A progressive workplace is about understanding and embracing the new standards of a more agile and interconnected workforce. Recent surveys have found a correlation between office design and the bottom-line. So, can companies use workplace design as a retention tool and how? Such questions were recently deliberated upon in Bengaluru when CW, through its Roundtable arm, put together a discussion on 'Workplaces of the Future'. Moderated by Falguni Padode, Group Managing Editor, CW, the panel comprised 10 members, including consultants, architects, solution providers and others who play a key role in workplace design. The millennial's entry into the workspace, user expectations and how they play into a facility manager's mandate, and optimising space through design and technology...these aspects and much more was discussed. Excerpts:
Dr Chandrashekar Hariharan, Chairman, BCIL
'Back in 2000, people spoke of making sustainability a cause. Today, the domain lies in conception, clarity, frameworks to be created, getting outcomes that match conceptual clarity, etc. The big change that has happened from 2010 is that, today, sustainability is not something I need to talk of as a cause. We need to work on systems and methodologies that have been set. IGBC will be launching a wellness rating system in October, which is to do with air quality. So, air is never talked about as what I call EWA: energy, water, waste and air. And referring to EWA, I must know how to work on some basic parameters. I have a grid of some 16 solutions put together.'
Aditya Yamsanwar, Director, Team One Architects
'Initially, going by the standard rule, the clients would give us the layout and expect us to get the fit-outs done in 75 days. However, in recent times, the client understands the benefit of employee engagement and is ready to bend down on their requirements if required. So the big shift is not just in understanding green buildings but ensuring employee engagement and employment-related activities. Architects are now getting into understanding the company's background and purpose of establishing the office set-up. Alternate work strategies (AWS) is a concept where instead of 100 people and 100 tables, you may as well have 80 tables. The ratio shows that out of the 20 per cent you leave out, 5-6 per cent are either on medical leave or away for some other purpose; 7-8 per cent of the people are travelling for their projects, processes and systems. So that boils down to 15 and an additional 5 per cent is future expansion. So, if this space was designed for 100 people, 80 people are using it and the blank spaces (of the 20 people) are now being converted into collaborative spaces. Further, everyone has opted for the open office concept. It has its own issues, which are not being challenged as of this moment. But it has been a trend. So we now plan for open workspaces of about 60-70 per cent and closed cubicles of 20 per cent, again under AWS.
It is an ever evolving entity.'
Arnab Ghosh, Director, Synergy Property Development Services
'We have been designing and managing offices for the past 15-20 years. What we have realised is that the CEOs or managing directors of companies have been deciding the office space design brief. Generation X, the midlevel managers, are actually executing that and the biggest percentage of the workforce in these offices are millennials born after 1980.
So, the older generation is deciding how millennials will be working, which was creating a big rift in the larger companies. But over the past decade, a lot of conservative companies have realised that if they really want to retain talent, they need to change the way they design their workplaces. Also, there might be people in the future who divide their time between multiple companies rather work for one. Keeping all this in mind, flexibility and collaboration are of prime importance in the workplace. Currently, it is a combination of an open office, meeting rooms, phone booth, quiet zones, breakout space, etc. Also, people now prefer larger floor plates to multiple floor plates where you are sitting in a cubicle, isolated in one floor which is part of five floors. This is what is going to change, for which we need the technology to help design spaces and make the space more flexible.'
Sumeet Sharma, Service Delivery Head-India Corporate Real Estate Services, Capgemini
'There are few clear relationships that have been established by people who measure productivity at work. One is that the way you treat your employees is exactly how they end up treating your customers. Second, 'engaged employees' is a concept that had to be done away with because what it meant to the employee was that he is being driven by a slave master who wants to engage him and get work done out of him. It became somewhat of a condescending term as new generations of workers came in. And, then we slowly moved to productivity, and HR managers decided to bring in something much more neutral and the concept of 'empowered employee' was brought in. Going forward, all these ways of engaging the employee will be converted into an engagement called 'employee experience' - especially with millennials coming in.
Workplace design will have to meet three important criteria: Biophilic workspace, technophilic workspace and sociophillic workspace. An increasing number of workers will not have seen country life before, having been born and raised in a urban, concrete environment. A biophilic workplace (which incorporates elements of nature) will help reduce the stress levels that come with urban life. The technophilic workspace is also becoming important because the new generation of workers can easily use technology in the virtual space to navigate between the physical space they have, the virtual world they live in, the workplace they deliver in and the social world they are connected with. As in the sociophilic workspace, for this generation of workers, it is becoming important to feel seamless in their workspace because, back home, within their nuclear family structure, they are breaking the barriers of gender and non-intrusion and moving on from stereotypical roles. Now that everyone has to deliver equally, they will demand equally.'
