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The HR Scoop

Reinventing the Office Space

Season 3
December 16, 2021
33:15
Transcript

Andrea Herron 00:02
Have you ever wondered how a company is able to offer unlimited time off or be a pet friendly office? Curious how HR leaders manage the well being of remote or essential workforces? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Hi, I’m Andrea Herron, head of people for WebMD health services. And I’d like to welcome you to the HR Scoop. On this podcast, I talk with other HR leaders to explore the world of unique employee benefits, and about the challenges of managing unique workforces. Because well being isn’t a one size fits all approach.

On this episode of the HR scoop, I explore all things physical space with Doug Shapiro, Head of Research and insights at ofs and host of the Imagine a place podcast, discover easy ways to enhance your home office, the state of the physical office as a hiring perk, and learn how HR professionals are now the new interior office space designers. Welcome back everyone to another episode of the HR scoop. We are so happy to have with us today, Doug Shapiro, the VP of research and insights at OFS, and host of his own podcast called Imagine a place. Welcome, Doug.

Doug Shapiro 01:19
Thank you super excited to be here with you.

Andrea Herron 01:22
Yeah, I think this will be a very interesting conversation about what space even means. It’s probably a concept. A lot of our listeners haven’t considered that space is a thing that we should be thinking about separately from kind of our day to day existence. So I’m very excited about it.

Doug Shapiro 01:40
Absolutely. Yeah, place matters. And I think just even more now than ever, we’re starting to understand it differently.

Andrea Herron 01:48
Absolutely. So before we you know, go all the way in, I think it would be great to have a little bit of context about your role, and maybe about your podcast, too.

Doug Shapiro 01:58
Awesome. So I am the Head of Research and insights at ofs. So we’re a global furniture manufacturer, dealing with mostly commercial spaces, a lot of focus on the workplace. And imagine a place is a podcast that I host where I bring in insights from architects, facility managers, futurists, anybody that’s thinking differently about place these days. And we’re really trying to elevate the importance of place in people’s world.

Andrea Herron 02:25
Okay, let’s just get into it. Let’s go. You know, what are some tips? I think when we we think about our space, currently, a lot of people are still at home or hybrid. So do you have any tips just right off the bat, for those of us still maybe at the kitchen table or in a special place in our house working remotely to make our space better when it’s not our employer controlling it, but it’s us still in the same place trying to do something different?

Doug Shapiro 02:54
Absolutely. I have some tips for you. So I’m going to start with some of the big ones simple. Daylight daylight is huge. You know, the ironic thing here is to for so many people, they weren’t getting enough daylight in the office because the office was not necessarily set up correctly. So some people are finding more daylight at home. But either way, if you’re in a basement somewhere, you have to make a point of getting out and getting some daylight whenever you can. Another one here is Biophilia. So both of these things, daylight and Biophilia have immense impacts on our body, and kind of how we feel and our stress levels. Also, you know, just having nature visible, can reduce your stress. So I would you know, even if you if you’re not, you don’t have that green thumb and that plant always dies. Even a fake plant is better than nothing at all, but bring some life into the office that you sit at it all day.

Andrea Herron 03:50
Okay, I definitely know what Biophilia means for sure. But for those in our audience who may not give a quick definition, they’re

Doug Shapiro 03:59
absolutely just bringing elements of nature into the space. And so the simple low hanging fruit is get a small plant and set it on the corner of your desk. And you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. When I made that change in my office. I actually didn’t stop I just kept adding plants to the side of me. So over to my right or is a nice little wall.

Andrea Herron 04:22
Okay, and if you kill them, you can get fake ones and still get some of that is what I’m hearing.

Doug Shapiro 04:27
Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, even Yeah, we’re finding all sorts of ways to bring nature into our day. And what a difference that makes in terms of stress. Yeah, one

Andrea Herron 04:39
thing I talk about, is taking a big break. And what I mean by that is similar to what you’re saying, you know, even if you’re in the grind of it, you can’t get away from your computer or you haven’t made it to the store to get that plant yet. Look at a beautiful photo from vacation that you were in nature or just Google nature photos and take a deep breath in Just look at that photo. And it really can just give you a different renewed perspective and you can feel refreshed even after just a few breaths and looking at a beautiful picture.

