Make No Little Plans! (For Your Workplace)
The Micro City: A New Model for Workplace Design
“A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.”
Close your eyes and imagine your favorite city. New York. Paris. Istanbul. These cities, or any great city, invite a stroll, inspire new ideas, and offer a romantic serendipity of experiences in art, music, and conversation. Loud, exciting, active streets and plazas are balanced with quiet parks, cafes, and libraries. Taste their food, meet new people, see their sites, feel the energy. Would you ever think of a healthcare workplace this way? For increased productivity, workplace wellness, and employee retention, you should.
We know the quality of the workplace can have an enormous effect on the health and happiness of employees. The power of brand and culture play an important part in this as well, but for the larger workplace stacked over many floors, brand can become repetitive and culture fragmented. Data shows that workers on different floors might as well be in a different building. To increase collaboration and communication, employers need to create offices that inspire movement and creativity. So why not think of the workplace as a city all its own?
Conceptual representation of how workplaces can find inspiration from destinations found in cities
Here are five design strategies borrowed from great cities that can create workplaces—whether healthcare spaces or commercial offices—that innovate and inspire.
Encourage Circulation and Movement
We know that in the modern workplace—even if you have a traditionally sedentary job like an accountant—you should be mobile. Walking is good for the mind and the metabolism. Not only is it incredibly unhealthy to stand or sit in one place all day, lack of motion is a productivity killer and a deterrent to good health.
City planning begins with streets and how people and goods move through the city. The experience navigating through the city defines what the city is. In a great city there are multiple pathways that lead to the same location, and each provides its own distinct experience.
The design of the micro-city workplace makes it easy to wander and work on different floors with different people in different settings. If the workplace doesn’t have good circulation, people will be less likely to collaborate and more susceptible to distraction. To enable movement, each floor of the workplace should have unique features and pathways easily connecting them. Larger openings linking floors spatially are essential.
When designing the new Brunswick Headquarters, a leader in the fitness, marine and billiards industries, our design team created extra-wide pathways of varying distances throughout the workplace. Walking meetings were encouraged and the design of the space itself oozed motion. Physical activity is promoted as the pathways connect “neighborhoods” and a wide array of collaborative spaces. The clearly defined pathways added the benefit of minimizing distraction by pulling circulation away from desks.
Build a Town Square and They Will Come
Every great city has town squares and plazas—open areas designed for large gatherings, festivals, and events typically surrounded by shops, restaurants and other places to congregate. Town squares are the very heart of the city.
We know great ideas happen and problems are solved more quickly when people work together. More so, research shows that productivity skyrockets when friends work on projects together compared to when they work with mere acquaintances. Although most workplaces offer a hub providing coffee and encouraging community, often, these places are used less than intended. Typically, this is the result of the lack of tools needed for meaningful collaboration through access to power and technology.
One way to create widely used destinations is to design a town square within the workplace with large and small open and enclosed meeting areas adjacent to each other. These town halls can often be several stories tall with a variety of welcoming spaces—think food, coffee, collaborative space. In these spaces, staff from different disciplines want to meet and spend time together—and based on my experience, the town square ends up being one of the greatest investments an organization can make.
Strategically placed coffee hubs line the town square in Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
In Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, large communal spaces organize the design; a three-story entrance plaza operates as a knuckle between the existing campus to the north and a new campus expansion to the west. The plaza leads to a town hall inside in the form of a four-story atrium with labs and workspaces intertwined and unassigned collaborative spaces for greater social integration. The circulation between labs and workplace operate like a gallery and collaboration zone. Within this town square environment, everyone will be aware of the work other teams are doing, and whenever something interesting happens or a celebration is planned, everyone will know where to go.
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Zoning for Variety and Choice
Cities are zoned with different areas set aside for different types of activities: commercial, retail, industrial, arts, and residential, for example. When people move from one area to another, they know where to find bustling streets, great restaurants and bars or quiet neighborhoods. People move based on what they want to do and experience; each zone has different characteristics for different activities. That’s the way workplaces should be.
The hobgoblin of workplace design is the open office. You cannot browse the web without seeing an article vilifying the open office and promoting the need for more privacy. The reality is that choice is essential to meeting the needs of a workforce with varying needs. People excel in different work settings and a one-size-fits-all approach to workplace design is ineffective. Many workers are exhilarated by energy and a social atmosphere and need only a pair of headphones to concentrate while others require absolute quiet and solitude to get work done. Well-planned workplace zones for energy or quiet (and the many other states in between) create a balanced work environment catered to work styles across the spectrum.
