The in-person work office design that will bring your employees back
According to PwC 95% of company executives still believe employees need to be in the office to maintain strong company culture. Like we have said before, the return to office and in-person work office design is not only about communications, processes and technology. The future work ecosystem also depends upon the design of the office physical space that accounts for the changing needs of the workforce. We hear a lot about the shrinking office footprint, but not enough about what companies are doing with the space they have.
Today’s remaining office space is depressing. It is empty and feels like a ghost town. No wonder people are not coming back, or feel disconnected when they do. How do design office space of the future to incentivize people to come back and improve experiences when they do? The answer is not surprising – with empathy and new employee needs in mind.
Redesign in-person office spaces with employees in mind
The needs of your employees have changed now that we have moved from the traditional 9 to 5 structure. The origin of office design mimicked factories, focused on optimization. In the early 2000s, we talked about square footage capacity, cost per cubicle, and overall work efficiencies when we designed work spaces. No CFO would allow us to use square footage inefficiently. Today, in-person office design must move away from this approach. You are no longer designing your office to meet your company’s bottom line. Rather, you are designing spaces to meet your employees’ needs so that they can sustain your culture in the next decade. This mindset shift will differentiate culture winners from culture losers in the future.
To your employees, office space is now about making connections, networking, and, perhaps, picking up a soft skill. To you, the leaders, the in-person office space is one of the strongest tools in your culture toolbox. It has the potential to can create a sense of belonging to your brand and mission. That same sense of belonging leads to higher employee retention of your A-players (high performers). So, what does this mean in practical terms? At a minimum, you need to create spaces for all-hands meetings, with ample light, reliable microphones, and sufficient space for all your employees to attend comfortably. And don’t forget to serve employees food and drinks.
We often hear the multi-purpose use in in-person office design. What does that mean? Think about your office as a space that facilitates different kinds of employee experiences. It should welcome someone to sit down on the way to a meeting and do something quickly on his/her computer. Think of a phone booth-style space where people can have a quick personal call. Consider lounge areas with a screen (no cables!!) for wireless projection, so your teams can have quick pow-wows. In this context, today’s office design is also about optimization. But a new kind of optimization. It is about optimizing employee collisions.
What is a Collision?
Collision is a term coined by the late CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh. It was the cornerstone of his legendary employee experience design, organizational culture, and integral to the design of Zappos’ office space.
Collisions are serendipitous personal encounters, as defined in Daniel Coyle’s book, The Culture Code. They are the lifeblood of an organization, and key drivers of creativity, community, and cohesion. All essential components of effective organizational cultures that build loyal employee teams.
Creating collisions is about more than designing the in-person work experiences themselves. It is about designing a physical space that encourages individuals to interact with each other and to want to stop and spend time together. This means design choices like a single entrance to the building or an internal winding staircase. Even wider hallways are “collisionable spaces,” because they give people enough space to interact with each other comfortably.
The Process of designing the in-person work office experience
The biggest mistake we see organizations make today is applying the same approach they had in the last 50 years to contemporary office design. You cannot achieve new results with old processes. Your facilities managers can design your in-person experience of the past. They are not close enough to your mission and culture to communicate it to your design/build subcontractors.
To create a high-purpose environment, you must communicate your organizational culture, and the in-person interactions you want to foster, to your developers and architects. Without this strategic guidance, your partners are working blind. Or worse, your facilities managers are managing the construction focusing on timelines, rather than employee experience. Do not undermine the negative impact this wrong approach has on return to the office. We see the damage first hand.
This is how you get a college campus with no refrigerator for the administration staff, or a new ophthalmology facility without a break room for physicians. To get different design output, change the owner of the project vision and embed experience designers on the team.
You have to treat your employees the way you treat your customers. First, ask yourself what you want to achieve with the office space. Then start the design process.
Aim for the Stars
Brands with effective organizational cultures go the extra mile in office experience design. They do not stop at the big design decisions but also look at the fixtures and textures of their offices. Gensler’s San Diego office space has a living room collaboration area, JetBlue Airways had the collaboration areas that we called “Parks” at each corner of the floor. Those multipurpose areas foster collaboration in the day-to-day. Think of these areas as micro moments that generate collisions and the feeling of wanting to be in the office.
Speaking of floors, an office space with fewer, bigger floors creates more opportunities to see each other and thus communicate with each other. It is much easier to walk down the hall to align with someone than to take an elevator to another floor. According to the Allen Curve, and MIT research project from the 70s, we send 4x more emails when we sit within 8 meters of our colleagues, and we complete projects 32% faster.
