Monthly Archives: September 2019

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.

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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.

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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.

All images are courtesy of BHDP.

See the original article here.

Inside BHDP: Marketing Co-Op Edition – Kaitlyn Dwenger

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Kaitlyn Dwenger
University of Cincinnati
Professional Writing Major
Class of 2020

marketing co-op1

Q: How has your co-op experience at BHDP benefitted your education or advanced your skillset?

My co-op experience at BHDP was everything I had hoped for–and I can assure you, that is my true and honest opinion! I knew this summer would be a good experience, but I had no idea the amount that I would learn in such a short amount of time. I have grown my writing and editing skills, but I also gained experience with graphic design, video editing, and business development. I was able to touch parts of the proposal writing process and felt as though I was an integral part of the marketing department. I wasn’t just a “co-op,” I was a team member. It was awesome.

Q: What was your favorite part of working at BHDP in our marketing department?

BHDP’s marketing department is made up of some awesome people that I had the pleasure of getting to know throughout this semester. What’s great about the department is that everyone has their strengths and they work together to get the job done. They are a group of collaborative, hard-working individuals who all took me under their wing to teach me something new. That had to be my favorite part.

Q: Did you have a favorite project that you worked on?

Honestly, I really enjoyed getting to learn more about video editing. It’s especially cool to get hands-on experience in a position and learn something I might not have had the opportunity to learn elsewhere.

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Q: Did you feel like you were able to explore different areas of marketing? Did you enjoy or learn from one part in particular?

Absolutely. This internship was great because my mentor, Deidre, was more than willing to get me hands-on experience in whatever area I wanted. Of course, there were some weekly tasks I oversaw, but a lot of my projects were tailored to my interests. I really enjoy social media, so this semester I was able to create a lot of our content and create a calendar that helped organize our posts.

Q: What advice do you have for BHDP’s future marketing co-ops?

Dive in! Don’t be afraid to speak up and get involved in everything. Obviously, don’t overwhelm yourself, but if you have an interest and haven’t gotten to explore it, volunteer to help or ask to attend meetings. The marketing team is very busy, but if you want to see how something is done or want to help them, they are more than willing to integrate you into the project.

See the careers page if you’re interested in learning more about co-op opportunities at BHDP.

Elevating the Intangible

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Experiential graphic design (EGD) is the vehicle for communicating the intangible, value-generating factors that drive a company’s business goals. These qualitative factors within a workplace cannot be easily itemized. However, they are infused in its culture and contribute to its vision and success.

EGD’s primary purpose is to create an emotive experience that elevates a company’s culture, brand, and engagement with its mission. The appearance of permanence reinforces commitment to the message that is being shared. This adds weight to more ephemeral publications, published online or in print. EGD captures an overarching narrative and brings the story forward from an abstract concept to something that can be physically and intellectually explored.

Successful EGD is “on brand,” while at the same time, it is not branded to the point where it becomes mundane or redundant. In a workplace environment, for instance, overuse of a logo throughout can feel out of touch or even oppressive in relation to the individuals experiencing the space. EGD must strike the fine balance between reinforcing a curated, high-level message and encouraging risk-taking and creativity of individuals and teams.

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At BHDP, we understand that brands have more depth beyond their visual appearance. We look beyond the idea of typical signage to reinforce your what and why, stimulate team building, and encourage key behaviors. Through our discovery process, we take a deep dive into a company’s culture to unearth the narratives that resonate with specific audiences. The Harvard Business Review defines culture as an ecosystem.

“The elements of culture interact with and reinforce one another […] A great culture is not easy to build — it’s why high performing cultures are such a powerful competitive advantage. […]  More and more organizations are beginning to realize that culture can’t be left to chance. Leaders have to treat culture building as an engineering discipline, not a magical one.” [1]

We place company culture at the forefront of our design process. We not only explore the look and feel of the graphic content as it relates to interiors and architecture, but we work to unearth the stories with which people identify. We value partnerships where our clients are willing to explore beneath the surface of their institution to share the processes, milestones, and aspirations that are so intrinsic that they are sometimes lost. We want you to teach us the intricacies of manufacturing, higher education, and healthcare so we can forge stronger connections between your organizational narrative, your employees, your clients, your leadership, and your vision for the future.

