Rethinking the Workplace
On Thursday, February 17th, Axios’ chief technology correspondent Ina Fried and business reporter Erica Pandey hosted a virtual Expert Voices roundtable discussion on the future of the workplace.
Real estate leaders, business executives and policymakers explored how the workplace and the nature of work have changed over the course of the pandemic, and considered how these shifts will impact both employees and employers moving forward.
Old and new ways of working
The pandemic exposed several flaws in the ways that we think about and experience work, many of which are now informing changes in how companies support their workforce professionally and emotionally.
- Julie Whelan, Global Head of Occupier Thought Leadership, CBRE Group: “I think that is something COVID has really exposed, is how important performance management is, and how critical it is going to be to do it right going forward. Especially as we become more decentralized and the challenge of perhaps inequitable experiences between those that are remote and those that are in the office really come to bear.”
- Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA): “Even those who found greater flexibility found greater burdens, like having to take care of children because the schools weren’t open, daycare was not available, and there were sick relatives and sick elders. The demands between work and life balance also sort of complicated all of that.”
- Matt Hayner, Principal, HLGstudio: “I think we have to constantly remind ourselves…that there is a population of people that there’s a potential for greater inequity to occur if we’re not thinking of that group as well, and being mindful of that workplace experience is also evermore important.”
- Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ): “I think we’re going to need a couple years really to feel out what the American worker wants to do, because it’s a very emotional time, and mental health issues that we’re dealing with from being cooped up at home…at the end of the day, that still plays into any factors that you’re looking at for the workplace.”
The physical workspace
Attendees expressed that the office itself has not been rendered obsolete even as many workers continue to work remotely, emphasizing that the concept of the workspace is evolving in response to the new normal.
- Darren Graver, Research Lead, Density, Inc.: “Workplace as a thing, as a commodity, is taking on this almost product-like persona now, whereby we’re moving much more to user-centered design, so spaces that are much more dynamic.”
- Jason Hartke, Executive Vice President of External Affairs, International WELL Building Institute: “I think that since the pandemic, the use of space and the importance of space has not diminished, instead I think it’s just the opposite. It’s increased, it’s more pronounced, it’s really more important, particularly as it relates to how businesses meet critical goals.”
The role of technology
Conversations pointed out that the affordances and drawbacks of an accelerated shift to digitization in an era of hybrid work will have implications across the future of recruiting, retainment, equitable access, and the overall employee experience.
- Priyanka Singh, Chief People Officer, Compass, Inc.: “It really has pushed us in terms of equalizing access to different talent pools, and different talent pools being able to apply for jobs that they traditionally wouldn’t have.”
- Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY): “We would not have had a really easy time economically if this had happened 15 years ago. Think about the disruption in the workplace if this pandemic had hit before we had broadband, before we had the kind of tools we had.”
Thank you Density for sponsoring this event.