When we designed the new headquarters for CA Ventures, we designed it much like a collegiate campus with diagonal cuts across the environment that evoke the feeling of a campus quad while zoning the space into different functions for teaming and collaboration. Much like you’d find on a campus, we even included a green zone featuring a living wall that anchors both the reception area and main staff quad.
Let the Only Constant Be Change
If there’s one certain about cities, it’s change. Businesses recede and others emerge, restaurants open and close, homes are rebuilt, buildings are repurposed with new uses. The transformation of cities includes seasons and even the transition from day to night. They are living, breathing entities with tremendous variability, which keeps them fresh and exciting to those who call them home.
Likewise, the workplace should include variety and flexibility; studies show that creativity is increased with changes in environment. Successful workplaces inherently include floors with unique spatial and material palette experiences that offer choice to the mobile worker. Customizable lighting accentuating quiet mornings and busy middays to the casual collaboration in the early evening makes the workplace even more comfortable and effective. As cities change over time, adaptability to change is essential for the micro-city workplace. For example, shapeshifting spaces that easily transform from dedicated team rooms to quiet independent work areas allow for changes in workflow. Simpler table-based workstations allow teams to reconfigure their work settings based on mood and project needs. If something is not working, just change it.
Michigan Plaza Pop Up and Lounge
Be cosmopolitan: Mix people and purpose
Cities are at their best when people from different cultures and backgrounds mix, generating new ideas and experiences. A micro-city workplace can have the same benefits. For example, co-working spaces have become revolutionary because they give people a place to go that allows diverse talent and ideas to mix. Similarly, companies must recognize the potential of including related partners in their micro-city work environments.
Whether it be the addition of a software startup or an external marketing team, creating a culture of a comingled workplace will lessen the downside of silos and generate new ideas and experiences. Add to this mix a rotating pop-up strategy of new food or drink options, art installations, or even new fitness programs, and workplaces can present different perspectives and opportunities that motivate, stimulate, and enable productivity.
Just like great cities, the micro-city workplace creates places that are desired and even dreamt about. By pulling in ideas from city design, we can create bustling workplaces filled with spaces and strategies that make them connected, healthy, inspiring and productive.
Here’s a look at some of the sources that inspired this piece:
- “Delirious New York: a Retroactive Manifesto For Manhattan,” Rem Koolhaas, Monacelli Press, 1978
- “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jane Jacobs, Random House, 1961
- “Invisible Cities,” Italo Calvino; Translated by William Weaver, Secker and Warburg, 1974
- “The Image of the City,” Kevin Lynch, The MIT press, 1960
- “The New Science of Building Great Teams,” Sandy Pentland, Harvard Business Review, 2012
- “Cultural Borders and Mental Barriers: The Relationship Between Living Abroad and Creativity,” William W. Maddux, PhD, Adam D. Galinsky, PhD; Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 96, No. 5
- “The Organization and Architecture of Innovation,” Thomas Allen and Gunter Henn, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006
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Teresa Logue: How Zurich’s HQ Fuels LEAN Success
Two years after its opening, Zurich North America’s (ZNA) HQ outside Chicago continues to stand out as a leading-edge workplace. Informed by a comprehensive employee engagement effort – Zurich built a pilot floor 18 months before the building opened where 150-plus employees tested possible furniture, technology and layout to share feedback – the workplace is reflective of Zurich’s vision for the future.
Thanks to the company’s commitment to an experience-centric design, Zurich’s HQ is driving measurable results. Employee satisfaction with the workplace is 30% higher than before and there has been a significant uptick in team interactions, work flexibility and wellness. Not surprisingly, the building has won numerous awards and garnered extensive national media attention.
To get a glimpse into how the HQ is driving a culture of excellence at Zurich, we recently chatted with Teresa Logue, the company’s Head of LEAN Management about the building, her team and more.
Thanks so much for your time today. For starters, can you tell us a bit more about your role at ZNA?
Absolutely. I lead our 25-person LEAN management team as we strive for continuous improvement across our business units. We help our leaders manage more effectively and efficiently, enhance communication and collaboration, improve quality, and identify the best processes to improve customer experience.
What are tools and tactics can you share that reflects how your team achieves constant improvement?
One of our core LEAN management approaches is a disciplined, fact-based approach that we execute with each of our different business units. This includes a six-week diagnostic effort that utilizes various analytic tools to evaluate the team across several dimensions, a six-week design phase to co-create a new model for how they can work, and then 10 weeks of hands-on implementation where my team works alongside managers to teach, train, reinforce and implement change. It’s a continuous process which delivers value for our employees, managers, customers and the organization at large.