Doug Shapiro 05:10
I love that the beauty break, that is a nice little tip, I’ll have to hang on to, okay, good. So a couple more come to mind to, I feel like I need to get these out there for everybody. So if you don’t have a height adjustable table, I know that that’s a luxury to have at home, if you don’t have one, you have to make a point of getting up and moving around. And so, you know, I know some of us have these back to back zoom calls. And there is this pressure to always be on camera, right. But you have to, you know, maybe every third zoom call, turn the camera off, go on the phone, you know, take the call from your phone and pace around because you have to get up and move.

And then the last one, this is kind of a neat little tip, I interviewed a an author called Donald Ratner and he wrote a book called my creative space, it was all about being creative in your home. And one of the things he said is, you know, as you know, primal animal instincts, we’re wired to feel vulnerable when we have our back to a wide open area. And so if you’ve I know it’s a space saver, to just cram that desk all the way up against the wall. But if you’re up against the wall facing a wall and your back is to a large open area, there is this natural feeling of stress. And so just you know reorienting your furniture, to give yourself a little bit of a view past your desk can make a

Andrea Herron 06:32
big difference. I have never heard that one. But it does make a lot of sense.

Doug Shapiro 06:35
It is it’s so neat. And you know, he goes deep, right? I’m not gonna go that deep. But you can get that that simple sense of it there. And you know, this, this beauty Bay break is is kind of a represent a movement that I think we’re all understanding differently in the way we work, which is to think of ourselves more like corporate athletes, you know, how would an athlete go to work, and you know, there’s no way an athlete would, you know, could run at top speed for six hours, you know, they just can’t do it. So you need to find time to recharge, you need to understand that you do your best work in episodes, not in these large runs. And it’s even about knowing yourself, you know, if you ask an athlete, when they perform best, they’ll let you know that perfect time of day. And so we’re no different, you know, mentally we’re either larks over owls are your daytime, daytime animals. And it’s like what you know, when do we do our best work, understanding that about ourselves makes a big difference.

Andrea Herron 07:32
That’s a great reframe. I really like that. Because I think we all have those times of days that we prefer to move our body, or connect people and be social or have that block of time where you really get into a project. And you kind of get in that flow in that zone where an hour went by because you were really into whatever you were doing. That’s not just any time of the day. Those are definitely different, though, for people as well. And I think we’ve seen staff and people really migrate towards schedules that work better for them when they’ve had the flexibility of their space and their home environment or a hybrid work environment.

And so that’s a really interesting reframe of kind of the experience of the past 18 months or so. Absolutely. Okay, well, speaking of, you know, creativity, and just flipping the desk around, and we can definitely do that. But as we you know, more places go back to a hybrid or a return to a physical space together. I’m curious, you know, it’s, how can we be more creative with that, because in the past, you might have had foosball tables, or snacks or, you know, certain elements in an office that were really recruiting tools and kept the culture going. And we’ve all had huge shifts in culture, which I also want to talk about, but first, before we get there, you know, how can we be more creative and keep some of those elements going, when we return to a physical space together,

Doug Shapiro 08:56
creativity is, is something I’m very passionate about, especially when it comes to place. You know, it’s, it’s kind of funny, I get the question about technology a lot, you know, how will technology change the office, and everybody thinks about the things that are you’re holding in your hand, right, like the screens that we’re gonna interact with. But the reality is the largest impact on space through technology will be through artificial intelligence. You know, it’s coming like a huge wave, like a tidal wave, right.
And so what it’s doing, I think, is it’s moving our economy from a knowledge economy to a creative economy. You know, if you even think about your role, what you do every day, that role 10 years ago, probably looks different than it does today. Five years from now. Yeah, absolutely. And I think we’re moving in this creative direction really fast.

And so when we think about me even like, Okay, think about the word knowledge work. I actually I can still find books being written in the last Few years about the knowledge worker and knowledge work. But that term has been around since the 50s. Peter Drucker coined that in the 50s. And I’m thinking like, okay, it’s had a good 70 year run, it’s had a good run, it’s had a good run, we’re moving into a more creative mindset and more creative economy, and AI is certainly going to push us faster. So if you think about what that means for space, you know, how do you design for creativity, and that’s a, that’s a whole different mindset than designing for knowledge work. And I would argue that most of the offices that were built over the last decade, are likely designed heavily for knowledge work. So we’re seeing this movement towards creativity, and group work is going to be a big part of that. And I know group work is, is a very controversial topic right?

