The space programme that is shooting for the stars

This WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing examines how Google is experimenting with post-pandemic workplace design to attract young talent, explores new workplace perks and pays tribute to the founder of Gensler

Experiments in space

Since the early 2000s, Google has been setting the pace globally around employee amenities and workplace design. Now, the tech giant is set to lead the way in creating the ultimate post-pandemic workplace in Silicon Valley. Google has announced its plans to dedicate around 10 per cent of its global workspace to experiment with spaces to accommodate a hybrid workplace.

Over the next year, Google will trial new office designs in a programme which builds on work that began before the coronavirus crisis sent the workforce home. Part of this was to work with sociologists to study the emerging Generation Z – to discover how younger employees socialise and learn to imagine what future workers would want from their workspace.

‘The solutions lie in creating highly flexible spaces for future workers…’

The solutions lie in creating highly flexible spaces – from ‘team pods’ and moveable walls, which can be rolled into various arrangements, to more innovative spatial arrangements that try and create equality in meeting experiences. Google is creating a new meeting room called Campfire, where in-person attendees sit in a circle interspersed with impossible-to-ignore, large vertical displays. The displays show the faces of people dialling in remotely by videoconference. This design aims to place virtual participants on the same footing as those who are physically present.

To ensure workplace safety on a daily basis, employees can return to permanent desks on a rotation schedule that assigns people to come into the office on a specific day to ensure that no one is there on the same day as their immediate desk neighbours.

David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president for real estate and workplace services, explained that ‘Psychologically, employees will not want to sit in a long row of desks, and also Google may need to “de-densify” offices with white space such as furniture or plants.’ Google’s plans mirror a more general move in the workplace industry away from the idea that  collaboration is synonymous with high density space. Instead, it is innovating to shape the post Covid-19 contours of a new workplace.

Post-pandemic perks

According to the Financial Times, a new post-pandemic perk culture is rising, centred around the health and wellbeing of employees. The wellbeing of employees has taken centre stage in many new corporate workplace strategies, but now expectations for flexible working has boosted work perks to a new level.

The era of the one-size-fits-all perk package is gone. Cary Cooper, co-author of Flexible Work and Professor of Organisational Psychology at the University of Manchester, argues that companies are increasingly moving towards an individualised, health-attuned rewards culture. Central to this shift is the recognition of different needs between different generations.

Tribute to Gensler founder

The workplace community has been paying tribute to Art Gensler, founder of the world’s largest architecture firm Gensler, who has died in California aged 85. The company he led as chief executive until 2005 described him as an industry icon and entrepreneur who believed in the power of design to shape how we experience the world.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1935, Gensler completed his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning in 1958. In 1965, he co-founded M Arthur Gensler Jr & Associates, starting the business in a one-room office with just one draftsman and US$200 in the bank.

Over five decades, the company grew from an interior architecture practice to a full-service, multidisciplinary design firm with more than 5,000 people and 50 locations across the globe.

Art Gensler is considered to have had a major impact on the business of architecture, creating the template for how many professional services firms organise themselves today. His approach to architecture, which examined the user journey in a building, laid the foundation for the firm’s human experience framework.

Gensler was also a pioneer of sustainable architecture. Paying tribute to Art’s legacy, Andy Cohen, Gensler co-chief executive, said: ‘Art was instrumental in the dialogue that gave birth to many of the green building programmes that have become a cornerstone of the industry.’

Organisational archetypes

From major investments in design and technology to championing choice and wellbeing, there are clear trends emerging in corporate workplace strategies for the post-pandemic workplace. WORKTECH Academy has captured these trends in its latest quarterly trend report, available to Global Partners, Corporate and Community Members of the Academy.

On Thursday 6 May 2021, WORKTECH Academy invited its network to participate in its first Interactive Trend Briefing. This gave our members and partners the chance to take a deeper dive into a study of six organisational archetypes identified in the report: Choice Champions, Tech Investors, Resolute Returners, Data Drivers, Wellbeing Watchers and Space Shapers. Academy Director Jeremy Myerson and Chairman Philip Ross led a panel discussion with a series of interactive polls.

The next WORKTECH Academy Interactive Trend Briefing will take place in early July to coincide with the publication of the WORKTECH Academy Q2 Trend Report and will be exclusively for Academy Members and Partners. Learn how to join the Academy 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 19 May 2021.
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