Another tool we use is the employee barometer. We use it to help employees and their managers see how they’re navigating the change curve. It reflects both how the team is doing in change adoption and helps identify strengths and gaps to address. It teaches our people how to effectively manage change and continuously improve while building problem-solving skills and capabilities.
Now that your team has been in the new HQ for two years, can you share anecdotal ways the building is reshaping company culture?
Yes, there are a few different perspectives I can share. For my own team, the open spaces in the HQ do create more opportunities for natural and organic conversation and collaboration. For us, the very nature of our work requires us to literally reach across the aisle and work with other people. The space enhances our ability to do that in the HQ and the technology resources we now have enhanced how we collaborate with our teams across the country.
When I think beyond our team, the amenities available to our staff on the first floor are amazing and create a new energy for our people. The coffee bar enables more natural internal networking and collaboration. Our on-site fitness center connects people – I use it every morning – and you see our people using it throughout the day. The walking paths and exterior spaces are integrated into the building’s campus, our teams use them often and in more ways than we had imagined.
One thing our team at CannonDesign talks about frequently is marrying design with policy and culture change. Can you offer an example of how ZNA does this successfully?
I think how we’ve evolved our annual Play to Win kick-off meeting is a strong example. It’s an annual effort by our CEO and the C-Suite to engage our staff around our business goals and new strategies. In years past, our CEO and the C-Suite would literally travel across the country visiting offices to hold the event on different days.
This year, for the first time ever, we had all offices join via video conference to experience the presentation as one team. It was really beautiful and symbolic of our company’s message that “we’re all playing to win together.” It also inherently enhanced communication and transparency as everyone heard the same message and received the exact same information. I think it was a significant milestone for Zurich’s company culture in many ways, and I think our new building and its enhanced technology helped fuel the evolution.
That’s great, do other examples jump to mind?
The new workplace allows some Zurich values to echo louder. We talk about wellness and the new HQ has sit/stand desks for everyone, an on-site, state-of-the-art fitness center and extensive outdoor walking paths and fitness opportunities. We talk about sustainability and this building is certified LEED Platinum, there’s abundant access to green space, hybrid car parking spots – the list goes on. We’ve always had these values, they’re evident in exciting new ways now.
Even great workplaces require constant investment and modification. What’s one thing you’d like to see updated or changed in the year ahead?
The change I’d like to see is more cultural. Our HQ has so many different spaces and settings where people can work. People are collaborating more in these spaces throughout the day, but I still don’t see employees picking up their laptops and going to work in the lounge, or an open collaboration zone consistently. That kind of freedom is what the building is designed to empower, I still think we have some work to do to make it an inherent way of how our people use the building.
What’s the No. 1 thing that’s surprised you about the new workplace?
I don’t know if I’d call it a surprise, but it’s the energy in the building. It feels so different to me than our previous space in the towers. I’ve always loved coming to work, but more than that now, I love coming to this building. I feel something when I walk in that’s welcoming and energizing. Maybe that’s what surprises me, how great I feel in the space each day.
Jeff Martin: Managing Change at Wells Fargo
Jeff Martin, CFM is a workplace change management consultant for Wells Fargo, helping the financial organization effectively manage Workplace change for team members across its global network of 230,000-plus people. In between focus groups, educational sessions and team video conferences, Jeff took a moment to talk with us about the future of work, his ideas, and Wells Fargo’s approach.
Your LinkedIn bio starts with this statement: “Technology and employee flexibility are driving a transformation in how, when and where we work.” In your words, what will this transformation look like?
What’s remarkable is how fast technology has advanced over the last decade. So many of the workplace possibilities we have available to us today – whether it is hoteling, work-from-home, enhanced mobility, etc. – they’ve really all been fueled by new tools like video conferencing, high-speed internet, mobile devices with 24/7 connectivity, the ability to access company networks safely off-site, the list goes on. These tools have reshaped how individuals and teams can work. We aren’t tethered to our desks, or even the office, anymore. Technology fuels work everywhere, anytime.
This translates to an individual being able to have a great relationship with their manager and connect with different leaders and locations each day without ever sitting in the same physical room as them. This level of efficiency and communication is incredible, and it wasn’t possible 10 to 15 years ago.
Most all companies have the ability to introduce these technology resources. Often, the harder part is then driving the culture change that needs to follow. Staff needs to understand how to leverage the technologies, they need to be empowered to rely on them to work from home or in different parts of the office during a given day. Companies that balance technology investment and effective change management will best navigate the transformation in how we do and can work.
So what are the keys to ensuring that culture change occurs to maximize these resources and opportunities?
