“We can and will talk about health, comfort, and wellbeing in terms of method, but in the end, it all comes down to productivity. In the world of business that has always been the key objective,” begins our comprehensive report that cuts through the rhetoric to provide a picture of the rapid evolution taking place in the workplace.
Commercial real estate has been dominated by talk of occupant health and well-being in recent years but the bottom line for businesses is their bottom line. As it has always been. The only difference is what the building can do to drive productivity and profit. In the bright, airy, modern offices of workplace design firm Haworth, a panel of experts echoed this concept and underlined how their design theories are making the building an essential part of the productivity discussion.
“Businesses are ultimately after their employees’ best work. Because they want cognitive performance – decision-making, strategizing, planning – they care about employee health and emotional happiness to achieve better results,” states Jeff Reuschel, global director of design and innovation at Haworth, who goes on to explain this in a more calculated way.
“Businesses are interested in return on assets employed (ROAE). The last 20 years were focused on reducing the denominator of that formula: total assets, and facilities are a part of that. Now, it is time to work on increasing the numerator: net income, and that is where the productivity and effectiveness of the occupants reside.”
Employees in the future workplace can be equated to machines in a factory. Just as those machines need to be oiled, rested, maintained, and operate in their ideal environment, the future workplace is being optimized to get the best from the human worker. A convergence of business and scientific theories have brought about the emergence of smart buildings and the Internet of things to achieve this goal. This is underpinned by the realization that people work best when they feel good.
“To get the best productivity from an employee, you need a happy employee,” says Toni Espera, vice president of people operations at Verifi, Inc. “Employee wellbeing benefits the employer in multifold ways, like higher-energy individuals and increased productivity. It starts on day one. In fact, when we are recruiting, we give prospective employees a tour of our space so that they can see how we provide for their whole being, not just their mind.”
Haworth’s space, created in collaboration with Perkins + Will, in Los Angeles epitomizes this ethos. Visitors to the modern-clean yet graffiti inspired space are greeted with a relaxed, collaborative setting where seating, for example, may be grouped together within “a temporal zone” to support individuals or in the form of “retreats” that are designed for private conversations and breakout teams. The café areas are designed for dining and social gatherings but also meetings or project work sessions where people can spread out materials. An exercise area was even integrated into the office to promote movement of staff during the day.
“Optimizing the human experience at work is critical for organizations to engage people. Spaces must satisfy their physical, cognitive, and emotional needs. The intersection of this triad is where people thrive. It’s what we call “wholeness.” It balances energy and serenity to inspire and empower people, giving them a sense of purpose and belonging. Work environments offering a variety of spaces to support the activities people do throughout the day help them perform their best,” Haworth explain in a case study about their innovative workspace showroom.
These relatively new approaches to office layout offer a variety of areas for different types of work a space may host, but also the wide variety of personalities and moods it serves. Smart environmental controls are giving power to the individual, allowing them to create their ideal environment for maximum productivity at any given time. While the increasing ubiquity of sensors has inspired a variety of solutions, including lighting systems that can benefit occupant health and concentration, all in the name of productivity.
“Working with specialists, we analyze a lot of big data. Circadian light, for example, increases productivity in the workplace by 35%, increases test results in schools by 35%, and has been shown to help people retain information,” Nadine Quirmbach, associate vice president of the Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign.
These ideas and many more have been realized by futuristic workplace design that is riding on the wave of the Internet of Things and smart buildings. Facilities themselves are becoming a major differentiator between businesses, driving collaboration, creativity, recruitment and ultimately the productivity of companies. And we are just at the beginning of this new era, these emerging technologies promise to take buildings to another level and define the next generation of worker.
“The Internet of Things with its seemingly endless applications is continuously finding new ways to serve the worker and the enterprise. By flooding workspaces with sensors, enterprises are accumulating unprecedented levels of information, which allows for greater decision-making,” explains our in-depth report: The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the IoT Era. “Data is the new utility in this information revolution and early adopters are reaping the benefits of their newfound intelligence.”