The result of successfully implemented experiential graphic design can be seen in the numbers. BHDP’s strategic processes result in improved recruitment and retainment. We impact productivity by fostering positive work environments and social connections [2]. We shape employee motivation by celebrating workplace culture through encouragement of play, purpose, processes and potential [1]. We build spaces where employee growth and innovation is reinforced and realized. BHDP’s EGD team makes visible human investment by elevating the stories of people, their life’s work, and their collective vision to the forefront of its culture.

[1] MANAGING PEOPLE Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive by Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron DECEMBER 01, 2015

[2] ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi NOVEMBER 25, 2015

Stop Designing Your Workplace Around Millennials

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Stop thinking about millennials when designing your workplace. Here’s what to think about instead.

Fidelity Go Work – FREC Center | Summer Street, Boston Conference Room

Research shows flexible workplaces that follow a lifespan of your employees are more important. 

All too often, executives look at their office design and workplace environment with a narrow focus. Millennials. Millennials. Millennials.

They will be the next generation of workers when boomers retire, right? They will be the ones that will drive your growth, and they think differently than previous cohorts of employees. Indeed, by 2020, they will account for half of the workforce.

But designing your office around their present day needs is short-sighted. 

Look beyond the gourmet cafeterias and free massages, the giant slides and foosball tables. While these design ideas can aid in recruiting, retaining, engaging, and empowering your employees, they emphasize younger workers.

Demographers like to uncover, classify, and name groups: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials. It’s what they do. But it’s not what corporate real estate, human resources, and workplace designers do. We deal with living, breathing, changing organisms called organizations—made up of all kinds of individuals, juggling all kinds of life events, needs, and desires.

A generational focus can obscure the fact that employees have lives, and life experiences influence how people engage at work. The “perfect” workplace would understand this and be able to recognize, via sensors and other technology, how employees are interacting with their environment. The workplace will then evolve to meet employee needs in close-to real time

We’re not there yet. 

A life stage approach 

But we do know that employees at certain stages of life have typical requirements and expectations of work, and face predictable work and life challenges. Some of the more obvious are single employees who want ways to socialize at and after work, or new mothers who have specific needs such as mother’s rooms. And, these life stages do not necessarily align with arbitrary generational groupings.

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It’s also important to remember that life stages don’t have to be a linear progression. As Merck & Co.’s workplace strategist Adrienne Rowe points out, some parents of grown children may have grandchildren living in the home. They may have the needs of older employees closing in on retirement as well as a young family. The challenge for a truly successful life stage approach to workplace design is dedicating the necessary resources to identify and understand the typical life stages that exist uniquely in each organization.

So what does that mean for workplace design? 

If we focus on employees according to their life stages, not their generations, what are the consequences for workplace design? First, flexibility and choice move to the forefront. Environmental versatility is key if you’re trying to create spaces that engage and empower people who are focused on everything from self-definition to balancing commitments (work, family, community) to workplace stability.

Versatility doesn’t just mean providing different types of workstations and meeting spaces with various furniture configurations. It’s a business strategy that must be integrated across human resources, information technology, and operations.

Still, no matter how much we stress the importance of thinking about life stages, millennials will still be a concern for my clients. Yet my firm and the University of Cincinnati conducted research to characterize millennials, and what struck us most was not how different they are from previous generations of young people entering the workforce but how similar they are. They seek fulfillment at work, connection to a greater good, and a sense of community and collaboration, just as their parents did at that stage in life. Millennials may be more passionate and outspoken about these values, but that’s a difference of quantity, not of kind.

As Merck’s Rowe says, “With respect to designing spaces and amenities in the workplace, we observe that most individuals have the same essential priorities. They want places to collaborate, focus and socialize with colleagues. Flexibility and autonomy are universally important. Everyone loves an airy, naturally lit environment. They all want to learn, adapt and perform their best work.” 