When companies introduce hoteling or free-address workplace policies, they need to work very hard to make sure people understand the benefits of driving the change and then feel comfortable relying on these new policies. It’s common for people to be wary of the change. They feel like they need a “home base.” They like coming to a space that is exactly as they left it the night before. It translates to comfort and convenience.
That said, I actually conducted a number of focus groups last week and I left convinced that employees are more ready for a shared work environment than leaders expect them to be. They have concerns about comfort and convenience, but if you can demonstrate how hoteling or free-address workplace solutions can still accommodate these needs, then even the people who resist change can usually realize the benefits for them and the company.
At Wells Fargo, our current solution equips some people with assigned space and some without based on their respective needs. We’re constantly studying data, gathering feedback and tweaking our approach. Over time, we’ve seen that most team members have some level of mobility – they travel for work, leverage PTO, engage in work-from-home policies. Team members with a high level of mobility tend to respond the best initially to the idea of using shared space.
How are you making decisions about which employees have assigned seats and which don’t?
All of our decision-making is rooted in data. So, here again, new technology is making a big difference in how we leverage the workplace. We rely on badging to understand space utilization and determine the level of mobility of a group or team.
It’s not so much that we look at individuals and make singular decisions. We look at groups and we seek trends. What are the busiest days of the week? What’s a typical Tuesday-Thursday when it comes to space allocation and ratios? We can use this data to make decisions about which teams need more seats and where we can reallocate space to other groups.
You’ve worked in different industries throughout your career. Do you see differences in how people work, or how responsive they are to work-transformation from one industry to the next?
I really don’t see major differences. At a previous company, we went through a process of introducing casual spaces, game rooms and activity-based work environments. We made changes and faced many of the same challenges non-technology companies face. We introduced new environments but we still required effective change management to encourage behavior and culture change.
At another company, we launched and managed a telework program where employees gave up their assigned space in exchange for the flexibility to work from home. I think this made space transformation easier for us. People were able to understand, okay, I’m losing my assigned seat in the office, but I’m gaining the ability to work at home. It’s sometimes easier to advance change when there is a clear give and take.
No matter the industry, when you ask people what they need to do their jobs, they rarely list an assigned space. They’ll say a phone, a monitor, keyboard, a stapler, etc., but they assume they should have their own assigned space. They don’t see space as a resource in the same way as their technology tools. I think helping people understand space as a resource is a key way to make workplace evolution easier for every company.
We saw data that Wells Fargo has 230,000-plus global employees. How do you manage and drive change for an organization that large?
It’s all about committing to process and adaptability. When we launched the workplace change program, we established a variety of tools and processes that ensured change management education, the development of key resources, and training programs to help streamline the process. You have to commit to that process and reinforce the availability of these resources on a regular basis. In an organization this large, it’s very possible I may be talking about workplace concepts every day, but there are still folks that have not heard the term in some of our locations.
I think one great thing about Wells Fargo’s approach is when we established the program a couple years back, we didn’t draw a line in the sand and say, “We’re good” or “This is it.” As we move forward, we’re studying data, we’re listening to our people, we’re evolving our standards along with the company culture and organizational goals. This is how you move change forward.
Eileen Morgan: How Delaware North Attracts and Empowers Talented People
Serving as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Delaware North, a global leader in hospitality, Eileen Morgan is responsible for the company’s global corporate human resources strategy and function, including talent and organization development, compensation and benefits, employee and labor relations and human resources systems and services.
Leading HR strategy for a company with 55,000-plus employees and operations in signature places like Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, TD Garden, Wembley Stadium and the Australian Open, to name just a few, Eileen’s responsibilities and impact carry global significance. She took a moment to talk with us about emerging trends, shifting employee desires, the company’s new headquarters and more.
You have been a human resources executive at Delaware North for 17 years. How has human resources evolved in that time?
Delaware North is four times larger today than when I started with the company. That growth alone has driven significant change for my role in scale and reach. But, what’s always impressed me at a foundational level, is our company’s commitment to delighting guests via hospitality. Our business is about ensuring people have memorable experiences, and our people’s attitudes and loyalty is so key in making that happen. Delaware North recognizes that and the company’s focus is what keeps them effective and strong as a business. The full credit goes to the family ownership of the Jacobs.
Other than that, just about everything has changed. There’s so much change we could talk about just in technology alone. When I started, nobody used laptops, Skype or LinkedIn. So, meeting candidates, identifying people for strategic roles – all of this had to be done by extensive travel and phone follow-up. The new ways we can connect instantaneously all over the world help HR teams be more efficient and share ideas faster – it’s exciting.
