Corporate Culture & Productivity

Optimizing the Workplace Experience | OfficeSpace’s Maturity Model

Nick Mason
May 14th, 2024

As the business landscape continues to evolve, achieving workplace excellence has become more crucial than ever. From the rise of remote work to the reimagining of physical office spaces, organizations are grappling with unprecedented challenges and opportunities. To delve deeper into this topic, we look to OfficeSpace’s third installment of their Maturity Model—Workplace Experience.

The session features insightful discussions with industry leaders, including OfficeSpace CEO Erin Mulligan Helgren, OfficeSpace CSO Yoni Rouache, and OfficeSpace CMO Heather Larrabee. Together, they explore the second tenet in the workplace excellence model, highlighting key components and strategies for improving employee experience.

What is workplace experience and how do you measure it?

Explore how workplace experience shapes employee satisfaction through the interplay of physical, digital, and cultural elements, and learn strategies to enhance and measure these effects effectively.

The Workplace Excellence Model

In the quest for workplace excellence, organizations must pay close attention to four fundamental components: workplace management, workplace experience, workplace intelligence, and workplace responsibility. Each element is crucial in creating a vibrant, thriving environment where people and places are optimized to deliver the highest business impact.

Workplace Management

At the heart of workplace excellence lies effective workplace management. This component focuses on strategically allocating and utilizing physical spaces to meet the evolving needs of employees and the organization. Heather Larrabee, Chief Marketing Officer at Office Space, emphasizes the importance of asking critical questions such as:

  • What space do I already have?
  • What type of space do I need?
  • Who is using the space? How are they using it? How often are they using it?

The answers to these questions form the foundation of informed decision-making regarding office layout, design, and resource allocation.

Workplace Experience

Workplace experience is your employees’ general feeling toward your organization, the office space, company culture, available technology, and collaboration efforts. At its core, workplace experience is focused on creating environments that attract, retain, and empower employees to perform their best. As Heather Larrabee, the CMO of OfficeSpace, notes, “It’s about how we create experiences that enable great work.”

Workplace Intelligence

This component focuses on the “how” of the workplace, emphasizing the use of data and analytics to dynamically understand and improve the workplace. When you collect and analyze the right data with the right tools, you can rest easy knowing you are making informed and strategically sound decisions regarding your spaces.

Workplace Responsibility

Workplace responsibility addresses the sustainability and ethical dimensions of workplace management, ensuring that practices are equitable and contribute positively to societal goals.

Key Challenges in Improving Workplace Experience

Adapting to rapid technological changes, work processes, and employee expectations poses a significant challenge for workplace teams. Additionally, rethinking physical spaces to accommodate hybrid work models and evolving employee needs requires careful planning and execution. Evaluating the success of workplace initiatives and measuring their impact on employee productivity and satisfaction can also be daunting.

Yoni Rouache touched on four common issues that hinder the transition to a human-centric work model.

Low Attendance

One of the primary challenges highlighted was low office attendance, particularly noticeable in hybrid work models. Companies attempting to balance remote and in-office work often find that their expectations of physical office attendance are not met. 

Rouache pointed out, “It’s that constant tug-of-war. The gap between employers’ and employees’ expectations of what the office space needs to be seems to be widening.” The need for office spaces to serve a greater purpose than just housing employees during working hours has become increasingly apparent.

Rigid Structure

Another challenge is the historically rigid structure of office management, which often limits the flexibility required to adapt to changing work styles. Real estate investors tend to make decisions through the lens of a liability and expense standpoint, meaning they often fail to cater the space to the employee’s needs. This rigidity can hinder an organization’s ability to respond swiftly to shifts in work, particularly with the rise of dynamic work models that require more flexibility.

Legacy Spaces

Rouache touches on the idea of 1:1 legacy spaces designed to serve a particular purpose without room for adaptability and how this can negatively impact the employee experience. Instead of designing spaces based on the intended use (quiet area, collaboration zone, etc.), Rouache suggests designing your workplace for feelings and experience. Construct spaces that your employees feel excited about.

Lack of Insights

The last challenge teams face when striving to improve their employee experience is a lack of actionable data and insights. Rouache warns us of the dangers of making subjective decisions based on outdated data points and anecdotal feedback. He also cautions us not to put too much stock into simple data points like occupancy rate, which don’t give us insight into an employee’s feelings and attitude toward the office space.

improving workplace experience

Rethinking Spaces for Experiences

Operational leaders can start by identifying their goals. It’s wise to start small and prepare for many iterations of this new workplace model. Learning through trial and error is part of creating a dynamic work environment that allows employees to thrive. Instead of undergoing full-scale office renovations from the jump, begin by slowly implementing new initiatives to see how your staff responds.

Gather your employees’ feedback through in-depth surveys or focus groups to understand their feelings toward the new space.

After you’ve nailed down your goals, you’ll need the requisite technology to facilitate the use of the space and monitor the metrics on how the space is being utilized. Business owners will find that by providing the right tools and spaces to meet employee needs, they can remove the friction employees feel toward their commute to the office. 

Employees can also use technology to inform decision-making before entering the office. Certain tools allow them to see who is currently in the office or who is planning to be in that day, which can help drive their decision to go to the office or stay home.

Technology is also crucial in helping business owners track space usage and performance. Seeing trends over time helps refine the policy or space to maximize employee experience.

