Convergence Teams: The Power of Integrated Design

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By Patrick Donnelly and Chris Collett of BHDP; Valerie Garrett of Fifth Third Bancorp

Team meets to collaborate and build during the integrated design process.


The benefits that an integrated design process can bring to building projects have been accepted for decades. Assembling a team with diverse expertise to collaboratively work on a project is intuitively understood to be a better approach than designing in a linear, sequential and isolated manner. Tapping people from multiple disciplines (architects, designers, owners, etc.) with a range of perspectives and bringing them together breaks down silos and provides opportunities for communication, collaboration, and issue resolution. When architects, designers, engineers and others work separately on each element of a building, individual goals tend to trump overall project objectives.

Of course, understanding the benefits of integrated design is not the same as realizing them. Implementation is critical. BHDP, a leading workplace design firm, and Fifth Third Bancorp, a diversified financial services company and one of the largest banks and money managers in the country, have worked on a variety of building projects — from discrete offices to the re-development of an entire corporate campus — using an intentional, integrated design approach. The experience has uncovered eight keys to doing integrated design successfully – all revolving around what we call “convergence teams.” Points 1-5 focus on how to form these teams successfully. Points 6-10 highlight how the teams need to work differently in order to truly succeed.

1) Diversity of People: Having people from multiple disciplines is essential.

The first step in delivering design in a truly integrated fashion is ensuring that the right people in the right roles on the project team are in the room. A convergence team of architects, interior designers, environmental graphics experts, and customer experience strategists, consulting with users and the support staff who will be impacted by the workplace design, should all be involved. Having representatives from each of these groups allows decisions to be made more quickly and collaboratively and ensures that the space created will support all of the behaviors engaged in throughout the day.

The core convergence team for Fifth Third and BHDP consists of design, real estate and project leaders from the bank and architecture, interior design and environmental graphics practice leads from BHDP. Others typically consulted – depending on the project – include Fifth Third facility managers, building maintenance, security and re-location professionals.

2) Diversity of Thought: Having people with cross-disciplinary experience is even better.

As important as including people from a broad range of disciplines on the convergence team is encouraging a diversity of thinking and experience. Two of the convergence team members from BHDP have significant retail design expertise. In retail, the focus is always on the customer journey – not just leading the user through a space, but creating moments of discovery. This emphasis on the user experience has influenced the workplace designs at Fifth Third. Other individuals have been able to lend design insights from their experience in markets such as education.

3) Trust and Camaraderie are Essential.

Trust and camaraderie are the fuel of a high-functioning integrated design team. Without this affinity, success will be elusive. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that very passionate people with strong personalities are an issue. Or that creative conflict is a problem. It’s just critical that team members be able to leave their egos at the door and engage in an open-minded, iterative process, learning from each other as they go.

Design firms and clients can develop adversarial relationships based on different priorities. Successful convergence teams treat clients as integral members and work hard to understand their pain points and proactively respond to them. Meanwhile, the ideas of design firm members are always taken seriously and treated with respect, even when they’re not adopted. The bottom line: convergence team members have each others’ backs and are “in it” together.

Team collaborates using the integrated design process.

4) The Right Attitude is as Important as Having the Right Participants.

In addition to trust, successful convergence teams always strive for an attitude (or angle of approach) that there isn’t anything we – collectively – can’t do. Excellence comes from the sum of talents at the table, not from any individual. And it requires certain attributes of the team including:

  • Integrity – the recognition that we’re going to make mistakes; we have to own those mistakes and face challenges head on.
  • Compassion – to be most effective, we need to walk in each others’ shoes.
  • Flexibility or “Door Number Three” Mentality – if our plans don’t work, it’s not the end of the world, it’s the beginning of another opportunity; adaptability and creativity are the key to getting what we collectively want within the constraints we face.
  • Humility – we’re experts but we don’t know everything; we have to strive to know what we don’t know and design with humility.

5) Senior Management (at Both the Client and Design Firm) Should be Aligned.

The trust and attitude which drives successful convergence teams starts at the top. Principals at the client and design firm should have a clear understanding of project objectives and share a similar approach to design. A commitment to co-creation is critical along with philosophical and practical alignment on overall goals and design approach.

How can a client ensure that this philosophical alignment exists? Consider refining the RFP process to focus less on case studies and capabilities and more on design thinking, listening skills, and how design team members will be selected.

6) Search and Seek – Search out the Right People to Engage – then Seek to Understand Them.

Once a convergence team is chosen, it should seek out the right people to develop a clear and deep understanding of project parameters, including workplace users: who they are, what they do, their goals and vision for the project. Clear, upfront agreement on these things helps the convergence team benchmark its efforts against a shared strategy. Although every successful integrated design project is, in some respects, a process of self-discovery, it is also important to come to the table with as much information as possible.

7) Meet More Often and Make it Informal.

Making fully informed decisions requires the right people being in the same room. It’s the best way for convergence teams to give and get feedback. At the start of their work together, BHDP and Fifth Third decided to meet every other week but found this wasn’t enough to manage the workflow and back and forth. Now, the team meets every week for four to five hours. The core design team within BHDP also meets at least three times per week as a smaller group.

These meetings are “pens in hands” sessions – they are not particularly formal. In fact, minimizing presentations and thinking of team meetings as working sessions is probably best. And not every member of the wider team needs to be at every meeting – only those that will find it useful.

A “no fear” environment is essential. If team members are afraid of making mistakes, they won’t take the risks necessary to find optimum solutions.

8) Create the Time and Space to Learn.

Having the leeway to learn by doing can advance both the pace and performance of a convergence team. Micromanagement, on the other hand, is anathema to integrated design. A “no fear” environment is essential. If team members are afraid of making mistakes, they won’t take the risks necessary to find the optimum solutions. You empower a convergence team to succeed by trusting that they will.

9) Strive for Client Intimacy.

A major benefit of investing the time and resources in convergence teams is their ability, through extended collaboration, to establish client intimacy. Design projects become not discrete tasks but part of a holistic effort that emphasizes and extends the client’s culture across a range of workspaces. The experience also enables the client to buy into the concept that successful design is more than staying within budget and meeting schedules – although both of those are important. It is a process, an attitude, a mode of learning.

10) Encourage Client Leadership.

In addition to learning, the willingness of the client lead to encourage, collaborate with, and quarterback the team can’t be overvalued. When the client is fully invested in the convergence team and his/her role as the corporate storyteller, other members feel “led from beside” (tugged and nudged forward rather than pushed and pulled). This leads to continual striving for better solutions.