Last month we conducted a client employee experience survey that asked 400 + employees about their ideas for improved employee experience post-covid. Our client expected to receive many comments about inflation and better pay. Although this topic made the list, the comments about the office culture and the desire to network, learn, and socialize in person were two times more than those about compensation. In fact, culture and connection accounted for 34% of all comments. In other words, employees WANT to come to the office in-person.
But they don’t want to come back to the pre-covid in-person work space or experience. What is the difference? Now, they have specific needs that the in-person workday or activity must meet. This is an important distinction when we speak about in person office design. In designing office experiences of the future, you need to give your employees the WHY. Why come in person? Why is in-person work a healthier, more efficient, more enriching experience than work-from-home?
Socialization and Connection
In defining the why for employees, we come back to collisions. This is how the big ideas flow! Socializing breeds conversation and collaboration. Think cocktail hour on the rooftop. An experience like this makes you stop and enjoy the people you work with. It keeps you from feeling like going to the office is an inconvenience. Instead, it becomes a welcoming place.
On a recent episode of The Gensler Design Exchange Podcast, designers and clients spoke about the flow and the texture of office spaces. Podcast guest Liz Stern, managing partner of Mayer Brown’s Washington, D.C. office, says “the office has to send a statement [to employees] that we value you and we want to connect with you.” They worked with Gensler to do that by transforming part of their top floor into a cafe, and adding a winding staircase to a rooftop terrace.
Gensler talks about this as “turn[ing] offices into a destination, rather than obligation.” Offerings like breakfasts and lunches help to turn the office into a destination. Employees look forward to this time with their colleagues, and begin to plan their schedules (and their trips into the office) accordingly.
Multipurpose Office Environments that Compete with Home
Today’s office experience competes with the at-home work experience. That starts with food options and fitness centers, and it extends all the way to furnishings and fixtures. These are no longer nice-to-have features. They are differentiators.
Since you are competing with home, your office needs to be MORE comfortable than home in ways that home cannot. Perhaps provide extra perks (and moments of pampering!) that home does not offer. Curation happens when your space is designed to facilitate the activities that you want to happen. These activities include moments that enhance employee wellness and comfort.
Certainly, this is not easy, or inexpensive. As Bob Pinkard, of The Pinkard Group, shared, for new in-person experience design, you need to “take some risk and go for it, because you will differentiate yourself.” At the end of the day, it is the company that needs to take the return to office risk, not the employee. When you take the risk to invest in a desirable environment, your employees will feel safe to come back in person.
The business case for a new design of your in-person work place is your employee’s efficiency and engagement. Do not postpone that investment!
Define your in-person office needs, and get started designing the office experience of the future with us.
3 Challenges of Hybrid Working and How to Overcome Them
According to a Gallup study, 53% of Americans expect to work in a hybrid arrangement in 2022 and beyond. This number is significant enough for corporate America to get hybrid…
Organizational Culture and Access to Information
By and large, people perceive culture as an HR discipline. The most common perception is that culture covers the soft side of performance. Culture is about how you do things, not so much about what you do. This approach to culture could not be more wrong. In fact, organizational culture is about so much more than a few words in a performance review sheet. It is about leaders expressing values, and the action guidance their cultural behaviors provide.
How to Prepare for AI: Dispatches from CR Summit, Charleston
On the eve of the #CRSummit in Charleston, customer experience leaders from various industries held the first AI Committee meeting. AI is a challenging topic to cover because it has…
Customer Experience Trends – 8 Actionable Tactics in 2021
As we begin Q4 of an eventful 2020, it’s time to look out for the 2021 customer experience trends and tactics for creating exceptional experiences in increasingly complex environments. We…
Customer Experience Audit: Uber Bets On Self-Driving Cars With Big Volvo Purchase
The question that remains unanswered is who will be part of the future of transportation. Uber is going for the vertical integration – the whole pie. The future industry of urban transportation will be made of players in three different categories: cars, self-driving software, and ride-sharing network. In contrast, Lyft approaches the future through partnerships.
4 Career Tips to obtain a Customer Experience Role
In honor of the 4th of July, we are rounding up 4 career tips for CX professionals. Set aside some time during the break from work to take stock in your CX career and evaluate the steps you need to get to the next level.
End to End Customer Experience – How to Get it Right
When we think of travel, we often think of the flight experience. But the end to end customer experience is complex, and includes all modes of transportation that get you…
Is Covid19 What We Needed to Build Seamless End-to-End Travel Experience?
