Harnessing Innovation to Reimagine the Workplace
Creativity and productivity can flourish when cutting-edge technology combines with smart design.
designers, sales team and leadership working in different locations.
That all changed in 2018, when Interface completed work on the building known throughout the company as “Base Camp.” Described as an effort to bring teams together under one roof and solidify the company’s culture, the new global headquarters offered an opportunity for a different, innovative kind of work experience. With a combination of open-plan areas and smaller private rooms, the building was designed to personify the concept of what chief human resources officer Greg Minano calls “work choice.”
The ultimate goal, according to Minano, is for employees to freely choose from a selection of spaces suited to various activities and tasks. Common areas with bar seating and burbling coffee machines lend themselves to collaboration, while private nooks and breakout rooms for focused work take the place of the traditional cubicle. Since the start of the pandemic, Interface has also utilized an app that gives employees a simple, safe method of booking in-person work spaces that limit their exposure on days they want to come into the physical office.
“We’ve found it’s much easier now for colleagues to brainstorm and come to a consensus because the physical space facilitates productivity to a greater degree,” Minano says. “We’ve already seen improved outcomes and faster decision-making, and we expect to see even better outcomes as we continue to optimize the space and work forward.”
or many years, Interface, a global commercial flooring brand, didn’t have a centralized corporate headquarters. Instead, the 47-year-old company had a network of small offices across the metro Atlanta area, with many of its U.S.
The ultimate goal is for employees
to freely choose from a selection of spaces suited to various activities and tasks.
Technology Meets Design
rethinking every aspect of the traditional work experience, from physical office spaces to the technologies that drive the work we do.
Lauri Goodman Lampson, CEO of PDR, is on the forefront of this trend. Her Houston-based architecture and consulting firm creates offices that are built for a new era of work. Throughout their creative process, Lampson and her team consider everything from sightlines and seating arrangements to how their designs can enable new ways of thinking. From there, they look at how digital tools can be integrated into the work environment to support seamless, intuitive experiences.
“One thing I’m focused on right now is how to rethink meeting rooms to support hybrid work,” Lampson says. “When you have a camera in a room full of 10 people and a few of them are onscreen simultaneously, it’s difficult to make eye contact and see body language and facial expressions. So my team has been carefully thinking about sound, video and light quality, underpinning each of them with the right platforms and smart design choices. Ultimately, that’s what will create a better experience for in-person as well as remote workers.”
nterface’s office rethink is one prominent example of how balancing smart design with the changing needs of employees can open the door to new—and better—ways of working. The brand joins a growing group of innovative companies that are
(or mid-afternoon) coffee up to today’s personalized, high-tech standards. Features like touchless technology let workers enjoy their favorite coffee drinks by scanning a QR code—a thoughtful interface that also helps businesses facilitate a safe return to work. Meanwhile, a telemetry-based monitoring system allows the machine’s software to be updated in a manner similar to a smartphone.
“Technology continues to break down traditional boundaries, making it easier for people in different countries and cities to work effectively together regardless of differences in location and time,” says Kika Burhmann, vice president of sales at Nespresso USA. “The Nespresso Momento range was designed to complement the changing dynamics of our in-person office experience by combining innovative design and cutting-edge technology to offer exceptional coffee moments with peace of mind.”
Taken with other innovations, those small details add up to something bigger: that hard-to-define but vital element known as culture. While it’s still too early to say how new, hybrid models of work will play out across industries, savvy businesses will remember that emerging technology and great design mean little if they’re not operating in service of people. When they do, those innovative investments tend to pay off with similarly innovative results. Just look at examples like a recent client of Lampson’s: After reimagining their workspaces and introducing new employee-centric technologies, the business saw a 25% boost in “exploration”—a quality defined as the number of connections made outside of one’s immediate group, and a leading indicator of creativity and adaptability.
“The reason we missed the office is not because we missed the beautiful lobby or meeting rooms,” Lampson says. “It’s because we miss being with people in a place together, working on a common goal. The most innovative offices tap into that human energy—the desire to connect which motivates and inspires us to be our best and do our best.”
hile some innovations focus on the ways employees interact or work cross-functionally, others optimize aspects of office life. For example, machines like the Nespresso Momento bring the experience of preparing your morning
Every Detail Matters
The most innovative offices tap into that human energy—the desire to connect which motivates and inspires us to be our best and do our best.
Lauri Goodman Lampson
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goal as much as a strategic one. No part of the office sits at the nexus of culture more than the coffee area, where people meet up, exchange ideas and create connections over a freshly brewed cup. Machines like the state-of-the-art Nespresso Momento Coffee & Milk are designed to facilitate those moments by providing a coffee shop-style experience in the workplace, with low-touch and touchless features that allow for safe operation as more employees return to the physical office.
“With workplace dynamics and design changing, moments that encourage collaboration and inspiration between co-workers are critical now more than ever—and coffee plays a leading role in those important moments,” says Kika Buhrmann, vice president of B2C and B2B USA at Nestlé Nespresso SA. “Connecting might take a little more work, especially as we all adjust to being back in person and out from behind our cameras. This makes human interaction even more valuable.”
Prioritizing their teams’ social dimensions on both a micro and macro level offers smart managers a targeted way to build a sense of connection for employees. “Something as small as offering a quality cup of coffee to employees might seem like an insignificant detail, but it creates a positive impression of your workplace, as well as providing an enjoyable moment for colleagues,” Buhrmann says. “Increasingly, workplaces adhering to higher standards are rewarded with greater employee satisfaction, higher employee retention and improved employee performance and communication.”
In the years to come, carving out spaces for “us”—both physically and virtually—will be critical to how we work together. “What happened with the pandemic is that we had to systematically, intentionally rebuild culture,” Li says. “As we return to work, we’re again rebuilding what our culture will look like. What are the agreements we have? What is the common language we use? What are our shared beliefs and our accepted behaviors with each other? It’s never synchronic, and it’s never static.”