The client lead can also be an important advocate for the convergence team within his or her organization. People within a client company can have unrealistic expectations about budgets or timelines be-cause they’re not designers. The client lead on the convergence team can be a necessary buffer to en-sure that the full team has the latitude necessary to do the best work.

One might assume that because of the attention paid to time spent together that a true, integrated design process driven by convergence teams would cost more and last longer. Our experience suggests otherwise. By focusing on project outcomes versus individual goals and sharing knowledge from the get-go, changes in direction can be identified earlier in the design process, budgets can be better managed, and project timelines can be compressed.

The decisive factors are getting the right people with the right characteristics on the convergence team (Points 1-5) and getting them to work more intelligently through the integrated design process (Points 6-10).


Patrick Donnelly is client lead and principal workplace strategist, and Chris Collett is an architect and leader of the convergence team at BHDP Architecture. Valerie Garrett is vice president and director of workplace design at Fifth Third Bank.

Change Leadership and Change Management: There Is a Difference

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Successful implementation of a change management plan requires change leadership skills that smooth the way for all parties when most needed—at the inception.

By Brian Trainer

Advocates provide updates of Change Leadership and Change Management
Organize a group of change advocates to provide regular updates and answer questions to resolve concerns.


Here’s a typical scenario. An organization’s leadership creates a vision for a dynamic new workplace design, now awaiting construction. When the vision is shared, it will require a need for change management. As a result, the work environment can become unsettled. It’s just human nature. Any modification in an established routine or process, especially one that has long been accepted, is bound to elicit a variety of emotional responses ranging from skepticism to hostility. The visceral reaction is understandable. Change may be constant in this fast-paced world, but that doesn’t mean everyone is prepared for the inevitability. Change management is often viewed as one more dictate from leadership to accept the vision and “go with the flow.”

This scenario illustrates what is wrong with a conventional approach to change management. Employees are informed after the fact without proper context: no explanation about either the reasons for the decision or its impact on every organization member. Design and other departments associated with workspace understand why it makes more sense to get buy-in from the get-go before change management takes place. While major changes in policies and procedures are the province of higher management, their successful implementation requires change leadership skills that smooth the way for all parties when most needed—at the inception.

The difference and its impact

Those steeped in the traditional especially in the work design world consider change leadership and change management synonymous. Often the attempts to differentiate them are viewed as nothing more than time-wasting semantic exercises. That’s far from accurate. One is a process and the other, the strategy that guides it. Change management represents the former. This team has a sole purpose: to manage execution of the changes ordered by higher management. Assuming that is the case, what is the point of discussing change leadership if the term is just a euphemism for senior management? It’s more than that.

Change leadership is strategic in nature. It sets the direction for change management. The first focus of a change leadership team is effective and purposeful communication disseminated much like any outreach initiative. Instead of a top-down approach, it is more effective for the team to focus on informing and educating the workforce, if it expects to diminish negative reactions. Incumbent upon the leadership team is the clear representation of the benefits of a proactive change management approach with participation from design and other departments. Such parameters need to be set by change leaders committed to avoiding the appearance of arbitrary decisions likely to ruffle the feathers of every department kept out of the loop.

That’s not to suggest that even if consulted, workplace designers and others will willingly and unquestioningly march in time to the beat of change management’s drummers. It’s one thing to change a process; it’s another to change someone’s space. People often equate their work and workplace with their self-image, which explains why so many take process and workplace changes personally. Consider it one more manifestation of the ancient “fight or flight” mentality and the need to protect what we believe is our territory.

A recent focus group verified the role of self-image with workspace. Most group participants, millennials in particular, connected workspace with their identity. One respondent said he felt “entitled” to the space he has now, but possibly could learn to “become entitled” if the workspace was subsequently changed. Regardless of one’s opinion about such attitudes, these feelings amount to a mixed bag and another potential stumbling block, a situation likely to occur when the chain of communications is broken. Little wonder why fear follows absence of information.

Host open forums discuss Change Leadership and Change Management
Host open forums for employees to share issues and concerns.

Change initiatives and successful integration

Change initiative components, strategy, workplace design and change management, need to be integrated and supported. Strategy develops the vision and sets the criteria for success. Design makes the abstract real, but that may not be enough as change leadership should understand. Design, too, needs to be fully aware of the change and, in particular, its rationale. In this change leadership paradigm, the role of change management expands. Now its mission is to mesh all components so that vision and implementation are successful. One does not usually equate a teamwork environment with traditional change management, but that is what change leadership must advocate.

Communication is the foundation of teamwork environment in this and practically every scenario. When communications do not effectively convey reasoning, purpose and benefits such as improving work processes and cost efficiencies, detrimental misunderstandings may result. Efficient and successful change enterprises should also avoid departmental silo mentalities. Yes, departments still work separately, but the goal is to work well with each other meaning that change management cannot be at odds with everyone else. The scenario can seem utopian and probably far-fetched to those who have suffered through a top-down, dictatorial process.
Yet it can come to fruition starting with a change management call for input from work design. The change management team should explain the cost, rationale and benefit to the company and department, and encourage feedback and open dialogue. The team can help build support by pointing out opportunities that design has not considered or is not able to fully address without supportive policy changes.

In one recent example, a change management team was able to identify a need to address lack of storage space—a point omitted by work design during its presentation. The client had moved to an unassigned desking model with no storage at the workstations and an inadequate number of lockers. During change advocate focus groups, employees voiced their needs to store personal items like purses, food items and coats. The result: more lockers added to the design with each employee getting an assigned locker establishing a better and personal connection to the space.

Employees share perspectives of Change Leadership and Change Management
Provide opportunities for employees to share perspectives on the impact of change.

Leave the egos at the door

For design and space changes to work, all parties must leave their egos at the door—a point to be emphasized by change leadership for facilitating an environment of openness and information accessibility. Not everyone will be on the same page at the outset because various parties may be at different stages of the process, such as work design at the beginning and other departments later. To help alleviate these obstacles, change leadership should organize a group of change advocates. These can be representatives from each department who are trustworthy and approachable. The advocates can provide regular updates to peers and encourage questions to resolve any concerns or misinformation issues.

None of this takes place in a vacuum. Naturally, some companies may want to examine how these efforts paid off for other organizations, but there is a caveat: what works elsewhere may not mesh with the corporate culture. Perhaps the classic example is an effort by one technical services company to try to duplicate a Silicon Valley success story in which all workspaces were opened to facilitate responses to product demand. It worked there, but unfortunately not here. The attempt failed and actually hampered productivity, forcing the organization to modify its space usage proving that the best efforts of change leadership can run aground if cultural issues are unaddressed.