On January 10th, we published an article called The Future of Travel We Deserve. In it, we laid out the foundation necessary to implement innovation at scale. Four months later,…
Customer Experience Audit: New York Times Beats Google
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of Customer Experience Audits. In this series we walk you through customer experience examples across industries. We feature brands that made…
Customer Experience Audit: eBay’s Vibrant Marketplace of the Future
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of Customer Experience Audits. They highlight advances in artificial intelligence in retail and other technologies. See all audit stories. Two years…
Travel Experience Stories: How Not to Leave Customers Stranded
Meet Diane. Diane is traveling with her 2 year old and 5 year old to her in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving. This is the one annual trip she takes. And she…
5 Tips to Create Great Customer Experience Design Strategy
A customer experience design strategy that is sustainable and successful starts by having a vision and knowing who your customer is. This launching point enables you to design customer experiences…
Coronavirus Travel: What Does Hospitality Mean Now?
I want to tell you about my recent passenger experience. Earlier this week, I traveled to New Orleans from JFK Terminal 5 in New York. I had planned an airport…
Aviation Industry, Coronavirus Isn’t the Only Thing Killing Us
Eighteen years ago, September 11th caused a three-day halt of the US commercial airlines and resulted in a 31.6% reduction in travel in September 2001 compared to the previous year….
Employee Engagement and Wellness In The Workplace: Guest Post
Today, The Petrova Experience brings you a guest article about employee engagement and organizational culture. This piece is by Natalie DeVito, of Commonwealth Joe. Commonwealth Joe is an innovative company,…
Why you need a defined culture for customer experience?
When designed and built correctly, customer experience expresses an organization’s brand. Your brand and marketing promises serve as a guiding light to your experience team. Similarly, organizational culture serves as a goalpost for the service side of customer experience.
United CEO does not care about #customers happiness. Really?
Lately, I have been thinking about United Airlines and its organizational culture. Initially, I thought about United Airlines culture because someone asked whether it is possible to build a customer-centric…
Customer Experience Audit: Domino’s Making the Right CX Choices
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of Customer Experience Audit – as series of articles featuring examples of good customer experience and bad customer experience in practice….
Create Your Tribe: How Great CX Makes a Lifestyle Brand
Newcomers to the market realize that their business is only as strong as the growth of their customer base. With that in mind, senior leaders work hard to shorten the distance between them and the customer.
Customer Experience Audit: Starbucks Bets On The Physical Experience
Starbucks is opting in for the physical experience in order to become a lifestyle brand while other brands are investing in omni-channel experience.
Customer Facing Experience: Communication and Hospitality
Today, we are talking about communication as part of the customer facing experience. This is one of the most misused and misinterpreted notions both in our professional lives and our…
Customer Experience Audit: FedEx Omnichannel Disaster
In our Strategy, Org Design & Culture series, we cover customer-focused companies that are willing to adapt, take risks and discover new ways of staying relevant. Sometimes, we encounter brands…
Do You Know Why The Iconic Brand Toys ‘R’ Us Closed Doors Despite All Our Memories? #RetailBlues
The year is 2016. You are the CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us. Your brand still controls 13.6% of the toy market although the company is highly leveraged, a strategy of…
The Great Re-onboading: How to Bring Back Your Employees
Re-onboarding is the next employee experience organizations need to tackle. Since March 2020, leaders have encountered pandemic shutdowns, remote workforce transitions, and the Great Resignation. As restrictions lift and we…
Customer Experience Design – How Do You Want Customers To Feel?
Last week, we talked about CX Design in terms of space and function. Today, we continue our customer experience design journey to talk about the design of emotions and feelings. All…
Brand and Customer Experience – Make the Customer Know Who You Are
Now that we have helped you become experts in the design of space and function and the design of feelings, it is time to turn our attention to aesthetics, and to connect customer experience…
Culture Starts at the Top
Without a leader who believes that today’s business success is about acquiring and retaining customers, you cannot even begin the process of building a culture. Leaders who are passionate about the customer are also passionate about creating culture and employee engagement.