Best strategies for investing in workplace design

Generational definitions can get in the way of this commonality. Our research backs this up, showing how your smartest investment will be to create strategies and environments that do the following:

  • First, meet the full spectrum of employees’ needs across all generations and life stages. That means everyone—from the young singles craving opportunities to socialize and collaborate and the middle-aged workers balancing family and maturing careers, to the elder knowledge-bearers with an eye on retirement.
  • Second, honor core human desires, such as having a strong purpose, clear goals and meaningful work. This means acknowledging and promoting specific talents and rewarding performance, not just long hours at a desk.
  • Third, make sure your workplace evolves over time, just as workers’ professional and personal lives evolve. Plan for singles who crave socializing, for the new nursing mothers, and for the seniors who value mentorship.
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I often caution my clients at BHDP Architecture to worry less about gourmet cafeterias, in-house massages and design-your-own workstations. Because what truly matters most to workers is universal, no matter the generation.

Originally published in Out of Office.

Why Innovation Needs Its Own Space

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Innovation is the lifeline of every growth strategy. So much has been written about the subject that broaching it is likely to elicit an apathetic response; e.g. “we’ve heard it all before.” Yet amid all the theories and philosophies espoused as keys to innovation, one that deserves more exploration is the space where creative thinking takes place. And, this topic is not just about another office.

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Organizational culture

Organizational culture and an environment that encourages a flourishing of creativity are essential for every company, be it a start-up or established, if the goal is to lead by innovation. Every effort to brand itself in that manner involves elements of risk. In this context, the focus needs to be on the environment where risk can be measured without jeopardizing creative instincts.

Start with organizational culture. Companies, particularly long-established ones, usually operate in a default position with a traditional hierarchy that includes levels of upper and middle management. Such systems tend to foster risk-averse attitudes at the highest levels and a dismissive value of new thinking that comes from the lower levels of the hierarchy. Innovation is encouraged, but only if the risk is minimal. Start-ups and high growth ventures justifiably scoff at such restraints, but that does not eliminate their responsibility to measure and mitigate risk.

What does the space in which creative thinking takes place have to do with the holy grail of innovation? Consider the role of the non-traditional environment, the birthplace of successful start-ups. The classic example is Amazon, which began in a garage in 1994. While most young or high growth-oriented companies are not likely to become the next Amazon, they need to understand that innovation is fundamental to whatever success they may achieve. Obviously, non-traditional thinking is necessary for innovation and the same is true for the space where it occurs.

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Reinventing the workplace environment

Creativity is stifled in a risk-averse environment, usually in companies that cannot get past memories of failed efforts and apparently, in their view, unacceptable costs. What is needed is a different thought process and the space to encourage it. Here is where design intersects with culture in its ability to create space that generates divergent thinking. Traditional office spaces are sources of distraction and are often antithetical to creative thinking. An environment in which teams recognize and exercise the freedom to think differently is vital for fostering an innovative culture. Consider it an innovation zone that can be located within a company campus or far from it.

In the innovation zone, teams need to be free of unwanted interruptions and focused on creative problem-solving. The classic example is the legendary Lockheed Skunk Works where a small, brilliant engineering team created American’s first jet fighter aircraft, the XP-80, during World War II. According to historical accounts, the team, though located at the Lockheed facility in Burbank, Calif., functioned in a closed area inaccessible to non-team members and separated from the traditional business culture. Two decades later, the Skunk Works team produced the SR 71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft.

Today’s innovation zones, unlike the Skunk Works, do not have to be focused on one big idea. Usually, it’s the small steps that tend to yield greater results long-term. However, those in that particular space have to function as a team. One model is the scrum, a rugby term in which players lock arms to move the ball forward. In this case, scrum is applied to a software development team working on a new app. The team is divided into smaller segments that work within a very limited time frame, perhaps two weeks. Under the oversight of a scrum master, the team reassembles, reviews its progress and adjusts accordingly. It should be emphasized that despite all the expertise in creativity and innovation, nothing absolves the team and its leaders from risk management responsibility.

Short time increments are necessitated by today’s rapid pace of technological change and its likely impact on the app’s future in the marketplace. Much like the military’s rapid response team, the scrum should consist of members with wide-ranging skill sets who are adaptable to changing developments in the industry.

The idea is to create a workspace conducive to innovative thinking and free of the perhaps the biggest impediment to creativity: fear of failure. It is not hyperbole to emphasize the importance of creating critical space where design, flexibility for rapid response and a culture that thrives on both intersects. Such space may well be the determining factor of the innovative potential of the enterprise and its future.

Originally published in Leadership Briefings.