Communication is the foundations of Change Leadership and Change Management
Communication is the foundation of a successful change leadership engagement.

Adopt the best practices

In a 2018 study, “The Best Practices of Change Management,” published by Prosci, the company tabulated survey data from 6,000 respondents gleaned over a 20-year period. One finding is of special note. Middle managers were identified as “most resistant to change,” but according to survey results, resistance can be “mitigated” by “thoroughly addressing” it when developing the change plan.

That’s one more justification for a project champion with a clear vision to communicate with all participants. The leader communicates understanding that any initiative impacting design of workspace without communication, integration and empathy with those who design it and other affected departments cannot reasonably expect enthusiastic acceptance. The key is to get all involved in the process early on. That means a thorough, up-front explanation of the business driver, particularly an emphasis on the best use of space in terms of functions and operational cost.

When change leadership ensures those messages are sent, received and even welcomed, process change is likely to overcome its biggest hurdles, particularly the relationship between work design and change management. Work design output is meant to endure and yet remain flexible for inevitable modifications years later requiring cooperation among all parties. Everyone needs to play well in this process change sandbox.


This article was originally published on WorkDesign Magazine.


6 questions to consider before starting an on-campus construction project

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Higher ed leadership and design-team partnerships are key to success—for the institution and the students

By Paul Orban

Students walking down a path after campus construction projects.

Constructing campus facilities based on space needs, existing campus and building configurations, and technology is no longer enough. It is vital to provide a more recognizable and memorable student experience, while at the same time supporting an institution’s long-term mission.

Even though there may be similarities, a one-size-fits-all design strategy doesn’t exist for every campus or even for every building on campus. Each institution’s vision, values, culture, academic and financial strategies, and brand identity are different. That’s why it is crucial for the institution’s leadership and the design team to collaborate from the onset to meet the institution’s strategic goals and to understand, discover and define how the spatial experience influences how students learn and helps meet student needs.

The first task is to create a well-articulated and shared vision for the project. The subsequent design phase involves a more in-depth analysis of the vision and project parameters that collectively inform future planning and design work. This is defined in the discover phase and provides clear expectations focused on metrics of success.

Here are six top questions the stakeholder team should address before starting the design.

1. Describe your campus culture. How should it impact facility design?

The discussion that follows from this question facilitates stakeholders’ understanding of the basic and underlying themes and culture of campus. Through this conversation, the leadership and design team uncover the distinctive differentiators of the institution, including why students are attracted to the campus and what their ideal campus experiences are.

When leadership and design teams focus on understanding what students truly need and the types of experiences students are seeking, then they can craft more impactful building design solutions.

2. What behaviors do successful students exhibit, and why are they important to the facility’s design?

The answers to this question enable the design team to understand how the institution educates students, and how the design can help students become more successful by fostering particular behaviors. For example, an institution may want to develop professional engineers for future success in the workforce. Therefore, they want their students to learn behaviors focused on becoming confident speakers and presenters.

3. What experiences develop more ideal or desired student behaviors?

This dialogue helps everyone involved ascertain how students learn the desired behaviors. It uncovers and addresses what resources the institution needs to promote specific behaviors, such as adequate space for students to work on team projects or to practice interviewing for jobs. Building upon the example above, the design team will use this information to incorporate spaces that provide opportunities for practice and refinement while building confidence, thereby helping to improve students’ public speaking and presenting skills.

4. What spaces will promote those experiences?

The answers to this question provide the backbone of the institution’s strategic goals for the campus and the success of its students. They lead the design team toward specific and measurable space decisions that support student needs. Continuing with the example above, an institution that is developing professional engineers may need private media rooms where students can gain confidence in their presentation skills. These rooms could include the latest technology that allows students to practice privately and record their presentations to review later. When they feel more comfortable with their presentations, they can then present in front of other students and faculty.

5. Which campus construction trends will benefit the project?

Trends include flexibility, adaptability, technology and sustainability. However, more important are the trends that specifically help the institution focus on the student experience. Institutions want to ensure that students have a fulfilling campus experience, and at the same time, receive the education and the social and behavioral benefits of the campus environment. For this reason, it is essential to determine how integrating trends into the buildings can help the institution attract and retain students. One example might be demonstrating where and how the campus has embraced green initiatives to reduce energy consumption and waste that benefits the environment.

6. How can an institution ‘future-proof’ new buildings?

Incorporating flexibility and adaptability into the design helps institutions grow and change to meet student needs. The key is balancing trends with proven systems that provide the institution with long-lasting solutions. Today’s classrooms do not look like traditional classrooms in the arrangement of the space and seating. Additionally, future-proofing buildings means preparing them for upgraded technology, where spaces are able to adapt to minimize the impact of upgrades. This may result in spaces being designed to be completely wireless for data or incorporating flexibility with the utilities needed for science laboratories. In this way, layouts can be reconfigured as needed for different types of research, for instance.

Crafting the right solution

Just as businesses continually seek to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace, so do institutions of higher education. Today’s college students are accustomed to having choices and customization in their learning process. They seek out institutions that provide flexibility and adaptability. The key is offering students variety to help them be comfortable and prepared to learn. This can include choices of how to work and study in a campus space through the design of furniture and furnishings. Inherent in choice is a mandate for an institution to identify and reinforce its goals through how students experience the campus environment. When leadership and design teams focus on understanding what students truly need and the types of experiences students are seeking, then they can craft more strategically impactful building design solutions for that institution.


This article was originally published on University Business.

The Workplace of the Future

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Student collaborate to develop solutions for the Workplace of the Future
Students use collaborative design thinking exercises to generate and organize new ideas.

STUDENTS LEARN TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH AMBIGUITY.

BY DOMINIC IACOBUCCI AND AARON BRADLEY

WHAT’S THE BEST way to prepare students for the rapidly changing workplace of the future? Teach them to address complex problems through ideation and creative problem-solving techniques. And, most important, help them recognize that some problems have no easy—or right—answers.

That’s the approach of Inquiry to Innovation: The Future of Work, a transdisciplinary honors class at the University of Cincinnati (UC) in Ohio. In the class, which was launched in 2013, students consider topics ranging from autonomous vehicles to workplace diversity to contract-based work environments. The semester culminates with a showcase of the students’ research insights, implications, and actionable solutions.