The final important piece to consider when rethinking your office space is seeking influences from other industries and driving home the importance of the experience instead of the use. Rouache gives a great example of a restaurant that helps us understand the difference between “use” and “experience.” The “use” of a restaurant is a place where people can eat. The “experience” you have at that restaurant, however, can greatly change based on how it’s designed. Are there TVs? Private dining rooms? Arcade games? Is it a fancy restaurant or a fast food joint?

The key is designing a space that puts the person, or employee, at the center of the design process. The restaurant example can be applied to the modern workplace as well. The “use” of the workplace is a space where people go to get work done. The “experience” can change based on the types of design spaces you have. Is there a healthy mix of quiet and collaborative zones? Is there a kitchen or common area? Has the right technology been installed?

Your employees should always be at the forefront of your decision-making, and it’s the business owner’s job to curate deliberate experiences that result in happier and more productive employees. Free lunch is great, but it’s only a start!

The Process

Moving toward an employee-centric office design can be broken up into three parts: experiment, measure, and iterate. This cycle allows organizations to tailor their spaces to real-world needs dynamically.

According to Rouache, measurement is the most critical component of this process. You get what you measure, so if you measure something in mundane, outdated ways—or simply not measuring at all—you won’t be able to understand the outcomes of your decisions. 

To combat this, define what success looks like to you before you start the experimentation and measurement process. Remember, your employees are constantly evolving, as are their requirements for what they need in the office. Know that this process will take time, and don’t get discouraged.

Purpose of Spaces

Office spaces can fulfill many diverse functions, categorized into four primary “purposes” that reflect the evolving needs and expectations of the workforce.

Magnet – The workplace as a social hub

Spaces designed as ‘Magnets’ are central to fostering company culture and enhancing collaboration. These areas are intentionally vibrant, lively, and engaging, drawing employees into the office with the promise of enriching interactive experiences. Such environments encourage brainstorming, impromptu meetings, and social interactions, which are vital for nurturing company values and a sense of unity.

Matrix – The workplace as a technology hub

As Yoni Rouache describes, the ‘Matrix’ can be viewed as “the physical entry point into the digital workspace.” It’s adjacent to a technology hub. Matrix spaces are equipped with technological tools and resources that are prerequisites to being able to function in the digital world. This could mean outfitting a recording booth for podcasts, having meeting rooms equipped with video recording technology, etc.

Mutual – The workplace as an open community

‘Mutual’ spaces are crafted to enhance the experience of the collective community, reinforcing the organization’s commitment to providing a shared space where employees and civilians alike can thrive. These areas are designed to be inclusive, accommodating various group activities that strengthen bonds between colleagues.

‘Mutual’ spaces often include areas that are open to the public, such as connected coffee shops, green walkways, or art galleries. These spaces can directly improve brand awareness in the local community and help with recruiting initiatives.

Mentor – The workplace as a vehicle for learning, development, and succession.

Finally, ‘Mentor’ spaces are dedicated to learning and development, providing environments where knowledge transfer is facilitated through thoughtful design. These areas have technologies and layouts that enhance educational interactions, such as training seminars, workshops, and one-on-one mentoring sessions.

It’s important to remember that none of these space purposes are mutually exclusive. Instead of viewing these as one-and-done solutions, look at each design option on a scale. For example, it’s completely feasible to have a space that is both a ‘Magnet’ and a ‘Mentor’ space—it all depends on your team’s individual goals.

AI and The Future of the Workplace Experience

A significant portion of the webinar is dedicated to the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in revolutionizing workplace experiences. The panel discusses how AI could be leveraged as a “trusted co-pilot” in various aspects of workplace management, from enhancing employee interactions to optimizing space usage and administrative processes.

Heather Larrabee pulled this statistic from Snaplogic, which was rather jarring: “68% of office workers want employers to implement more AI in the workplace.”

More AI? Yes, more AI. This is a complete 180 from what thought leaders relayed only a couple of years ago when employees feared AI would take over their jobs. Now, employees can’t imagine a reality in which AI is not an integral part of their daily operations.

The panel concludes that we’re seeing this growing desire for AI in the workplace because employees realize how much time is wasted on boring, repetitive admin tasks. They’re finding AI frees them up to spend more time on nuanced, specialized tasks, which is ultimately where businesses should want their employees to spend their efforts.

Simply put, CEO of OfficeSpace Erin Mulligan Helgren views AI as “a game-changer.”

Key Questions for Business Owners

To wrap up the webinar, Mulligan Helgren left the audience with a handful of critical questions to consider when rethinking your workplace experience. Here are a few of the most intriguing ones:

  • What is the purpose of our workplace, and are we aligned on it?
  • Have we developed a cross-functional team to tackle workplace experience?
  • Is AI being used to help individuals, groups, and space administrators?
  • What operational changes must we make to support the next phase of hybrid work?

Looking Ahead

As we look to the future, it’s clear that workplace experience will continue to be a key differentiator for organizations seeking to attract and retain top talent. However, reaching that end goal is not a one-time endeavor but an ongoing journey of continuous improvement and adaptation. Organizations must remain vigilant, continuously evaluating and adjusting their strategies to meet evolving employee needs and expectations.

In the next stage of the workplace excellence model discussion, OfficeSpace will delve deeper into workplace intelligence and explore how organizations can harness data and analytics to drive informed decision-making and optimize their work environments. Join them as they explore the keys to building a thriving workplace in the digital age.

Achieving workplace excellence requires a holistic approach encompassing physical spaces, employee experiences, data-driven insights, and social responsibility. By understanding and optimizing these key components, organizations can create environments where employees thrive, innovation flourishes, and business success follows.