO site with the option of working from home two days per week. The hybrid concept is called ‘Best of Both’ because it allows individual flexibility and choice over working preferences and it helps maintain a strong company culture through the physical workplace.

The concept works on the basis that while everyone is an individual, they are also part of a collective group which forms the company. Therefore, LEGO has changed its mission for the workplace experience to not only encourage and enable employees to be the best version of themselves but also to be their best colleague.

‘Changing the focus of workplace experience to enable individuals to be the best version of themselves and to be their best colleague’

LEGO has been conducting research throughout the pandemic to understand how to shape its workplaces of the future, particularly in reference to its headquarters. The results identified five of the most important workplace activities according to employees at the LEGO group: social interactions, creative thinking, collaboration, group learning, and connecting to the company and its values. It then mapped out individual tasks to help understand where the office can add-value to these activities.

LEGO has traditionally built its physical workplace on the model of 70 per cent desk and focus space, 15 per cent collaborative and meeting space, and 15 per cent social space. Now, it recognises the model needs to be more evenly split between the three. This has been recognised in the development of its new Billund headquarters.

‘The new Billund campus will focus on employee experience and connectivity…’

The new 55,000sqm development will house 2,000 LEGO employees and incorporate learnings from the pandemic into its physical space. The building, set to fully open in Spring 2022 will focus on employee experience and employee connectivity. New services and amenities will be added to the building including 59 room employee hotel, restaurant, café and bar, conference centre, 8,000sqm community space and healthcare centre.

Along with these new infrastructures, LEGO will employee two new community managers to facilitate connectivity between employees through events and team-building activities. While LEGO recognise the space has to now enable new ways of working, it recognises that the entire workplace experience needs to be reconfigured to generate value from the office.

Bringing hybrid to events

As the workplace is moving towards hybrid models, so are the events. Join the upcoming WORKTECH21 Los Angeles event on 9th December either virtually or in-person and hear from local and international thought leaders from Gensler, Studio O+A, BCG and more. WORKTECH21 London will also be a hybrid event and is scheduled for 16-17 November at Republic in London. Book you place here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our virtual platforms. This edition is posted 20 October 2021.
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