The university developed Inquiry to Innovation in partnership with BHDP Architecture, which sponsors the course and outlines deliverables for each semester. Up to 24 students can enroll in each 15-week course, which is considered a professional elective for several departments at the university. Classes meet in a variety of campus locations—including UC’s 1819 Hub, a 100,000-square-foot building that includes makerspaces, classrooms, and gathering spaces—as well as BHDP’s offices. Classes are taught by both UC faculty and creative leaders from BHDP.

Facing workplace ambiguities, students address challenges and potential solutions for the workplace of the future.
Facing workplace ambiguities, students address challenges and potential solutions for the workplace of the future.

A typical class meeting might start with a theoretical discussion related to the project, followed by timed rapid ideation and brainstorming exercises to stimulate ideas. As they brainstorm, students might use a word association or visualization exercise related to the discussion topic. Over the course of the semester, students will employ design thinking, ethnographic research, and rapid ideation techniques to look beyond their initial thoughts and biases to consider the impact of factors such as cultural norms and societal trends. Other techniques, such as building relational or journey maps, help students visualize and communicate abstract ideas. In addition, students examine situations and products unrelated to the future of work for sources of analogous inspiration.

Throughout the course, students work in interdisciplinary teams, where they learn the value of exposure to perspectives of people from a range of different backgrounds. Students consistently report that interacting with a diverse group of individuals is their favorite part of the experience.

A main objective of the course is helping students become comfortable with ambiguous situations where there is no one right answer. Many students find it challenging and uncomfortable to embrace ambiguity in this manner, but it’s a skill they need to develop if they are to push past boundaries to address complex problems and succeed in a rapidly changing society.

Another objective of the course is to encourage students to consider real-world challenges that might have major implications in the future workplace. This is an area where co-teachers from BHDP can really share their expertise, making the course a more meaningful experience for both students and businesses.

Students’ final presentations offering insights, implications, and actionable solutions for the workplace of the future.
Students’ final presentations offering insights, implications, and actionable solutions.

In the academic world, students are used to taking specific and concrete steps to complete final projects, papers, or exams. In the professional world, many problems do not have clear-cut processes or answers. By teaching students to use creative problem solving, ideation, research, and cross-disciplinary teamwork to solve problems, Inquiry to Innovation prepares students to succeed in a rapidly changing professional world.


Dominic Iacobucci is a workplace client leader and partner at BHDP Architecture in Cincinnati, Ohio. Aaron Bradley is an associate professor of the Design and Arts Initiative at the University of Cincinnati.

This article was originally published in BizEd.

Data Collection and Space Design

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By Don Haunert

An Essential Pairing for Today’s Businesses?


The dynamic of design is a multi-layered process. Business executives who are developing newly constructed or renovated office space will certainly focus on the aesthetics—rooms that are visually appealing, trendy, inviting, and comfortable. But it is often what happens within a given space that dictates how a room should look, feel, and function. Studies indicate that when these factors are taken into consideration, workspace can have a positive impact on creating an engaging culture, increasing staff productivity and enhancing employees’ overall perceptions of the company and workplace.

Conversely, an ill-designed space will work against any staff and company, at both an obvious and subliminal level. As real estate costs escalate and interest in space optimization gain greater attention across the country, today’s leaders know their current workspaces need to be able to perform at their most effective capacities if they are going to save money and achieve company goals.

With ongoing advancements in technology, the elements of design are becoming more of a science than they are an art. Data collection and analytics are helping executives to better understand the nuances of their workspaces, sometimes before they even exist. This phenomenon occurs through the use of digital devices that are in and of themselves designed to monitor and record activity within a space to predict design appropriateness. Combining the artistic expertise of an architect with the analytical evidence provided by these machines may be where the future of design creativity flourishes—that is, for those organizations willing to place a certain level of trust in the available technology. 

Use and misuse of space

How companies use a space and the objects within it is easily enough defined. People sit in chairs. They gather around tables. They are positioned in front of screens. It’s the misuse of a space that can be tougher to identify or anticipate during design phases. A room may have the most comfortable furniture available. The wall-mounted screen might be big enough to cause a Hollywood director to blush. But what if that furniture can’t be positioned to allow everyone in the room to view that screen together? Why spend money on a table and chair set that sits six people in a room where no more than four people routinely gather? There are many offices and conference rooms that can’t contain all their furnishings and all the staff members typically necessary to be present in that space. In these instances, employees may find themselves wasting time (and risking injury) removing heavy furniture from a room in order to fit all colleagues into a meeting. Or people may be seated around a table that’s not big enough to fit everyone’s laptops, causing some people to sit with their devices literally in their laps. While this might suit the inherent nature of these devices, it can cause a lack of engagement among staff if people can’t comfortably sit and look at each other while they chat.

A recent case study showed that 40 percent of conference room seats can be eliminated, saving some 14,000 square feet of conference space and reallocating for more rooms and additional common spaces. This utilization is affected by many different factors beyond size, including location, ownership, room name, technology, and ambiance. For example, research shows that lighting, an important consideration with any room’s design, can impact mood, alertness, and other biological effects. A space that is too bright can be just as distracting as a space that is too dark.

Predict space utilization with technology

Sensors measuring space over workstations for data collection and space design purposes
Sensors over workstations collect data to understand and predict space utilization

Focus groups and surveys are traditional means of conducting research, and they continue to have significance. However, there is a reliance on asking the best questions with these methods, and preconceived notions among participants can impact and potentially skew collected evidence. Today’s technology offers more novel options for executives to glean information, including wireless ceiling-mounted devices equipped with sensors that monitor and record how people interact with their environments. These sensors, which use machine learning and artificial intelligence (see AI section below) to evaluate the behaviors and postures of those occupying a space, can identify engagement and productivity for purposes of determining usage of space. This “crowd learning,” when combined with traditional research and actual observation is becoming a more indicative means of preparing designed space. For instance, a non-engaged, distracted, or uncomfortable individual may be often seen to be scanning the room instead of focusing on someone or on a screen, something that the sensors can detect. Then there are instances in which the monitoring of a non-active space can be telling. Conference rooms located near a human resources suite may not be considered as “welcoming” as other locations in a building. These rooms may not get much occupancy, and therefore may be more appropriately located elsewhere. Other key questions that this technology can address include: Where are employees gathering? Are there enough individual spaces versus meeting spaces? What is the usage of a space versus its capacity?

Sensors can accumulate information about the utilization of space to accurately measure such metrics as total average occupancy to typical thermostat settings, and crowd-learning data have proven to be most effective when data is collected over long periods of time.