Now, I, I’m going to go back to a book that I love, which is where creative ideas come from, or where is where great ideas come from. Okay. And, and in this book, the author talks about basically how we’re all walking around with half of a great idea in our head, you know, it’s always missing something. And that, that, the only way, a great idea becomes a breakthrough idea is when we have the courage or the safety, to offer that up to share that idea and have it collide with another idea. And so it’s this collision of ideas. That’s so important. And I think the only way to feel safe enough to share your ideas is to really build rapport with people. And building rapport with people can happen remotely. It certainly is not possible.

But it’s much harder than happening in person, to build rapport with the team and gain a sense of trust, where, where your ideas will be listened to and heard. I mean, if, and I think space plays a big role in that to if you think about boardrooms, there’s boardrooms, we’ve all walked into that feel like a room full of judgment, you know, from everything from the materials to the table, to the dress, everything, right. And judgment is the is the antithesis of creativity. I mean, that’s where creativity stops. And so how do we create more judgment free zones, and spaces that reflect a sense of authenticity, work through the material selection, through through the policies that swirl around the place, you know, everything should should create this sort of safer mindset where you can be yourself.

Andrea Herron 12:28
This is fascinating to me. And it’s, it definitely is resonating and making me think of a few things. So kind of to those points. I mean, when I think of the last, you know, three places workplaces, I’ve been, yeah, it’s cubicles, it’s high walls, people are getting more and more isolated, because it’s loud or noisy. And now we’re used to the quiet and it’s almost like people want a bubble to work in to do the knowledge work, or they’re working remotely because it’s there are fewer distractions, but distractions, a lot of time mean interactions. And when people talk about coming back to the office, the number one driver because we’ve done some surveys is connection, like I want to come into the office, when other people are going to be there, I want to come into the office for a purpose of collaboration. But we’re not really set up for that yet. And so you do need to rethink your spaces.

And you know, if you just have cubicles in a handful of conference rooms, that may not give you the results post, I don’t know that. I don’t know that we can really say post pandemic, but post the last 18 months, then it was before, you know, you’re gonna have to read, think and be creative, and every place will be different. So I’m curious if you’ve seen anything that works, not universally but like a lot of the time, like what are some ideas that might be simpler to implement for people who already have existing offices? Is there anything you can give us a spark of that creativity?

Doug Shapiro 13:57
You know, I think any way you can begin to remove hierarchy is a big step in that direction of creating that judgment free space, where, where the space is really focused on connection, and then you know, even some of the same sensibilities that you want. And your home office, you need to bring those to the office too. So Biophilia and daylight to you bring in nature and nature has a proven effect, to support creativity, right? So between nature between a less hierarchical structure of materials, and office layout, those things alone, just those two things will create a different energy.

Andrea Herron 14:38
It is interesting, I think the materials is another thing you know, a lot of times it’s the company architect, or the office manager, or someone that just pick something that’s in the budget that will work for this space, but they’re not thinking necessarily or traditionally haven’t thought about creativity as a factor in is this space warm. Does it invite people in? Does it make anyone feel excluded? You know, this is a huge area, I think that is untapped as far as who feels included in this space and who feels excluded. And it’s something that as we just step back and think about, what do we want to return to? What kind of experience do we want to have now that really, everything is different? We need to think about who feels welcome, who doesn’t, and how to how to make that better?

Doug Shapiro 15:27
Absolutely. And you know, I love what you’re doing, which is, you know, you’re putting the person at the center of the conversation here. And I think for so often, it’s been the brand, the brand has been the center of the material conversation, where it was like, Okay, our colors are lime, green, and black. Let’s splatter that everywhere. Everybody’s gonna feel it when they walk in here. Right? Right. Go team. But reality is, it doesn’t work for everybody doesn’t, doesn’t really support, the diverse set of people that come into an Office of Diversity is one of the magic things about an office, you know, it is just such a random group. And it is, so

Andrea Herron 16:07
people that you share so much time with that you would never potentially even hang out with outside of those walls.