When it comes to recruitment and retention, what are employees looking for today they weren’t looking for a decade ago?
There’s three “wants” today’s employees have that are different than in the past, including:
- Immediate gratification: More people today than ever before have an inherent expectation for instant “status updates.” They want to know now how the interview went and/or if they can fill the job. When I started, the process could take a month or more and that was ok.
- Authenticity: People want to identify organizations with strong values and then come to realize the company delivers on their promise.
- Experience: People seek flexibility, support and learning opportunities that help them manage their career experiences similar to how guests in hotels are seeking great experiences.
Amidst these shifts, recruitment and retention is a never-ending constant challenge. Finding and keeping talent is hard work and as our company grows, the number of great people we need around the world grows with it. We have to constantly keep up with new trends and shifting preferences to meet people where they are in the marketplace.
What has helped Delaware North retain talent?
There are a number of things, but I think the core driver for Delaware North’s recruit/retain success is our relationship-oriented culture. From the top down, there’s genuine care for our people and the relationships we create to move our business forward.
Beyond that, our commitment to leveraging leading-edge technology. This is especially helpful in recruiting our seasonal workforce year in and year out. That’s another area I’ve seen real change during my career. While there wasn’t much focus on technology toward the front end of recruitment 17 years ago, there is now. Our organization’s ability to recognize these shifting realities and adapt is key to ongoing success.
Three years ago, Delaware North opened its new dynamic HQ in downtown Buffalo. How has the new building helped your people and organization?
The new headquarters empowers Delaware North in multiple ways, but there are a few areas that stand out. First, the building amplifies our brand. Delaware North has been in Buffalo for more than a century, but up until the new HQ, the company lacked a building with its name on it – now it has an entire city block.
When we bring a strategic partner, a job candidate, or a community representative to the building, they identify the HQ as a physical representation of our 100 years of business. They see our team’s pride, the experiences they have here; it all adds value. We’ve even started having annual employee events here as our staff wants to show off the building to their friends and family.
Beyond its value as a brand amplifier, the HQ also embraces technology in exciting new ways. The phone system leverages Skype, so there are no desk phones. Wireless connectivity allows employees to work in various settings and remotely. These changes help us recruit and retain people, and also enable them to work in different ways that fit their needs.
Even great workplaces require constant investment and modification. What’s one way the new HQ may evolve in the years ahead?
We continue to study the best ways to balance community and personal space. New generations are less committed to the idea of having their own office and more open to collaborative, team-based work. This lines up with new realities of how we work that demand multi-disciplinary problem solving and ideation.
So, as we grow with our building, I’m sure we’ll continue to test new allocation ratios for these types of spaces. How can we give people a sense of belonging and ensure they’re inherently connected to others across the office? How can we ensure people use communal spaces for their full ROI? How will business look different a decade from now? These are all questions we’ll try to answer in and with our building over the years ahead.
Delaware North employs 55,000 people, all working unique jobs. From corporate employees to culinarians, how do you balance these diverse needs and wants in your workforce?
We bring the same philosophy and values to each employee, whether they’re an executive, a human resources specialist, a data analyst, a chef or a server. Beyond that, we tailor to their needs through programs, policies and benefits, etc. that are very local and functional for them. So on a high level, we’re committed to professional development opportunities for everyone, and then we customize those based on the different roles.
For example, culinarians, as a generalization, care deeply about professional development and education. So, every salaried culinarian at Delaware North has access to a national certification program; they can take a week-long class; we work with vendors who offer learning opportunities and we support professional certification in numerous ways. We even send teams to the Culinary Olympics. This commitment to professional development is a value proposition for those who work with Delaware North’s culinary group. The types of professional development others seek will be different and on an entirely different scale.
Outside of that customization though, we strive for consistency. Our benefits programs, health and wellness offerings – we strive to keep the philosophy and values driving them the same. We care about ensuring our staff feels appreciated and has what they need to be successful.
What is Delaware North’s focus on change management?
Given Delaware North’s long history and current global scale, widespread change adoption can be hard. So many different departments are constantly introducing change (finance transformation, procurement changes, new talent and capabilities, etc.). Moreover, change can look different at our different properties, and so the change journey can’t always be dictated from the center of the organization.
Recognizing the complexity of change in our organization, we’ve worked with outside groups, we’ve established a strategic initiative all around change adoption and we’ve built technology platforms that empower our people to connect, share and help each other adopt new behaviors and best practices.
I don’t think an organization can ever rest on its laurels when it comes to change management, and that’s a main reason we’re committing enhanced focus to it in these ways moving forward.