Trusting technology

A screenshot on time usage of a space is an example of data collection and space design
Data collected on an area’s time usage can inform design decisions

We are still at a point in time where society’s “digital natives,” those born into a digital technology-driven world, are far outnumbered by older generations of business professionals. As such, a mistrust and potentially outright fear of technology still exists. Make no mistake. Any organization that engages in data collection on their employees, customers, or any other constituents must instill and adhere to ethical and legal privacy, security, and other policies that govern the collection and dissemination of data. Some employees may be uncomfortable with the notion that employers can monitor how much time they are not at their individual workstation. But if the data collected are being used to enhance their surroundings and other benefits, the rapid advancement of technology becomes more intimately integrated in our daily lives can help to alleviate concerns.

Also, business and society are at the onset of learning who actually “owns” collected data, and the growing implementation of 5G connectivity is changing how quickly data can be collected, as well as the actual depth of data that can be collected. As productivity and interconnectivity become increasingly important concepts to any business model, any new facility construction or reconstruction will rely more on technology to predict optimal working conditions. Appropriate data collection and assessment represent important first steps to this “next generation” line of thinking. When married with a shared corporate vision, the final designed space can be a more effective working environment poised to make a significant impact on the company’s future success.


Defining Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI), is the ability of a computer system to perform an intelligent action that a human otherwise could perform. Examples of AI include a digital calendar deleting a series of Monday meetings that haven’t been attended or reserving conference rooms for those who have frequently utilized certain spaces at certain times, and a cell phone that offers word options as one texts based on previously sent texts. A subset of AI, machine learning is a set of algorithms entered into a system that enables the “machine” to infer information and then perform specific tasks or suggest certain actions based on predictable follow through (for instance, knowing that 27 days has passed since someone purchased a 30-day drug prescription and reordering that prescription). Other examples of machine learning include voice recognition, such as when a bank’s automated answering service allows access to an account through spoken words over the phone or speaking into a cell phone to create text messages; automated fraud alerts that are generated when spending patterns on a credit card are abnormal; and web-streaming services that suggest interesting movies to watch based on viewing habits.

Computer screen displaying analytics results from artificial intelligence (AI)

This article was originally published in CoreNet Global’s LEADER Magazine.

Making Sense of Sensors

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By Dominic Iacobucci and Brad Johnson


A sensor is an electronic device that measures and captures data of variation in environmental stimulus. In today’s world, people encounter sensors throughout their day—at home, in the workplace, and at other locations. In a spatial workplace environment, sensors measure environmental aspects such as noise and light, while gathering information on when and how space is used. This data can be linked with technology solutions to enhance the experience and utilization of a space. As the use and availability of sensors increase, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of using sensors in a spatial environment. Organizations that design and implement a comprehensive sensors strategy can ensure their facility space assets are leveraged to full potential.

making sense of sensors in the workplace

Types of Workplace Sensors

There are many applications for using sensors in the workspace. Sensors can deliver information about sound, light, temperature, humidity levels, occupancy, and how people interact in the space. The most commonly used sensors for occupancy are motion sensors, which include passive infrared, pressure, vibration, and optical sensors that capture video motion. These can be deployed within the architecture of a room, attached or integrated into furniture, or placed within the floor. Occupancy sensing can occur using sound, lighting, temperature, and device recognition through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals.

Newer, advanced sensors use optical technologies that allow for artificial intelligence (AI), including image recognition and machine learning technology. Older sensors that collect information from only a single data source may not deliver a true understanding of how a workspace is used, whereas newer sensors offer more enhanced, comprehensive, and actionable data. For instance, an advanced sensor with AI can distinguish the quantity of employees using a set of desks, including environmental stimulus and levels of collaboration and focus. With a trend towards more activity-based workspace design, organizations are seeking data to understand how a workspace is being used and how enhance the user experience to drive results.

making sense of sensors in the common area of the workplace

Using Workplace Sensors

Frequently, workplace sensors are used by the real estate sector. Real estate executives rely on utilization and occupancy data to manage and optimize their portfolios. The metrics provided by sensors help drive better informed real estate transactions due to accurate utilization and occupancy data that can be tracked to the minute. Beyond portfolio optimization, corporate real estate teams also use sensors for facility management and employee experience. The utilization and occupancy data provided by workspace sensors can enhance experience while driving sustainable practices through adjusting spatial qualities like lighting and temperature based upon occupancy.

Sensors also deliver accurate data on hotel desking, conference rooms, and activity setting availability and usage that interfaces real-time with interactive availability, booking, and reservation systems. And these systems can also unbook reserved spaces if occupancy is undetected after a set amount of time. Desktop browser systems and mobile apps provide access to several real-time data streams from sensors while allowing for individual interaction with reservation systems. For example, typically conference rooms are booked for a set amount of time. However, employees may vacate the room before their allotted time is over. A sensor in the conference room detects no occupancy and then sends a message to update the booking system to indicate that the room is available.

Additionally, building and workplace sensors support facility management through their connection to building management systems. Data and utilization from sensors can trigger notifications to a facility management team of potential maintenance requirements.

Today’s sensors also assist with the growing trend toward creating smart buildings. Some, however, consider the infrastructure and coverage required for some systems to be cost-prohibitive. This is especially true with existing buildings, if they require a retrofit of entire systems like HVAC to ensure proper communication between the building management system and the installed sensors. As the technology advances, newer buildings will be able to take advantage of integrating this automation.

One common concern with sensors is employee privacy and misuse of data. Whether or not employees are worried about being “tracked,” it is crucial that there are assurances from the organization that the data is collected anonymously and aggregated before it is released to management. Of even greater concern is data security, which requires organizations to have proper processes and controls in place, including data encryption, malware protection, and anonymization.

making sense of sensors in the workplace conference room

Designing a Sensor Solution

To maximize the use of sensors, facility space planners must understand the questions that the organization wants the data to help answer and then develop goals based on these questions.

A primary question for many organizations is whether their workspaces are well utilized. While sensors can measure occupancy to answer this question, the nuances and goals of the concern may be overlooked. Does the organization want to know the average occupancy of the space during any given hour, desk usage, or even conference efficiency? If the question is how often the room is used during a typical workday, the conference room efficiency based on number of employees using the room during a specified amount of time does not affect the answer. On the other hand, if the question is about the efficient use of the space, the number of employees using this workspace compared to the seats available is important.