Doug Shapiro 16:15
And that is that is the absolute beauty of it. And so, when you think about designing for that group, I mean, if I asked you to describe the typical person, how would you even start, you know, it’s impossible. So, when you design you have to design for that spectrum. And one of the easiest, you know, ways to kind of jump into this and visualize is you have hypo sensitive people, you have hyper sensitive people, and everything in between. And the hypo sensitive people might need energy and excitement and that bright green, right, and then the hypersensitive, people might need a little more subdued, you know, calm, relaxing spaces to work in. And so giving choice is absolutely huge. And that’s one of the key words, I think that we designed for today’s is allow for choice. And if you do that, then you’re getting at this inclusivity that you’re speaking about. I

Andrea Herron 17:13
agree with that. And also if if we just take a tiny step back and think about how much choice we all have, and how much the amount of choice has increased with smartphones and individualized marketing and newsfeeds. I mean, almost everything is hyper personalized at this point. So I do think it’s a contention that I would say younger generations, but quite frankly, all of us are going to have at this point, like, okay, I can choose most things about my day. But I must sit in this very specific place from this time to this time to do the work that I’ve been doing from home or a hybrid or in some other way for a year and a half. And so in order to bridge that, because we do want people to have connection and feel included in like they belong, we have to put some effort into the space and there will be people remote forever. So you can’t ignore them either. There is meshing of remote and in person, I think for a lot of companies. But have you seen anything from leadership? And how how they’re approaching it? Or is this kind of still the office manager’s role?

Doug Shapiro 18:25
Well, leadership, you know, they have a difficult job right now. And I don’t envy all the leaders out there that are making difficult decisions every day. But I, what I what I do see from leadership right now is a movement towards of embracing change and embracing the pace of change. So for instance, when they’re planning space, one of the things that they’re really warming up to is spend 75% of that budget, but don’t spend it all hang on to 25. Observe, listen, see how people are reacting, and then take that, that the rest of that and start to make, you know, some changes, respond to those requests and respond to that feedback, and observations. And so that that’s been a big change that I’ve seen, and I think that changes, it was already moving in that direction. Everybody was understanding that they needed to create a more agile space. And then this just showed everybody how urgent it was to get there.

The pandemic did, when all the sudden it was like, wow, if we would have been able to reinvent ourselves reinvent our space on the fly, we would have been in such a better position than we than we are now. And so I am seeing leadership invest in environments that can change. There’s a statistic that I love. It was the World Economic Forum. And they were surveying, I think it was like 60,000 workers, and they all said that they felt or not all I’m sorry 60% One of those people said that they felt their job would become irrelevant over the next five years. And I’m thinking, Okay, well, I know. And that’s a big number. And then what I began to think about is okay, maybe it’s not that 60% of people won’t have their job. But it’s, it’s more or less like, maybe 60% of what you’re doing right now, in your job, will become extinct over the next five years. So meaning that every five years you’re recreating half of your job, you’re reinventing your career yourself, you’re what you do every day.

And so I think this, this idea of, yes, the pandemic was a disruption, but we’re going to be disrupted all the time, we’re going to be disrupted by technology, by competition, by generational change will always be disrupted. And so having a space that can move with this disruption, I think is huge. So we, we talk about changing space in three different ways we talk about individual change, which is kind of a day One day two mindset. So I’m coming in, I’m using the space this way, today, tomorrow, when I come in, I’m going to manipulate it some I’m going to move this desk over here, I’m going to put up a space division here, I need a whiteboard. So I’m going to bring that over to my desk. And then there’s a day One day 30 Change, which is more team oriented. And that’s how one team might be working in a space. And they might need to completely manipulate that space to complete their project. Or when they’re done, a new team might come in. And that might be a month from now, two months from now, right? This is very popular in the tech world. And so that’s more like a day One day 30 change. But the bigger change is this day, one day 365 change to I have the ability to radically change my space to keep up with massive, you know, cultural or technology changes that will change the way we work. So for instance, can I take my space now, and make it 50% more collaborative on the fly. And a lot of that is using soft architecture. So not formal drywall and studs, but you know, furniture pieces that can create space, and give people the ability to manipulate floor plans, without calling it a construction crew.

