Katie Tedham is associate, senior designer & client relationship manager with Gensler.
How will the real estate needs of oil and gas companies change as they adopt more technology into their operations?
Tedham: We find when organizations transition to become more technology-focused, they’re able to shed real estate. For instance, moving to cloud-based storage negates the need for large server rooms, and implementing a mobility strategy means employees are no longer tethered to a desktop computer and a phone.
The knock-on effect is that while the individual’s workspace can be reduced, companies are able to program in more amenities to provide a variety of locations to work in. From small team huddle rooms, to innovation labs to cafeteria spaces. We think about this in terms of reducing the “I” space and increasing the “We” space so that collaborating with colleagues and across teams becomes much easier as the workplace becomes a flexible/hackable space that enhances that behaviour.
In the energy sector, it’s crucial that we don’t forget about field offices and control rooms. As technological integration happens within the context of the head office, and collaboration becomes easier, staff in satellite locations still need to feel included and that investments in their comfort, health and well-being is also being considered.
Can you talk about the diversity in work spaces and what they should look like in the future?
Tedham: Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is incredibly important and not just because it’s the right thing to do. Research has actually showed that highly inclusive environments yield greater innovation. Having more diverse backgrounds to draw on naturally leads to teams solving for a wider spectrum of challenges.
From a workplace design perspective, we think a lot about ambient belonging – what are the overt and covert messages in the design that signal to different groups of people that they belong there? Is the beer-stocked fridge and foosball table that we typically think of when we picture a tech start-up signalling that women are welcome, for instance? Does the design make it clear that members of the disabled community can easily move through the space?
As energy companies continue their pivot to greater technological integration, we’re going to see an increasing emphasis on workplace design that makes people from very varied backgrounds feel welcome.
What kind of investment can companies put on the individual worker?
Tedham: While adopting powerful new technology is an incredible tool for change, it’s not the only change agent. Businesses also need to consider how the workplace is going to support it. Neither spaces, nor new technology alone cause collaboration, creative thinking or knowledge sharing. For change to not only meet needs but also create habits, businesses must take a holistic approach. In addition to new space types, technology and amenities, a strategy must consider shifting culture and behaviours, breaking bad habits, embracing new processes, and leveraging team synergies.
Knowing that for most people, change doesn’t come easily, we believe that investing in change management – especially around a system-wide adoption of new technology – is perhaps the best way to invest in the individual worker.
What about the empowerment of the whole community?
Tedham: Well-being in the workplace has superpowers. By investing in your environment and creating programs that support the wellbeing of the whole workplace community, you can lay the groundwork for more productivity, greater innovation, and a competitive edge. As legacy technology gets overhauled, and the office gets the upgrades required to maximize that investment, we frequently see businesses elevating organizational wellbeing too. The collective effect on the whole workplace community is significant.
What amenities in a workplace are becoming increasingly more common today?
Tedham: Creating a great workplace experience requires a focus not just on space and effectiveness. The best strategies align space, culture, interaction, and behaviour to create a high-performance workplace experience that optimizes people’s performance. Gensler has actually researched the amenities that perform the best, both in terms of effectiveness and experience. Because amenities are investment, it’s important to prioritize them as well as alternate workspaces that provide the greatest performance boost. The spaces that deliver the greatest impact connect directly to people’s most salient needs and preferences: quiet places to perform focused or individual work, and spaces connected directly to collaboration and group innovation – innovation hubs, maker spaces and quiet/tech-free zones. Amenities with a non-work focus, such as lounges and break rooms, deliver the smallest performance gains.
That’s not to say they’re not important, they definitely are! What are research very clearly showed is that an amenity strategy that provides choice and variety is directly connected to a better workplace experience.
Katie Tedham was interviewed by Mario Toneguzzi .
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