The Role Of The Future Office: Innovation, Mentorship and Culture

NINE dot ARTS’ Martha Weidmann shares how workplaces can, and must, transform into a space of innovation, mentorship and culture.  

Gates Family Foundation break room

Maya Angelou once said, “people won’t remember what you said; people won’t remember what you did; people will only remember how you made them feel.”

Never has this been truer than in our current world. As we continue to deal with the implications and future impacts of COVID-19 on our workforce, businesses are faced with a unique opportunity. The workplaces of the future must focus on purpose, on mission, on passion. And the office space should reflect that.

Here’s how workplaces can, and must, transform into a space of innovation, mentorship and culture.  

It All Starts With Team

If COVID-19 and its aftermath have taught us anything, it’s that present employees don’t necessarily equal productive employees. Gone are the days when staff are required to be face-to-face in corporate headquarters from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. In fact, many organizations have discovered that employee productivity actually increased in a remote working environment.

So, how do we enter the modern age of work with a traditional workplace setting? The role of the future office must set its sights on the value and concept of teamwork.

Ask yourself:

How can we create social spaces that enhance collaboration and innovation?

How are we developing a physical environment to display our brand values?

Forward-thinking offices will emphasize creating space for connection, building social capital and serving as a catalyst for team bonding. Therefore, executives and workplace designers should focus on upgrades that fulfill the demands of an organization’s priorities and mission.

In a recent study, McKinsey and Company found that businesses must design workspaces to support interactions that are not possible to achieve remotely. For instance, if team collaboration is essentially lost in a remote environment, how can you foster this type of collaboration with in-person spaces? What modifications to a traditional cubicle and office setup will be required to create open areas for engagement and interaction?

Here’s how this could look in action:

  • Create collaborative spaces that are catalysts for innovation
  • Design a social lounge or “living room” dedicated to employee bonding, brainstorming and relaxing
  • Utilize both indoor and outdoor spaces for events, happy hours and even workshops
  • Divide larger spaces into smaller “vignettes” where two to four people can connect

And don’t forget the power of the space itself. The aesthetic of a space helps bring ideas to life. Art, plants, furniture can all foster partnership and well-being. In fact, Exeter University’s recent study about the impact of art in the workplace found that productivity in an office went up 17 percent when art was hung on the walls. Another study by NINE dot ARTS found that 92 percent of people say art installations elicit positive feedback.

Home Advisor HQ

Create A Place For Talent Development And Mentorship

Attracting and retaining talent is critical for any company’s long-term success. While recent circumstances have led to more consideration of remote positions, there is still much to be said for the role of a workplace in talent development.

Some of the most innovative companies place strong emphasis on being around peers, learning from others continually and knowing they’re part of something bigger.

To answer this need, organizations must ask how to design a workplace that focuses on training and supports development across teams. Even for remote positions, regular in-person visits to corporate headquarters are not out of the ordinary. Your office can set the tone, display your values and house your mission visually.

As you re-evaluate your office space, think about how to dedicate place for talent development and mentorship. Create communal purpose and encourage your employees to celebrate common goals.

One way to do this is through art and design, which are tangible pillars of company, culture, values, stability and long-term success. Go through a discovery process and talk about the roots of your company and the story you want to tell. Then, select art pieces that resonate with that message.

For The Gates Family Foundation, land protection and conservation remain a strong initiative and a story worth sharing. So when they moved to their new facility, they knew this was the story they needed to share. Their brand-focused art installation shares the rich history of Colorado and its Native American heritage, natural assets and Western roots. With over 25 pieces of art spanning more than 20,000 square feet, the collection is a daily reminder to staff of the organization’s mission and why their heart beats for the cause.

Home Advisor HQ

Build Out Your Culture In A Visual Way

Ultimately, you must make your office a place that centers around your brand: how it came to be and why the work you do matters. Use your office space as a place of company pride.

Art is a creative way to tell your story while also creating social space and inspiring innovation. In fact, over 60 percent of individuals surveyed by NINE dot ARTS said it’s critical that art chosen for their space expresses the brand, mission and vision of the business.

In other words, art is the visual representation of your brand and your culture.

One way to do this is through an emerging trend of multidisciplinary art, or combining various methods for storytelling. This type of art is done with intention and focuses on harnessing your brand’s history and values through any available space, including murals on parking garage walls to paintings hung in conference rooms and sculptures displayed in your lobby.

Immersive storytelling like this draws people into your facility and fosters connection and conversation.

Home Advisor’s recent office renovations in Denver provide a prime example. When they consolidated multiple small offices into one larger office, they wanted to craft a vision focused around the theme of “The Home.” For Home Advisor, this ordinary, playful and memorable space was not only on brand for them, but important to their employees. The resulting art collection included a two-story mural, featured three local Colorado artists and utilized groupings of rediscovered objects and curiosities. The collection, which was also connected to the design of the space, allows employees to feel at home in an otherwise conventional industrial space.

Why Reimagining Workspaces Is A Must

A lot has changed in the past few years. As businesses look to reimagine what their physical office space will look like, they must return to the basics. Future focused companies will turn an eye to innovation, mentorship and culture both within the confines of their physical location and in their growth plans.

Redesigning workspaces will take inward reflection and a deep understanding of what the organization wants to achieve, how it will support its employees and the importance of culture. Those who succeed will do so by fostering collaboration and connection, all while creating something memorable.

After all, you want your office to be a perk, not a requirement.

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