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Is the rise of the super-experience the next frontier in workplace design?

In the race for talent, improving workplace experience is now on the radar of every organisation. But as new technologies and design practices raise the stakes in what can be achieved, are we now entering the era of the super-experience?

As workplace experience moves up the global business agenda as part of a strategy to attract and retain the best talent, many companies are raising their game in terms of improving the experience for people at work.

From a very low base – employee experience wasn’t really on the workplace map a few years ago – developers and occupiers are now scrambling to create experiences inside and beyond office buildings that support innovation, wellbeing, productivity and learning. And as part of a newly thriving ‘experience economy’, new job titles are emerging inside organisations, such as CEXO (Chief Experience Officer) or Vibe Manager.

A major shift in practice

These developments are charted in a new report co-produced by Australia property developer Mirvac with WORKTECH Academy, and launched recently at WORKTECH Sydney 2019. The study suggests that we are on the brink of a major shift from UX (user experience) to SX (super-experience) in the workplace as a result of an influx of new technologies, curatorial practices, behavioural insights and theatrical techniques that are shifting the dial on experience design.

wework summer camp experience

WeWork Summer Camp for both its employees and members who rent its coworking space.

The report defines the ‘super-experience’ as a heightened experience that is of superior quality, originality and impact, which stretches beyond the traditional workplace values of clarity, logic and optimisation to embrace intrigue, curiosity and empathy, combining physical and digital elements.

Super-experiences, the report explains, can make you feel excited or that you’ve achieved something; they can stimulate curiosity, create a sense of purpose or instil a sense of belonging. They can be incongruous and unexpected – or reassuring and just what you need right now. They can be small and intimate or executed on a grand scale.

A wide range of examples

nasa

Experience designer Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun worked with NASA to create world’s first International Space Orchestra

A wide range of examples of the super-experience are given in the report. These include office buildings such as Amazon’s biophilic glass orbs at its Seattle headquarters, the Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco, Blomberg’s new base in London and the elevator experience at One World Trade, New York. Employee interventions such as WeWork’s Summer Camp and NASA’s Space Orchestra are also discussed, as well as the defining feature of experience management in the growing coworking movement.

The report looks at the design of awe-inspiring experiences in the light of a body of scientific research suggesting that creating a sense of awe has many benefits in the workplace. Employees think more creatively, are more curious and process information more efficiently when they are confronted by objects or spaces that inspire a sense of awe.

one world trade

The elevator in One World Trade Centre in New York climbs 102 stories in 47 seconds: throughout the ascent an immersive digital display reveals the architectural transformation of the city form the 150s to today

Curated experiences that creatively cluster people in ‘experience guilds’ according to skill, outlook and specialism, or engineer serendipitous ‘bump’ encounters, are also examined – and the final section of the report looks at the role of dynamic social experiences in supporting learning within organisations at a time when employees are required to update their skills and knowledge constantly.

‘The era of the super-experience will depend on new technologies…’

The study concludes with some tips on how to activate the super-experience. These include taking a people-first approach, offering a more flexible portfolio of experiences, and keeping an open mind on bringing in new technologies – the era of the super-experience will depend on new lighting, AV, soundscaping and sensor technologies in the workplace along with a blitz of digital apps.

The property sector will also require new skills, knowledge and ideas from theatre, arts, hospitality, retail and behavioural science if it is to make super-experience more of an everyday and not out-of-this-world occurrence in the workplace.

The Super-Experience: Designing for Talent in the Digital Workplace, by Mirvac and WORKTECH Academy, is available here