What the workplace says about your brand

Every business stretching to be the best needs its people to be at their best

For decades, office design was focused on productivity and functionality. It was a straightforward transaction: employees performed duties and were paid in return. Over time, office design became more adventurous. It evolved from organic groupings to cubicles to the ubiquitous and much maligned open plan. But, while fans tout the benefits of hotdesking and collaboration, another paradigm shift is underway—one that focuses on “experience”.

Now, places of work are undergoing their most dramatic evolution to date driven by employees who want to realize their own purpose alongside that of their places of business.

Bringing such an ambitious vision to life requires workspace design—not to be confused with office design. The latter is essential and governs layout, headcount, resources and utilities, but workspace design is a discipline and mindset that connects office design to the brand. It dictates the journey, the overall experience and ensures that the brand’s values and function are reflected in the physical, human and digital space, much like retail.

A workspace that is a meaningful and engaging experience, and offers purpose, will foster employees that are passionate, innovative and committed to the brand. see four factors contributing to the development of the workspace experience in 2020:

The erosion of barriers between the professional and personal

The way people work is changing, be it the location, hours spent, or tools used. Professional doesn’t have to mean corporate. Engagement isn’t superficial and business cultures and values are adjusting and expanding to accommodate this.

Talent is a precarious resource

Companies are battling to attract and retain the best. The incentives are now more than simply financial. People want a place where they feel they can belong, make their voice heard and where they can express themselves through their work. Increasingly, culture is what businesses are selling and culture is built on the workforce. Companies need to invest in how employees work and how they feel.

Behind-the-scenes is the new scene

Traditional sector barriers are breaking down. Offices are hosting shops, shops are hosting workshops, and customers are being invited to get closer to brands and see how products are made. Greater transparency gives customers access to what was previously “behind the scenes”.

Employees are the brand experience

They provide ever new opportunities to bring the brand to life, both in terms of how they look, act, their advocacy and the experience they deliver.

Microsoft HQ designed by FITCH

A leading example is the recently launched Microsoft Asia Pacific HQ in Singapore. This workspace was designed to look and behave like a flagship store. It brings to life the brand via storytelling and inspiring, immersive experiences. Importantly, Microsoft brand values are reflected in the overall experience—across physical, human, and digital touchpoints.

Microsoft HQ, Innovation Factory designed by FITCH

The Microsoft HQ experience is the future of workspace: a place for employees to come together collectively with customers and partners to create, collaborate and share purpose.

The need to knit the physical, human and digital elements of the workspace together is now an essential rather than a “nice-to-have”. A building is more than bricks and mortar: it’s a place of engagement.

Microsoft HQ designed by FITCH

Generic rarely breaks through. To challenge conventions, inspiration must be found elsewhere. Other high experience spaces provide compelling learnings including new-to-market retail and hospitality concepts, as well as contemporary public spaces like galleries and libraries. To answer changing needs, each is launching new formats, services and journeys for audiences that exemplify their individual brand, but also offer new and greater experiences. This should be true of workspaces too.

FITCH’s workplace take-outs:

So, how can brands maximize the role of the workplace to drive value and growth?

1. Make the future of the workplace an experience

Almost three quarters (72 percent) of millennials would rather have an experience than a material item. To attract and retain talent, progressive businesses understand that they need to design spaces that are as effective and influential as those designed for customers.

2. Link your purpose to your brand attributes

A workplace connects the physical, human and digital elements to create an environment that is not only functional and productive, but also embodies the brand and its culture. Bringing an ambitious vision to life requires a workspace experience design—not to be confused with office design.

3. Help employees feel belonging and purpose

To do this you need to observe and understand employees’ emotional needs before designing an experience that creates belonging, and add brand attributes for a unique signature. The result is a workplace experience that unlocks employee potential.