Mylam Sukumar,VP-Asset Management (India), Head of FM Services (South India), Knight Frank
'When the economy opened up under globalisation in 1990s and international companies came into India, they started building and they were particularly focusing on IT, ITS and BPOs.
It started with the need for the workplace to be centrally located geographically. The architect would focus on the look and
feel. The focus then moved on to green building features: How efficient is my workplace, is my CAPEX going up?
Also, speaking of the workplace of the future, technology is a buzzword. But technology itself is evolving today.
Ultimately, the end objective is the profitability quotient.
Then comes productivity and how people can be retained.'
Shashank Singh, Director and Head-Connected Lighting Business, India, Philips Lighting
'As and how technology develops, we will have solutions getting more and more adaptive and flexible.
We put the data together, go back to the customer and say that this is your utilisation. And, we show them the way forward to save energy. For some of us hosting a cloud, they give us permission to monitor the given feedback. They also get to know if a fixture is about to fail and apply preventive maintenance. The connected workplace is here and it will evolve. Speaking of capex and opex, some amount of integration comes in. You can have strong sensor-based technology in different areas and several light points that are already present in an environment connected to a data stream of 100 mbps. Can you bring that onto one platform? Can you converge it and give it the same experience users want? That needs collaboration across industries. One option could be lighting management systems coming together with a BMS system at a cost and bringing an experience together. That is in progress.'
Harish MV, COO, Project & Development Services (PDS), JLL
'In the past five years, JLL research indicates that in the US, about 30 per cent of employees behave more like freelancers. Nobody wants one single job. So you have people who have expertise in a subject matter and would like to step in when a particular project suits them. That means, when you are planning a workplace, it is no more a ratio of 100 sq ft per person. So you need to have a blend of this liquid workforce. Of course, you still need to have 70 per cent of employees. The challenge lies in ensuring that the freelancers have that sort of autonomy and the pride of fulltime employees remains. Further, much is spoken about robots and artificial intelligence.
Many mundane things are done by the machine, with the milestone being that it has to be creative, collaborative and innovative.
And, while we talk about millennials, we cannot do away with other generations. Now you have people coming in from different countries. It is not only generations but diversity at the workplace. Workplace design has to be multi-generation û I call it age agnostic. Experience and energy have to match and then the business thrives. On the technology front, I am sure a lot is coming from project management technology. Speaking of materials, wellbeing and green building standards are important. We are working with some clients where the material is decided based on the VOC. The impact of materials used on employee health is given a lot of prominence.'
Viswanath Seetharam, Deputy General Manager-Facilities, Work Environment & Infrastructure, Cleartrip
'Speaking of green sustainability, that is exactly what we did at Cleartrip. It was a simple thought that came to my mind where, like every other company, the focus was on reducing cost and getting the best out of the facility. Today, I can say that 20,000 sq ft in the Bengaluru facility is not supported with a UPS facility at the workstations. And, none of the employees have experienced a power issue or power fluctuations.'
Siddhartha Chatterjee, Strategy & Marketing, Cloud, IOT and Connected Services, Honeywell Building Solutions
'A critical factor contributing to employee productivity is indoor air quality. We at Honeywell went back to a standard definition and were guided by ASHRAY, which specified that comfort is based on several parameters, not only temperature: Humidation, CO2, lux and noise levels. A combination of all of these leads to better employee productivity and happiness. Also, a recent change in technology we brought in was the whole delivery of the BMS system; it is no more energy-centric but people-centric. The latest BMS now tracks the employee happiness index of a particular building as a whole, a particular room as well as a space.'
Maj Aditi Mohan, VP-Admin & Facilities, Fidelity National Financial
'This is my second tenure with Fidelity National Financial. When I joined the organisation, the facility was in a dilapidated state and everything had to be newly done in terms of design, plan, technology, happiness and productivity. We carried out a facility risk assessment and with the report, it was easier for us to appreciate what would lead us to designing the new workplace.
For me, it was more of being an extended family. We eventually moved in last June.
It was challenging but we take pride in saying that we inaugurated the facility in a record time.'
- SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN