Next-gen workplaces: The role of design and technology in enhancing employee productivity

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Next-gen workplaces: The role of design and technology in enhancing employee productivity
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Next-gen workplaces: The role of design and technology in enhancing employee productivity

01 Aug 2018 Long Read
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 bottomline. So, can companies use workplace design as a retention tool, and how?

Such questions were recently deliberated upon in Delhi when CW, through its Roundtable arm, put together a discussion on 'Workplaces of the Future'. The panel comprised 12 members, including consultants, architects, solution providers and others who play a key role in workplace design. Event moderator Sandeep Sethi, Chair-Corporate Solutions & Managing Director, IFM-West Asia, JLL, said, 'This topic is of relevance to just about everyone - designers, builders or service providers.'
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 were discussed. Excerpts:

Sandeep Sethi, Chair, Corporate Solutions

 & Managing Director, IFM, West Asia, JLL

There is a realisation of the connection between workplace services and ability to retain talent. A CFO of a Fortune 100 company recently told me that most employees who had left them had done so owing to workplace reasons - the commute not being good enough, the office not creative enough or cafeteria not good enough. In the past, it was linear but now it requires more ideation, collaboration and networking. That has to be reflected in office design. Also, different generations are working together. In JLL, about 10,000 people come to work for us every day; 70 per cent are millennials. The other day, somebody said, 'The office of the future will will be a place where people come for experience and networking ideation and no longer to work on desks.' So, office designs are certainly full of fun, play and colour - and there is art and science behind it as well.

 Shashank Singh, Director & Head,

Connected Lighting Business, Philips India

In terms of improving office productivity, most customers are speaking our language: Can we give the right light and an element of personalised controls of lighting to employees creating not only a great place to work but also a highly productive and comfortable environment? Can I integrate temperature and climate control through sensors on lights and get oxygen and CO2 levels monitored? Can I give a different exponential lighting concept for a collaborative zone? Can I use lighting fixtures to know occupancy for space utilisation? At one of the larget technology companies in the world, in Bengaluru, we have installed about 12 lakh sq ft with lights powered by Ethernet cables - POE (Power over Ethernet) - where power and data travel on the same Ethernet cables. We are now also offering LiFi or Light Fidelity through our fixtures, ensuring a consistent internet access and a highly secure environment. Last quarter, we also launched ZigBee-based wireless-connected solution with the same benefits like occupancy, daylight harvesting and heatmap data to get insights on space optimisation. This system allows for multi-site dashboard integration, so an organisation can view a single dashboard and compare energy usage and space usage across its different buildings across the world.

Joy Banerjee, Project Manager, Piveta Estates (Max Group)

Synergies have to be practical. We cannot cut and paste; we are not Japanese or Americans but Indians and proud of it. You can have an open space or a complete cubicle or a blend of both. But at the end of the day, whatever improvisation has happened, we are still struggling with basics. For instance, floor to ceiling height was a problem 20 years ago-and still is. This and the washroom ratio are basic questions. I am happy things are calibrating now. We had a phase where people were more attracted by how many artefacts you put in. There has been compromise on light-you convert from a clear white to warm white so it looks 'wow', which is not required considering the practicalities of your working area. Another important aspect is the use of glass in the facade. We first put a tremendous amount of glass, then we start managing the HVAC system; in turn, we are increasing the carbon footprint and cleaning and maintenance. The building may look beautiful but does it serve the purpose?

Col Sunil Khorana, Head-Administration & Security, Hero Moto Corp

Because of better technology, today, you have specialists in each item. These sub-items have to join together to make the product. Thus, when we talk of collaboration and inclusion, you need work areas where somebody working on Part A, somebody working on Part B and somebody working on Part C need to interact. Unless they sit together and talk, the result will not be there. This is the role of technology in terms of the core function. In terms of designing and building, you need to define workspaces on the basis of what are you manufacturing, producing and delivering to the customer.

You need excellent communication systems, whether it is verbal, face to face or through wire as you may be working at different floors. That said, technology alone will not give you solutions, you need the human factor. Technology is a means of satisfaction but psychology adds the human element to the solution.

Rohit Raj Puniani, Associate Director, Space Matrix India

The right technology, whether it is lighting or quality of air, has an important impact. That has now come into focus in the past year in Delhi-NCR with BM 2.5 levels going very high. So last year, whenever we have interviewed employees, they talk about the kind of lighting and air quality they need in office. These have become critical aspects for us to design spaces; for instance, we have been working with a client that listed these as critical aspects and they have empowered their employees to note the levels of air quality. So every employee can check the level of air quality in the office.

Capt Rajesh Sharma, Managing Director-IFM

& Asset Sevices, Cushman & Wakefield

                           The culture of the organisation and business play an important role.
The requirements are different and may vary from company to company and industry to industry. For example, take a big client with about 300,000 sq ft spread across 10 floors. Generally, for a washroom, you deploy a housekeeping person there so he can clean it after, say, 100 uses. Now we put an LED sensor at the washroom's door. After 90-plus uses, the light turns from green to yellow, and after 100 it turns red. So you need not dedicate manpower for this. Be it is lighting or air-conditioning, we need a matrix to determine whether the money put in comes in as RoI.

H Ramanathan, Senior General Manager

-Administration, Benetton India

I would like to share a different idea and concept: The triple bottomline. Earlier, triple bottomline would refer to profits, RoIs, shareholder management and things like that. Now, people are looking more towards planet profits, encompassing the environment, social or human and financial aspects. So if you are able to pin down these three elements, the RoI automatically improves. All three put together translates to a different level of customer delight. Not customer satisfaction, it is customer delight, an experience! So when we talk about RoI, today, it is more to do with the people and the environment rather than on financial aspects, translating to huge economies.

Sheetal Rakheja, Co Chair, IGBC, and

Managing Partner,  AEON Designs & Developers

While designing a couple of offices, we realised that the one thing being missed out is natural daylight and that nature had a major role in enhancing employee productivity. Even in our office, we moved from a basement to an office that is completely naturally lit with good views outside and we have seen a lot of difference in happiness quotient and enthusiasm. We did a lot of retrofit jobs where they had more walls than daylight and views. We created hanging courtyards and brought in greenery and nature. Employees are now walking in through natural spaces, greenery and water bodies, to which they have access. These green measures are leading to better employee health and productivity while lowering operation costs. If you are putting in energy-efficient measures, it is for the benefit of the employees, the end-users. Ultimately it is about people's comfort and wellbeing and environment responsibility.

Col Ashok Prabhakar, Vice President,

Commercial Services, NIIT Technologies

When looking at the workplace of the future, one needs to think of bringing nature in and creating green spaces and views, while simultaneously optimising space as facility managers. The offices of the CFOs, CEOs and project managers and the cubicles will be smaller; we are looking at a space with no workstations. At the back of our mind, humans are looking at space in an office complex. To get there, you have to move away from all cables and offer Wi-Fi connectivity for everybody, which is taking time. I would not say we can be like the Googles of the world but the next level has to move forward gradually. That step forward is happening and will take some time. We also have to remain connected in the sense that we ensure the comfort of the staff in various forms - whether it is food, crèches, or health and recreation, like gyms and swimming pools.

Sukhpreet Singh, Associate

Director, M Moser & Associates

You need to design spaces that are meant for all kinds of people. So, we try to understand the basic requirement of the workspace. For instance, people have started realising that closed meeting rooms are not used much or even cubicles. When they do a survey, they find that probably 50 per cent or, say, 20 per cent of the workspace is not utilised - what do you do in that scenario? You probably try to keep that 20 per cent agile and keep 80 per cent fixed.

So, it is important to understand the right kind of fit before you actually get into putting up a swanky looking space or maybe a colourful space with all collaboration.

Deepak Uppal, Executive Director, Vatika Group

We design and manage business centres. We ake charge from concept to completion and manage office spaces that are let out on a per-seat basis on a pan-India model. Then, we try to create the joy of working. We try to use BMS and as much technology as possible.

For example, we have introduced a visitor management system where visitors don't have to wait in a queue. For pre-appointed visitors, an OTP comes to the guard; once you share it, you are let in. The moment the visitor's mobile number is entered, all his data is available and captured. We also have a document management system.

Sandeep Roy, COO, Nelson India

Offices have gone to our homes for a long time now; there is no reason for the home not to start coming into the office. Lounges or sofas have started looking like what we have at our home and that vocabulary is starting to get mixed up. Because when people spend 12 hours at an office, you want that to happen. In that sense, I am a little bit of a casteist, in the sense that I am a total labourer and believe every office has a context. Also, a traditional HVAC problem was rewiring and re-cabling. Now, apps have come in to help, rather than just putting it in. Somebody was talking of colour-changing lights and warmth from light - all these are now available on an app.

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