These goals and questions impact the sensors used to measure space. Automated lighting sensors can measure if the space is in use, while infrared can measure the number of people around a table at seat locations. Optical sensors are needed to understand the quantity of people anywhere in the room and their work patterns. Organizations need to determine their own definitions of when workspaces are considered well-used assets. Depending on the goal, the answer may be when one employee uses a space designed for 10 or it may be when it is used by seven employees. Defining these questions and goals is crucial.

Equally important is the use of sensors to address the employee experience. Tools relying on sensor data, like mobile apps, provide employees the ability to find an available, suitable space quickly, increasing individual productivity and utilization of diverse spaces.

Achieving success requires evaluating the available sensors and selecting the ones that will provide the necessary data for desired insights. Understanding how real estate assets and workspaces are performing and being used gives organizations predictability. When implemented effectively, sensors can assist with workspace optimization, enhance user experience, and cut costs for the organization.


Article originally posted in Facility Executive.

Elizabeth Griswold: Using Design Thinking in Marketing Recap

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By James Benson

The October Program for SMPS Research Triangle was led by Elizabeth Griswold, a Senior Graphic Designer at EwingCole. Elizabeth was invited back to speak after a very well-received Coordinator’s Club presentation. October’s program was all about Design Thinking, and how to apply it to marketing. Another way of looking at it would be – “How Do We Stand Out?”

Design thinking blog

Elizabeth helped to explain the basic principles of Design Thinking, emphasizing that remaining human-centered with the focus on people will lead to better results. This has proven to be successful not only from an architectural/engineering design standpoint, but also with marketing. By being methodical in our approach to Design Thinking, the result is an increase in engagement, and a better chance of being memorable.

So how does this work? Design Thinking is a process. The process starts by asking the important questions, the old “who, what, where, when, why” is a crucial first step. By addressing questions like “Who is the Audience,” “What Do They Want to See,” and “Where Do They Find Answers,” a tailored design can be crafted. Next, Rapid Prototyping – a series of quick trial runs, helps to narrow in on a solution. By brainstorming, sketching, and modeling, several ideas can be generated in a short period of time. Finally, an important step, generate both quantitative and qualitative infographics. Infographics help break up boring text with graphs and imagery, and not only look great, but also help to emphasize key points and stand out to someone doing a quick skim.

To wrap up the program, Elizabeth walked us through an example of the process, and showed us that, with a few simple steps, Design Thinking can truly transform anything we create.

Originally posted on SMPS

Ensuring Relevancy in Today’s Academic Library

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By Tom Sens


It’s early afternoon and Mary, a 35-year-old mother and college student who’s pursuing her master’s, soon will be up against her weekly deadline to submit an assignment. She’s had the typically unpredictable “routine” week that only mothers know about, but she’s not panicked. In fact, she’s quite comfortable in the Family Study Room at Central Washington University (CWU) in Ellensburg, Wash., where her 5-year-old son keeps busy by coloring and doing puzzles while she works. Equipped with children’s toys, books, and games for young visitors as well as tables, desks, and chairs for students, the room is the kind of space that Rebecca L. Lubas, dean of library services at CWU, couldn’t have imagined in an academic library when her career began almost 25 years ago.

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Versatile library space invites students from multiple disciplines to collaborate on creative projects. (Photo by Keith Isaacs Photography)

Nearly 2,300 miles away in Ohio, Sara A. Bushong, dean of university libraries at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), is undertaking a months-long process of uniting the facility’s special collections, a set of four libraries including the Browne Popular Culture Library, the largest collection of American pop culture in the United States. The effort to co-locate these collections is part of an overall master planning redesign at BGSU, where library renovations generally happen annually.

Clearly, these facilities are not examples of the typical stodgy, old libraries, despite both being more than 40 years old. They are not just places of seclusion for those who demand total silence while they read or study, although both facilities offer quiet spaces for those who need it. Instead, these academic libraries have evolved into spaces that provide a variety of amenities to meet the needs of today’s students. The offerings help the libraries remain relevant among the many stakeholders who affect their funding and existence.

Library service graphic 3

The placement of academic libraries—often in the heart of campus—saddles them and their staff with a responsibility to always adapt or risk having their prime real estate overtaken by competing institutional programs that are in more demand. At a time when the average academic library is at greater risk of being undervalued, the libraries at Bowling Green and Central Washington show how such facilities can stretch available funding to make improvements that meet evolving patron demands. They can be proactive in their services and style (or play catch up if need be) as digital technologies and changing student habits affect their functionality and purpose.

Beyond the books

The library’s role has expanded beyond acquiring, storing and circulating print material. One important service modern libraries provide is to help students make use of their personal devices and to offer public use of digital devices. Nobody should walk into a library and feel that the use of a desktop or laptop computer, including internet access, is a luxury, Lubas says.

“It’s a basic need for students to complete their education,” she says. “Ideally, students would be able to keep up their own devices throughout an academic year. But you can’t count on that. If you’re having trouble paying your rent, you may have trouble paying for your internet. So, you come to the library for the connectivity that you have by right of registration. Libraries are providing basic needs in a way they probably weren’t 20-25 years ago.”

Other examples of meeting diverse needs include use of therapy dogs for emotional support or having ambient music play in common areas during finals week. Many libraries now allow (or even provide) food and drink.

“In our facility, we provided a popcorn bar and free pizza during finals week,” Lubas says.

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A uniquely shaped circulation desk functions as a one-stop service point. (Photo by Chris Phebus Photography)

Culturally and collaboratively connected

Also critical to the success of an academic library is ensuring that the facility aligns with the mission and goals of the institution. At Bowling Green, the philosophy is that the special collections are what make the library unique.

“And so we’re trying to figure out a way to make those spaces and collections more accessible, as well as providing all of the services that we have always offered,” Bushong says.

Bowling Green’s collections include a music library and sound archives, a center for archival collections, and a curriculum resource center (support for preservice teachers in pre K through 12).

library service rendering 2

“Our preferred scenario would be to have all of the collections on one floor with a shared reading room rather than them being siloed on different floors,” Bushong says.

At Central Washington, a public university dependent on state funding, engagement with the greater Ellensburg, Wash., community is a priority for its library, Lubas says. The Cultural Conversations program brings together students and community members for lectures by faculty, staff, and students who were born outside the United States but live in Ellensburg.

“They talk about life in their countries and their experiences,” Lubas says.

Likewise, the Central Washington library partners with the English department to have local writers discuss their diverse backgrounds.

“So, both students and community members get the chance to interact and ask questions about cultures that they’ve maybe only read about previously,” Lubas says.

Focus on furniture

A core component of the modern campus library is comfortable and versatile furniture. A combination of longer tables, preferably those lengthened with extenders or connectors, smaller tables, and cushioned chairs that feature swiveling arm desks, is recommended. Tables and chairs that have wheels and are easily movable also should be available.

“In collections, you need some bigger tables because people will be spreading out maps and other bigger documents,” Bushong says, “and we’ve found that students don’t like high-top tables because they can’t reach down to get their bags or other items off the floor.”

Power stations for smartphones and other devices need to be built into or close to as much furniture as possible. “Users want power,” Bushong says, “and part of being relevant as a library is that you constantly are
trying to improve the space, so it fits what students need.”

References

  1. >Sens T.  ALADN Library Conference – An Architect’s Perspective. BDHP. 2019. Accessed online: www.bhdp.com/blog/aladn-library-conference-an-architects-perspective
  2. >What is a Makerspace? Makerspaces.com. 2019. Accessed online: www.makerspaces.com/what-is-a-makerspace

Originally published in American School & University.

Preparing for a Cooling Economy

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Leverage your real estate portfolio for an eventual downturn in the market.

By Chris LaPata


Although the sting of 2008 may not register for some of today’s workforce, many clearly recall the excesses leading up to the Great Recession. To mitigate risk related to a corporate real estate portfolio, leaders must identify shifts in economic conditions and deliver spaces (and experiences) that appeal to tenants and their employees. 

As David Shulman, UCLA’s senior economist, notes in his article, “The Goldilocks Economy,” an inflection point exists that is neither too hot nor too cold, where inflation and recession seem to be in check. Before recession looms, however, it’s important to outline a long-range, scenario-based planning and investment strategy for commercial real estate to provide for the best and worst of times. 

market economy 1

5 Ideas for Planning Ahead


1. Look at the balance sheet. The healthier a business, the more resilient it will be in a downturn. Could an economic downturn present an opportunity to invest in people, spaces, or technology related to operational efficiencies and employee effectiveness? Yes. Understanding long-term organizational objectives (cost-cutting and growth strategies, for example) will help CRE professionals advise investors or clients in decision-making.

2. Follow emerging trends. A joint publication by the Urban Land Institute and PwC identified that the market is sensing a slowdown in the real estate marketplace in 2020. The reason? Rising costs for land, financing, and construction. Office development and investment prospects ranked toward the bottom of the six property types. The demand for more logistics (warehouse) space is one outlier, thanks to the Amazon effect.

3. Keep an eye on construction costs. Many general contractors report business in specific growth markets is robust, with a backlog of projects stretching into 2023. That backlog helps drive prices for real estate because contractors can be more selective about bidding on projects. The primary challenge, however, still revolves around skilled labor and project management.

“The next three years look really bright,” says Jon Dandurand, vice president of JE Dunn Construction, based in Kansas City, Mo. “We’re finally starting to see technology catch up with outdated means and methods in construction. Even with a downturn, the war for talent will only continue, meaning the investments corporations make in their real estate will be that much more important.”

4. Assess the rental marketplace. “Rental markets have remained strong as rate increases persist,” explains Renae Bradshaw, vice president for tenant representation at JLL. “To incentivize tenants, landlords are offering richer concessions in abatement and tenant improvement capital. Last year’s 12 percent increase in construction costs also provided a challenge to tenants. We are helping tenants approach the market differently today, focusing on how to build flexible space for growth, without adding square footage. We continue to structure leases with options to respond to business drivers over the life of their lease.”

5. Recognize real estate is an unavoidable and somewhat fixed capital expense. Current economic conditions are ideal for conducting a full-scale evaluation of real estate assets. The technology sector has evolved to the point where data collection, synthesis, and application have provided a strategic advantage for tenants.

Pay Attention to Economic Cycles

Historically, when the market experiences a slowdown, corporations quickly reach for options to help maintain profitability and shareholder confidence. What areas are hit? Research and development? Marketing and advertising? Layoffs might provide a quick fix, but how does that impact an organization’s overall morale? “I’m witnessing a large investment in activities and amenities that drive corporate culture,” says Vik Bangia, CEO of VERUM Consulting in Minneapolis. “Clients who demonstrate a concerted effort to foster their corporate culture are experiencing the greatest growth and will be in better competitive position to weather any pending economic storm.”

With today’s low unemployment rate, some say the war for talent is driving the need for increased employee engagement and amenity-rich spaces. Flexible space can help companies remain light on their feet as employee populations fluctuate.

Rolling the Dice Is Not a Strategy

Because no two recessions are exactly alike, how might a downturn affect your portfolio? What are some steps a commercial real estate professional might consider doing now?

  • Partner with a company’s financial team to understand the market outlook and impact on the business (cash flow, credit rating, etc.).
  • Create an enterprise plan that spans your portfolio.
  • Identify immediate, midterm, and long-term opportunities to optimize the portfolio.
  • Develop three to five planning scenarios for various market conditions (hot, warm, and cold).
  • Identify tactics for each condition.
  • Balance strategic scenario planning against the human/cultural side of things.


Everything begins and ends with customers (both internal and external). When the market contracts, customer behavior shifts – in terms of confidence, lacking funds, shifting priorities, and other factors – and strong businesses acknowledge that the game has fundamentally changed.

While it may seem incongruous to plan for the worst when times are good, the best CRE professionals will. They will be in tune to their lines of business and understand how the work, the worker, and the workplace may change. They look at how to adapt spaces if a tenant or part of their organization moves out, and they know how long the investment can be carried if a downturn becomes extended.

You do not have to be a trained economist, but you need to understand and act when it comes to up and down cycles. As a result, you’ll be able to create a more well-thought-out commercial real estate investment strategy. 

Start the conversation on planning for the worst, even if you remain bullish about the investment market.


Originally published in CIRE Magazine.

Work After Place: Technology Will Topple The Traditional Workplace

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The workplace design community has facilitated the transition from a workplace as a fixed destination to a workplace as a fluid experience.

workplace technology4
Workplace Sensors can determine occupancy, send data in real-time to an analytical platform, and integrate with BMS.

Always on and burnt out. That’s the current state of the workplace. Ubiquitous Wi-Fi, cloud-computing, smartphones, thin clients, high-powered laptops, and video-conferencing software connect people the world over. In great numbers, the workforce has truly become nomadic, moving from meeting to meeting, office to office, workplace to workplace. These digital drifters are no longer bound to their work in a physical way. Thanks to technology, both in terms of accessibility and immediacy, there are no boundaries, no rules, and minimal obstacles to getting jobs done, regardless of the time of day, day of the week or physical locality.

