So what do you do for a living?
I’ve often had the funny experience of having to explain what I do for a living at social gatherings. I love being a part of the Workplace world. Due to this, I typically quickly overwhelm the person inquiring about my career with far more information than they probably wanted. After their eyes glaze over they focus in on the one part of the explanation they are familiar with. “Oh you work in facilities.” “Oh you work in design?” "Oh you work in real estate." These are just a few of the common responses.
However, I’ve also found that even as an industry we often have a difficult time defining what Workplace Experience IS, and how it fits into the grand scheme of the global business. A side note here that companies call the Workplace team a variety of names as well, which adds to confusion. Workplace, Operations, Facilities, Office, Places team are just a few of the names the industry uses.
The rest of this blog is simply my attempt to help bring some clarity to the confusion based on my experiences, observations, and the way I see the future of Workplace Experience developing. This might be hubris, but I beg forgiveness as I feel this is something that we as an industry really need to define. So if nothing else, I hope this gets you thinking.
In the beginning...
In a land before computers and skyscrapers, there were people who managed businesses. Often these businesses physical space were managed by partners and clerks, the same people who managed the actual business. The clerk to me has always represented the earliest verison of a Workplace persona. As time went on and people started working in larger more complex companies, they moved into a time of secretaries managing offices. Though these individuals worked hard and surely created incredible organization, there was a discernible lack of upward mobility for the individuals, and not much desire from comapnies to creatively improve upon the Workplace.
As we moved into the modern era there was a move to office managers. Those team members who help to run every factor of an office. These captains of their ships could be responsible for anything from payroll, to minor HR items, to events, and even to managing the facilities. While this is still the norm for many companies, there is a distinct shift towards a new type of professional and organization style for Workplace Teams. This shift involves moving away from a specific subject matter expert leading the team, to a multi-disciplined individual leading the way for teams with varying responsibilities / skills.
Workplace Experience is, simply put, the totality of the experiences any person has in the space controlled by your company. For employees the Experience starts when they are recruited, and it ends on their last day as they leave the building. Throughout that time their Experiences should be consistent, enjoyable, and with limited encumbrances. Consistency will help lead to greater productivity, and overall a better outcome for the company and employee mutually.
Why even call it Workplace Experience instead of just Workplace? Experience also denotes a rising movement noted by many research firms and architectural firms as well - people don’t want things to just be good enough. People want a great experience, especially in the place they spend more time than at home, the Workplace. According to Gensler’s recent Experience Index study, “creating a good experience isn’t enough; the best places—ones that engage people’s emotions and keep them coming back—have to be great.”
Workplace Experience professionals, thus, need a variety of skills they need to draw from, and or people skilled in a variety of disciplines they need to utilize in order to manifest such Experiences. These disciplines include space planning, project management, real estate, interior design, wellness, event management, procurement, food / beverage, and vendor management. What’s more they need to have excellent communication skills to keep up with the constant communication / feedback loops that exist in today’s modern companies.
Workplace Experience is a very complex field. However, if you break it down into it’s main disciplines, it becomes easier to understand. Then it just becomes a matter of effort and care, not money.
How You Can Improve Your Workplace Experience
Over the next two months I’m going to be putting out a series of blogs that sum up my philosophy on Workplace Experience. The first blog is going to touch on how the scale of your company relates to Workplace Experience (from here on referred to as WX). From there we will touch on the varying disciplines that are a part of WX and how they can best be utilized to help create a unique, and consistent Experience for your team.
I hope you’ll join me.