Workplace Week New York City 2019

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Didn’t get the chance to make it to Advanced Workplace Associates’ (AWA) Workplace Week in New York City this year? Jo Sutherland recaps the event which showcases innovative offices with all proceeds go to charity.

Shutterstock – the fast-growing, international image site – relocated from the Financial District in 2014 to its 85,000 square foot space in the Empire State Building (after a $10 million renovation).

Workplace Week is a philanthropic event, organized by workplace consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), that shines a spotlight on some of the most innovative, creative and celebrated workspaces in the world, all while raising money for children’s charities. Having run annually in the UK since 2011, the workplace spectacle crossed the Atlantic to New York City last summer. Due to the success of that premiere, Workplace Week New York returned this June. The two stateside events have so far raised over $40,000 for I Have a Dream Foundation – New York, a charity that empowers children in low-income communities to achieve higher education.

“The idea was that Workplace Week could open people’s eyes to new thinking on ways of working, workplace design and technology,” said Andrew Mawson, founder of AWA, during a fringe event designed to demystify the nature of workplace transformation and change management. “There is a growing body of research on the impact that working environments, workplace habits and culture have on people and broader business performance. What Workplace Week attempts to do is find organizations that get that.”

And the workplace consultants were successful in their quest. More than twenty forward-thinking organizations took part in this year’s event, including Boston Consulting Group, GroupM, PwC, Deloitte and MetLife, among others.

The design for Group M Worldwide’s HQ was created with the goal of increasing collaboration among employees.

Cultivating innovation

Blackstone Innovations is the technology team at asset management company Blackstone. Serving both colleagues and clients, Blackstone Innovations provides employees and investors with the information and tools they need to grow. Described as ‘a fast-paced meritocracy that thrives on the sharing of ideas, facilitating individual growth and creating a fun, open team environment,’ Blackstone Innovation adopts a similarly open and tech-led approach with the design and management of its workplace to foster competitive advantage.

Prior to moving to its 30,000-square-foot office in the heart of Lexington Avenue, Blackstone Innovation employees occupied a space that, by the company’s own admittance, was not particularly inspiring. Employees struggled to find a space that would allow them to mull over, let alone implement ideas. This lack of variety and choice meant these naturally creative people couldn’t be particularly creative. Nor could they innovate.

The design rationale for Blackstone Innovation’s 30,000-square-foot-office in the heart of Lexington Avenue was to create an agile environment that fosters a culture of collaboration and provocative thinking.

The move triggered a rethink. Now the new space has social areas, zones for collaborative and concentrative tasks, rooms for private conversations or phone calls, neighborhood zones, and even a sophisticated lounge area. The diversity of meeting spaces, coupled with the latest tech, allows individuals and teams to work in whichever way suits the tasks in hand. The introduction of color-coded neighborhood zones means teams now include ‘morning scrums’ into their day-to-day routines, and second-to-none video conferencing facilities helps everyone connect with their home-working or remote working peers.

Blackstone takes talent attraction seriously and recognizes the impact that a positive workplace culture can have on brand image. To demonstrate this, we were given a tour of the ‘suit up’ rooms – closets dotted around the space where the Blackstone Innovation team can ‘suit up and boot up’ before heading to the opposite office where the more corporate Blackstone employees are based.

Making the moves

Blackstone Innovation isn’t alone in using its workplace as a “hey, how you doin?” strategy to lure in the best of breed employees. In 2019, fintech firm MarketAxess relocated from 299 Park Avenue to its new headquarters in the dynamic Hudson Yards development. The firm signed a lease for more than 80,000 square feet of space (three times the size of its previous location) across three floors in the West Side’s newest boutique office tower.

MarketAxess’s exciting new move dovetailed with a new branding initiative, as well as a desire to reassess its culture as a successful and growing financial technology firm. In collaboration with Spacesmith, the aim was to create a workplace that would attract new hires and allow for future growth.

In 2019, fintech firm MarketAxess relocated from 299 Park Avenue to its new headquarters in the dynamic Hudson Yards development.

A decade ago, MarketAxess’ main competitor was JP Morgan. Now it’s the Facebooks and Googles of the world. Software developers and innovation engineers want something a bit edgy, suggested Dan Wolff, global head of infrastructure at MarketAxess during the tour. They don’t want cellular, clinical offices. They want variety. They want flexibility. They want the choice to work how and where they desire.

The workplace is a contingent factor in making the moves on potential employees. But, as Wolff rightly pointed out: “You can’t just paint a wall to transform culture.” Design only goes so far, he added. The leadership that goes with it is key. To that end, MarketAxess has recently implemented a flexible working policy to further ensure employees have the flexibility they need and expect to be the best.

No strings

So, how are the architecture and design firms demonstrating they get both the art and the science of workplace transformation, the principle behind Workplace Week?

M Moser Associates’ New York space in the Woolworth Building reimagines ways of working, encouraging movement and flexibility to meet the needs of each person, team or task. This raw, dynamic workshop is a ‘living lab’ that allows the business to test and develop a broad range of workplace strategies, ensuring the best results for clients. The workplace empowers people to adapt and innovate, providing freedom of choice as to how and where to work, while serving as a co-working space for strategic partners and clients.

M Moser describes its workplace as a ‘living lab’ with a fully-focused approach to creativity.

“We didn’t want to be stuck in a space that was stuck in the past,” said Grant Christofely, M Moser’s senior strategist. “We wanted a space we could shape, and that could shape us.”

There are no cables. No fixed furniture. Nothing ties the team down. A recent video shows the team reconfiguring the entire workplace six times over in the space of 10 minutes, demonstrating just how adaptable the space is.

For the 2019 London event this November, AWA has decided to turn up the whisk on workplace innovation by looking to attract international visitors. Will you be joining us there? The program will feature more than 25 tours and fringe events. Throughout the week, the science-based change management firm will be introducing some new workplaces, like the LinkedIn HQ, as well as showcasing some old favorites like the head office of insurance market Lloyds of London, whose heritage dates back to the 17th century.

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