Millennial employees and the graduating workforce have high expectations when it comes to the workplace. The Centric Labs’ Josh Artus, co-founder and director, and Araceli Camargo, lab director, share their insights.
How can businesses adapt to fulfill the needs of the next generation of talent?
There’s more investment into architectural design than there is into day-to-day management, coaching and understanding of the basic dynamics of a workforce.
It’s crazy how sports teams have tons of coaches focusing on particular muscles, but a large occupier’s HR department is mostly just focusing on sharing office options, rather than built-in wellness strategies, for example.
There’s been a widening gap between the creators or suppliers of space and the daily users of space — but the industry is trying to join the dots. It’s identifying how things like creativity can be enabled — there needs to be dedication to truly understanding this workforce and building strategies around them, rather than hoping everyone fits in with hot desking because it’s the trend du jour.
While occupier surveys are full of interesting insight, it’s heavily subjective and, quite frankly, none of us really know who we are. We often need to have things help structure our lives for us.
There’s power in understanding a workflow from a cognitive perspective or even a logical perspective. It’s time to actually invest more effort into understanding performance and how to curate a business around people rather than the other way around.
Space allocation is more important than ever — this audience will demand more from meeting spaces — not just boardrooms, but myriad meeting spaces ranging from casual first meets, up to the more sophisticated negotiation-ideation type meeting spaces.
At the moment, spaces aren’t having that conversation — you’re either stuck in an unwelcoming lobby that echoes and doesn’t give any semblance that you can connect with somebody, or in a loud coworking space that doesn’t bring people together because it’s so big.
Humans can only deal with a certain amount of information at one time. It’s just about being smarter. We’ve been studying a science building where their private to public spaces ratio is incorrect, meaning there’s a queue for the spaces where you can close the door, because the architects didn’t pay attention to how much more scientists actually spend acutely working on their own.
Equally their collaborative spaces aren’t really conducive for collaboration, because they’re sterile and not at all relaxing.
It sounds easy to see how you could go wrong, but how do you measure the success of corporate real estate?
Historically, the measure of productivity came through industrial engineering, but we were working in factories on repetitive tasks, which are highly measurable. We aren’t doing that any more because automation is taking away those repetitive tasks and changing what human performance is.
Now we measure human performance through well-being. Stress is at the crux of any cognitive impediment and our job is to look at how we support people cognitively and their well-being, so they’re not hitting a stress threshold.
It’s not a problem if somebody was asked to read a magazine in the foyer of a lobby — they’re not going to get stressed if it’s too noisy, too crowded or they don’t have their personal space.
But if you told that same person to write an intricate three-page proposal that will close a deal in a crowded foyer, you would see a change in their stress-levels. So that’s how we look at the measurement of both the success of the building and the support of the human.
You mentioned the proliferation of coworking spaces, how should businesses approach this on-trend style of design?
Size plays a massive role: 5000sq ft with poor acoustics and no semblance of privacy is not a good combination, especially if someone has to do all their tasks within that space. However if you were to divide that space up, enrich it and orchestrate it to match a range of different workloads, that’s a much better answer.
Not understanding what tasks are being carried out in the spaces can lead to really poor delivery of space. As a commercial developer, residential developer or someone trying to create this kind of ‘third space’, not knowing the audience can lead to a redundant space.
Life sciences companies, which are obviously growing massively in the UK in particular, have shown the ability to adopt and adapt.
Companies like Alexandria Real Estate, based mostly on the East Coast in the United States, has had a huge focus on life sciences, building science and agritech campuses with much more of an urban connection. They’re starting to hyperfocus around industries rather than assuming everyone likes the casual flavour of coworking.
The industry is grappling with the understanding of accessibility within real estate.
Done right, it enables a business to catapult forward, like New Lab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a multidisciplinary space that has hardware focused shared workspace, research lab, and hatchery for socially-oriented tech manufacturing.
Whether it’s product manufacturers or sophisticated robotics companies, they’re willing to pay a higher premium to have access to this infrastructure, because it’ll catapult their business forward.
The UK industry feels like it’s missing an understanding of what helps propel a business forward. The focus is too much on the commercial objective of being sold, but should more be about understanding the tasks, comfort levels and stresses that people solve from their own mental basis.
How can corporates and big businesses respond to Gen-Y’s core values?
The human-to-building and building-tohuman relationship needs to be balanced right so that we’re creating buildings that are human centric, but not to the point where we are over exhausting the building and running the building unsustainably.
We cannot talk about a productive workforce or human capital without addressing the stressors that climate change is going to have on people. Last year, for example, people had to do horrendous commutes in the heatwave, which would have had a massive effect on productivity.
We have to start having those conversations and understanding what the building needs to adapt to, because we can’t just jack up the air conditioning and contribute to even more CO2 emissions.
We must begin to strategise what the building needs to do to support people that are now having a cramped and possibly almost life-threatening commute to work. 70% of real estate hasn’t been created with climate change in mind or to adapt to how city life is going to change.
At the moment, the trend seems to be faux luxury: using really cheap materials to have the semblance of luxury because that is now synonymous to what a glitzy office looks like, but you’re not really paying attention to the human and you’re creating more waste. You’re also polluting people because those materials are made out of toxins that get onto skin and into the respiratory system.
On the other hand, there’s incredibly sustainable and smart buildings like The Edge [in Amsterdam], without any real conversation about the ‘human performance’. I think understanding that relationship as bidirectional is a priority.
Clipper Magazine is produced for Republic by Courier Media.
Article Last Updated: March 8, 2023