Andrea Herron 22:20
I mean, that is that is important and helpful to reiterate, you don’t have to demo your office to create more collaboration spaces. But I will say if for those of us who have gone through remapping of changing people seats, there are those that welcome it. And there are those that threaten to quit if you move them away from their current location. And so it is I mean, there is a spectrum of willingness to change. And I think that’s important to keep in mind too, it’s, you’ve got to communicate the benefits, you’ve got to give people lead time, so they can wrap their minds around it.

And then you have to give maybe even a little extra buffer for those who will go kicking and screaming. And maybe they won’t go if they don’t see the value in it. So don’t, I would hesitate to tell people to just flip everything, move everyone because you will really be really unhappy for a while if you do that, you know, you got to have the goals in mind, what are you trying to accomplish, maybe get their input, especially if you know, you’re going to have a group that is going to be more hesitant. get their buy in, get their ideas, and then they might be more willing to flex. But to your point, we can’t do work the way we have done it forever. I mean, the world changes every day, we have to change and creatively change or we’ll be out of business, no matter your industry. I mean things evolve. But just you know, not everyone loves that, either.

Doug Shapiro 23:50
No, that’s very true. And that’s it goes back to, you know, understanding that spectrum that we’re designing for. And I think this this idea of, okay, we had a spectrum around sensitivity. Well, there’s a spectrum around change, too, right. So how do we understand that spectrum? I think that’s a really good point. And, you know, now more than ever before I see HR, with a seat at the table when it comes to designing that next space, right? It used to be facility management, maybe a CEO or CFO, and you would have real estate, and now HR is there in a big way. And I think that’s huge.

Andrea Herron 24:26
I have personally been thrilled to see that change as well because as we realize the true importance of each individual employee and that at this point, knowledge work, creative work that comes from a human in so human resources or people resources need to have a seat at the table because they are the closest to the actual impact of what those changes will be on the individual level. Because we get to hear about it. If it doesn’t go.

Doug Shapiro 24:56
Absolutely. I mean, it’s a dramatic thing going through a major A major change in space. I mean, we know that I think, you know, just, we’re starting to understand that space is, it’s a tool in your toolkit, you know, your your headquarters is your office space. But you know, your toolkit also includes your home now. And it includes, you know, the library down the road or the coffee shop, it includes, you know, we’re understanding that work is a state of mind. It’s not a place, it’s not a time, it’s a state of mind. And so your workplace is wherever you decide to get into that mind frame. And I think that’s that more than ever, I think is, is helping us understand that.

Wow, this is really a tool, and I need to think of it as a tool when I come when I come there everyday, not not as a It’s not like putting on your underwear every day, right? Well, you just have to do that. You don’t have to go in anymore. Gotcha. You know what, I heard this great analogy. Somebody compare the office to the movie theater. And they said, you know, we, we have so much great entertainment at home, like what’s going to get me into the movie theater. And it’s the same way for the office, right? You can do everything, you can pop popcorn At Home, right? You can do all those things at home. So like, what is it that will get you into the office? And it’s it’s not about coercing somebody you know, it’s not, it’s not about that. It’s about creating an experience that’s so meaningful. You know, that is so valuable to me, that it’s worth my time to go there. And it’s worth the company’s time to have me make that trip. I like

Andrea Herron 26:35
that analogy a lot. It’s what is going to get someone to willingly get out of their sweatpants, put on pants, maybe even with buttons and go drive leave their home and go somewhere. Yeah, there has to be a reason unless it’s a mandate. And then you are coercing people, which, you know, for some, that’s okay. And they’re just waiting to be told that it’s time and they’re okay with it. And for others, that’s going to be a deal breaker. So again, you’ve got to understand that spectrum and know what you’re up against and how you want to approach that. But if you don’t have a place that people want to go to, that’s just an unnecessary hurdle to get the end result that you’re going for anyway. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Okay. So as you think about, you know, culture and space and all the great work you’re doing, you know, are there any ideas or topics or trends, you’re saying that just keep you up at night, or you think are gonna pop up that we should kind of know about that you see coming? Like, like you said, AI was definitely coming? Is there anything else that you want us to be looped in on?