Workplace as a fluid experience

As the tools changed, so did the composition of the work itself. Accordingly, the workplace design community has facilitated the transition from a workplace as a fixed destination to a workplace as a fluid experience. And, in the process, designers have grappled with the seeming incompatibility of “everywhere, all of the time” with the real limits of human performance. Employers want and expect people to collaborate, contemplate, execute and socialize, and they want them to do it now! It’s exhausting—so exhausting that burnout is now commonplace enough to be classified as an officially diagnosable condition by the World Health Organization.

In response, workplace design has rallied around activity-based functions and well-being strategies as cure-alls for the contemporary workplace. While this complimentary set of ideologies has largely prevailed, there is yet another wave of technological progress that promises to shift the conversation yet again. The focus centers around the Big Data revolution, including sophisticated analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the looming specter of automation that threaten to challenge the very nature of human work in the near future.

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Mobile apps can serve as digital assistants to employees, facilitating a more seamless, integrated, and frictionless experience.

From bits to bots

From the trading floors of Wall Street to the shop windows of Main Street, businesses flourish or fail based on their ability to assemble and capitalize on information while serving fluctuating markets. If the data wars of the last ten years have taught us anything, it’s that the vast pool of personal data in the digital world can be honed into a tool with the power to shift global economies. Data is the world’s most valuable resource, and the world’s data set is exponentially expanding at a mind-boggling rate. With Big Data challenging the limits of human comprehension, innovators have built non-human tools to help us understand and exploit its economic potential. Data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are new business holdings that challenge old world management platitudes like “people are our most greatest asset.” The truth is a well-structured algorithm might be more valuable than an entire workforce.

The pessimistic view is that machines are coming for our jobs, but the upshot is they are taking jobs we are most ill-equipped to perform, anyway. The days of data entry and data processing are now inked in the yellowed pages of our twentieth century history books. Creativity is the new superpower. While algorithms and artificial intelligence are best-suited to optimize and systematize old ideas, winning enterprises in the twenty-first century rely on human ingenuity to identify new opportunities. They recognize the capabilities of humans and machines alike and apply them in new and exciting ways.

The next generation workplace cultivates collective intelligence and nurtures human interaction with a seemingly infinite amount of information. As a result, notions of a fixed workplace simply no longer work. It’s not about open or closed, present or absent, private or public. Yes, those questions still linger, but they are on the lagging end of the adoption curve because the conversation has shifted. Organizations on the leading edge are exploring technology and real estate strategies that have the potential to dramatically and irreversibly restructure the landscape of work itself. Emerging technology is poised to topple the traditional workplace by targeting the balance sheet in four ways:

  • CAP EX: Enables companies to optimize or even forego capital expenditures in fixed assets
  • OP EX: Roots out operational inefficiencies and reduces operating expenses through automation
  • UX: Creates rich, nuanced user-experiences
  • PX: Fosters stronger overall performance by facilitating the specialization of tasks amongst humans and machines

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Live floor plans and touch screen displays help users locate rooms, people, and amenities.

Space on demand

Work is becoming increasingly fluid, with the liquidity of the workplace often at odds with the inflexible nature of fixed assets like real estate. While the majority of corporate portfolios consist of leased space, increasingly, corporations are adopting co-working as a complimentary component of their future growth strategies. Space on demand offers organizations a quick, affordable, disposable real estate option to minimize capital expenditures. As a result, companies can invest in technology to accelerate core business services. The PropTech movement is aimed squarely at restructuring the fundamental nature of the real estate market by enabling organizations to make smarter, faster, more financially prudent decisions with their real estate portfolio. With real estate being the primary component of the largest industry sector in the United States, even slight deviations from the historic norm have the potential to dramatically alter the landscape.

workplace technology1
Sophisticated sensors use IoT and Artificial Intelligence to detect the presence of people and objects, and determine humidity, sound, and light levels.

The automated workplace

While the debate around work-from-home vs. work-from-here has largely quieted, the emergent truth from that back-and-forth is that people want flexibility and choice. To meet those demands, organizations are continuing to adopt flexible workplace strategies including activity-based working, neighborhoods, and agile environments. The fluid nature of these workplaces is naturally at odds with the rigid reality of walls, windows, furniture, and furnishings. Forward thinking organizations are beginning to monitor employee activity in their environments using a combination of sensors and scheduling applications to understand where and how people are using space. When combined with the right analytics and connected to better building management systems, the immediate benefit to these technologies is reduced operating expenses and more efficient work processes. Smart buildings know when and where to exert energy. There is a secondary, longer-term benefit, though. When paired with modular, mobile workplace components and the right workplace services team, organizations can modify portions of the workplace on the fly. When done so, CRE is positioned as a partner to the business, rather than an obstacle for the business to overcome.

The experience factor

Everyone is talking about experience. It’s a complex, nuanced topic that takes into consideration emotional and aesthetic dimensions. That said, there are still practical ways that technology can facilitate a more seamless, integrated, and frictionless employee experience. For people working in flexible workplace environments, a real source of anxiety is knowing when and where to be at any given moment, feeling confident that space will be available when needed, and that co-workers will be present and available to collaborate at the right time. Imagine if everyone had an administrative professional at their service. Workplace applications in development aim to serve as those digital assistants. By bridging the divide between individuals, calendars, room management systems, and workplace sensors, applications aggregate information, perform analysis, and provide recommendations to employees. They eliminate unproductive time scheduling meetings. They reduce search time. They function as reliable aids and can even recommend workplace settings to compliment the type of work being performed.

Superhuman performance

The holy grail of workplace strategy is quantifying the role that space plays on human performance. In many ways, it’s a fool’s errand. As people begin to partner not just with other people but also with artificial intelligence, it’s about to get a whole lot more bizarre. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to take advantage of emerging trends and opportunities. Increasingly, people are using technology to boost their physical activity, manage their diet, improve the quality of their sleep, and now predict the type of day they will have based on their recovery levels. Since the days of Taylorism, management has sought to increase the productivity of the human workforce. Aided by new technology, there might be a segment of the workforce interested in managing and maximizing their own performance. While the concept of executives as corporate athletes is a bit dated, emergent technology provides people with real data to build improvement plans.

It’s a bit too soon to state that management will be the next to be “Moneyballed.” At a minimum, though, organizations will continue to see the workforce leverage technology to eliminate the mundane, frustrating, and confounding parts of their work. As work shifts away from administrative tasks and toward higher-value, higher-order activities, expect the expectations of the workplace to evolve with it.


Originally published in Work Design Magazine.