What is Telemedicine? Keeping Medicine at the Heart
Guest Post by Dr. Melynda Barnes for The Petrova Experience. In this post Dr. Barnes answers the question “what is telemedicine,” and reminds us to keep medicine at the heart…
Why Customer Retention is the True Measure of SaaS Success
Guest Post by Callie Reynolds for The Petrova Experience In SaaS (Software as a Service), like in most businesses, sales is king. Sales gets the glory, and while I’d like…
Customer Experience Technology View of your Call Center
By 2022 the global cloud based contact center market is growing from USD 6.8Bn in 2017 to 20.93Bn in 2022. This makes for CAGR of 25.2%. If you do not…
Get Customer Experience Basics Right and You Don’t Need to Invest in Wow Moments
Wow Moments are a Customer Experience hot topic. Customer experience professionals ideate how to build, prioritize, finance, and measure these Wow Moments. Chip and Dan Heath wrote a whole book on the topic: The Power of Moments. No Wow Moment saves you from negative word of mouth if your brand fails to get the customer experience basics right or to deliver the expected brand experience consistently.
What is the best question for your CX Survey?
As customer experience professionals, we need to factor in this disconnect when we design surveys. And when we react to survey results. Customers have an image of who they want to be. However, their behaviors do not always reflect that image.
How to Be an Entrepreneur: 5 Things I Learned in 5 Months as an Entrepreneur
The life of an entrepreneur is different every day, but the one thing that remains the same is that we are always learning. These are my lessons in how to…
Leadership During the Pandemic: Guest Post by Rachel Dreyfus
This is a guest post by Rachel Dreyfus, President, Dreyfus Advisors, who researched leadership and organizational culture during the pandemic. How has Covid19 influenced leadership over the past three months?…
Airport Experience – Are You Letting Down Your Precious 2021 Travelers?
A month and a half ago, as part of our ongoing conversation about airport experience, we introduced the concept of revenge travel. We pleaded with the public to trust us…
Freelance Customer Experience Lessons for Freelancers
For small businesses and freelancers alike, it’s important to recognize that your business is as strong as the relationships you build with your customers. That’s just one of the key…
Hiring Tips: Who Should I Hire First on My CX Team
The pressure to demonstrate business impact and ROI on your Customer Experience initiatives quickly makes your first hire even more important. As usual, there is no answer that fits all scenarios perfectly. We have some helpful strategies to consider based on the structure of your organization and your goals.
Even the US Government is Jumping on the Customer Experience Train
As we get ready for 2021, we have been diving in to the top customer experience trends we see on the horizon. So far, we have looked at why customer…
The One CX Goal You Need to Set for 2019
For 2019, I urge you to make only one CX goal – bring about business success with your customer experience work. Don’t just do work in the general sense. Rather, set a CX goal that has a real impact on your customers and their experiences with your brand.
Liliana Petrova Talks Patient Experience in Healthcare Podcast
Recently, we recorded a podcast on patient experience in healthcare with Stacey Richter. Today, we are excited to share it with you. On the episode, we discuss travel and healthcare…
Customer Experience Audit: Mobile Provider Eliminates Remote Workforce
How to balance the efficiency call center metric FCR (first call resolution) with wait and talk time? JetBlue promotes human interactions as a brand promise.
Customer Experience Plan is More Important than Ever
Last week we published eight Customer Experience Trends to look out for in 2021. Today we are diving deeper into the first one: Customer Experience is more important than ever…
WeWork Does Customer Experience Right with a Wow Moment
Used at the right time and place along the customer’s journey, the Wow Moment is an excellent retention technique. When a brand creates personal, relevant experience at exactly the right time, it can build a lifelong, loyal customer relationship.
Customer Experience Survey: Why Customers Are Not Responding
When you solicit customer feedback sometimes matters more than how you ask the questions. In the case of a survey about new biometrics boarding initiatives my team and I created for JetBlue, we had a list of feedback that was most important for us.
Customer Experience, Self Service, and the Gift of Time
Time is the most precious gift in life. If you think about it, time is the one thing we all want more of. As we get older and busier, time gets even more valuable to us.
Autonomous Customers, Traveler Privacy and More Questions for CX Professionals in a Changing World
“As we move toward a more automated culture, most travelers will adapt to a Jetsonian, automated lifestyle. Every industry we know will be disrupted. For those of us in aviation,…
Digital Customer Experience Strategy – Top Three Mistakes
How many of you have interacted with financial and insurance institutions who seem to have forgotten the invention of the world wide web and applications design? In 2021, Major players…
Why Bt2B Businesses Must Think Like B2C in the Next Decade
B2B vs B2B thinking makes a real difference when it comes to customer experience. According to Gartner at least 80% of B2B buyers now expect the same buying experience as…