Doug Shapiro 27:39
Well, you know, in terms of what keeps me up at night, I was to think about what’s going to work going forward? Because everybody’s trying to figure it out right now. I think we had to slow down and look and understand. Why weren’t we already working like this? What, you know, millions of people have now found better life balance, they found more productiveness in their day. And it’s like, well, how, you know, we had access to this technology. I mean, what was holding us back from getting here? And I think it I mean, I think it was really our culture, our workplace culture, was holding us back.

And I think we, we begin to kind of sketch it out. It’s almost like a graph, where you have technology, you have products, you have, the way we work, this is all changing at this exponential pace. So you’ve got, you’ve got this really steep line, showing that change. And then culture, the workplace culture has creeped along, you know, as crept along, it’s just real slowly. And so at one point, those are probably all aligned, right? Our culture, met, met our technology and met our tools. And now, now there’s this gap. And inside that gap, is where all this productivity and happiness and everything we’re finding now, as we start to embrace the technology and the mobility that we have as humans in our work, we’re starting to see all that stuff that was in that gap. And so I think we have to, to not make the same mistake again. When we go back, we don’t go back when we go forward. When we go forward into the office. I feel like it’s, you know, you have to a joke, you have to take your culture and leave it plugged in overnight and connect it to Wi Fi because it will be updating constantly.

Andrea Herron 29:43
Yeah, cuz you can’t unsee the benefits that you’ve had when you did things differently.

Doug Shapiro 29:49
Man, I love that you can’t see that. No, you’re right. And it’s, it’s, it’s it’s changed us.

Andrea Herron 29:56
It really has and I also like the phrase going forward back to the office or not going back to the office going forward to the I mean, it’s kind of hard to say obviously, but I like the idea of it.

Doug Shapiro 30:08
Yeah, it’s a it’s like, it’s like getting into DeLorean, right.

Andrea Herron 30:13
Such a good movie. Okay, so I, we could talk about this all day. But I want to end here with the favorite question I asked all of our guests, which is to tell us something about you that most people may not know.

Doug Shapiro 30:29
Oh, boy, I would say there is a, okay, you know what I’m going to share, I’m going to share a human moment with you. Okay, I’ll share a human moment with you. That’s what we love here. And you had asked me, we talked about toxic positivity a while ago. And I had heard that phrase for the first time, maybe six months ago. And that was a big human moment for me, I realized I was like, I can be that guy. Like, that happens. And I am that guy sometimes. So that was a big eye opener for me. So of all the things I think I’ve learned, and there’s been a ton over the past year, that has probably been the one that really stuck out in terms of, hey, here’s a healthy dose of self awareness. And so that was a good growing moment for me.

Andrea Herron 31:21
Well, congratulations, it takes a lot of bravery to have some self awareness and understand that, wow, maybe maybe I am or could be $10 that way. So if anyone is not familiar, toxic positivity, is the idea that positive emotions, positive vibes, you know, positive vibes only, you know, those are the only emotions allowed. So while some things may seem encouraging, if you’re like, oh, it could be you know, every day is a good day, if you make it that way. And you don’t leave any room for other human emotions and experiences, it can turn toxic because you’re not meeting people where they are, you’re not acknowledging the full spectrum of someone’s experience. And it can become toxic, and then they don’t feel like they can be genuine or authentic with you, because they have that fake smile on now. So it’s okay, you can be a recovering toxic positivity person. And there’s nothing wrong with positivity. But again, we don’t want it to be the only experience allowed.

Doug Shapiro 32:26
Yes. Well, this smile is real right now. I assure you.

Andrea Herron 32:30
Great, great. Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that with us. You are not alone. That is sure. So we appreciate having you on so much. I hope everyone out there takes a minute to think about their space and what it means to have one and how you could be more creative with it. Well, thank

Doug Shapiro 32:49
you, Andrea. I love what you’re doing. I love your articles. I’ll continue to follow along.

Andrea Herron 32:55
Great. Thank you so much. Thank you for listening to the HR scoop podcast. Please take a moment to rate and subscribe on Spotify, Apple, Google or directly at WebMD health services.com/podcasts

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