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Transcript: For Humans, By Humans: The Workplace with Joyce Bromberg & Sandy Speicher

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MS. ABRIL: Good morning, and welcome to Washington Post Live. I’m Danielle Abril, tech at work writer for The Washington Post.

The pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the way we think about work and the workplace. My first guest today is here to talk about the opportunities ahead as we conceptualize the post‑pandemic workplace and culture.

I'd like to welcome Sandy Speicher. She's the CEO of design and consulting firm, IDEO. Welcome to Washington Post Live, Sandy.

MS. SPEICHER: Thanks, Danielle. Great to be here.

MS. ABRIL: Now, I want to give a quick reminder to our audience that we want to hear from you. So please tweet your questions to @PostLive.

Sandy, this seems to be an interesting time for leaders of different companies as they chart a path forward following the pandemic, perhaps even more so for you coming from a design and design‑thinking lens. I want to know what lessons are you taking away from the pandemic to inform your future projects.

MS. SPEICHER: That's a great question. I think that we're all still learning‑‑excuse me. I think that we're all still learning about what the pandemic is teaching us, and I think it's going to take years for us to really know what's changed inside of us.

But I think one of the first things that feels really clear is that relationship, so the foundation of everything, and our relationships are really showing their challenges right now. Our relationships with work are changing. Our relationships with each other are changing, our relationships with information, our relationships with the planet, and we're becoming much more conscious of what it means to be part of a collective experience. And that's changing the way we think about the experiences that we have, the organizations that we want to be a part of, and how we want to spend our days.

MS. ABRIL: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.

I also want to ask, you know, how has the pandemic shifted‑‑and you kind of mentioned a little bit about this, but how has it shifted the narrative on how we think about work?

MS. SPEICHER: Well, I think that for a lot of people, they have spent time now not in the paradigm of the traditional approach to work, where you are expected to come to work every single day at a certain time, expected to be in a seat at a certain, you know, time and place, and we've really learned that work can happen in a whole lot of different ways.

Now, we've also been in a situation where we have had limited options for how we can actually go about work. For some, that's meant going in every day. For some, that has meant being at home every day. And so, what's great about his moment right now is it's a chance to design how we want to be in the future together, and we recognize now, I think, that there are a lot of different ways that we can go about doing our work.

MS. ABRIL: So, that kind of bleeds into the next question. You know, you talked about sort of that shift in paradigm and how we work and not‑‑and the expectations that have changed. I'm curious, what do you think that this has taught leaders about the function of the actual physical workplace?

MS. SPEICHER: I think that, you know, I want to say also there's so many different types of workplaces. So, I think one of the leading conversations that we can have is about the office, you know, for the office worker who might have come in every single day and sat in an open work plan and, you know, chatted with their peers informally throughout the day. Some of those dynamics are, of course, really changing.

And I think that there are two dimensions, you know, to think of about the workplace. There's clearly the physical spaces, and the way that we're all starting to think about physical spaces is really changing. And then, there's also the workplace and the experience at the workplace, and what's exciting about right now is we're putting a lot of new thought into what it means to design a workplace that we all want to be a part of.

So, I can give you some examples of that about how we're thinking about that. At IDEO, in particular, we have a building in San Francisco that we've actually been redesigning during the pandemic, and we had designed it right before the pandemic and as the pandemic hit, and we went into different modes of working and started learning from those experiences. We were able to ask the question: What do we want of the physical work space when we are back in it?

And so, we've made some changes to the design of the experience. For instances, we're centering in the design of the space the kinds of things that you can only do in physical space. So, in our case, we have things like machine shops. We have a prototyping kitchen. We have maker areas where we're making things‑‑and those are the kinds of things you can really only do in physical space‑‑and of course, a café where people really come together, which feels like one of the most important things about at the office.

But we're also thinking about the design of the work spaces themselves and if we used to have much more of an open work plan, now thinking about rooms that have technology embedded in them so we can work much more collaboratively through technology. And, of course, that requires us to think about things like sound design in a much different way than ever before.

MS. ABRIL: You know, you answered my next question, which was really how you think about the physical workplace, you know, how your ideas have changed, but I want to expand on that a little further. Do you think we lose anything creatively when we're not in the same space? And then I'm going to flip that question on you and ask you, you know, are there other opportunities afforded to us in remote work situations?

MS. SPEICHER: I mean, I think that what we're all learning is that, yeah, there are affordances in every situation, right? So, what can we uniquely do when we're in person together? What can we uniquely do through a collaborative technology?

So, some of the things that we're learning in terms of designing together through technology is the advantage of these kind of worlds that we can create through the technology together. And so, you know, coming into shared documents or shared environments where people from all around the world can collaborate. I'm thinking of some work that we've done with a biotech company where they have been rapidly growing and really looking to, as they rapidly grow, kind of articulate what their organization is about in order to really hold a shared purpose as many new people come in, and we were able to design this kind of virtual environment that everybody could come and be a part of and participate in sharing what this environment was like for them and, you know, help weigh in on the values that would define the culture. And that would be a lot harder to do before, right? So, now we're becoming a lot more comfortable in these shared environments.

And I will say that, you know, there are some things that will really require the connection that happens in person, and again, just kind of pointing to some examples at IDEO there, we're looking at how do we build time in where everybody is in the office together, kind of like home week, where we're all in person, making sure we know each other, meet each other, so that as we're working remotely or asynchronously, we remember the feeling of each to her, that kind of trust and safety that you can feel by knowing other people as you're collaborating. How do you--how do we keep building that?

MS. ABRIL: Got it. And to elaborate a little bit more on that, you know, you talked about rethinking the workplace and sort of understanding how to sort of make those collaboration moments happen. I wonder in the design sense of that, is there certain things that can kind of influence collaboration and creativity in a physical office, and how do we think about the design of that?

MS. SPEICHER: Sure. Well, I think that right now, again‑‑I feel like I keep saying the same, like everything is evolving, except it is, and that's the great kind of thing about this time is that we are actually asking deeper questions of ourselves about what makes what we need to do happen. And so, you know, you're asking about collaboration in the physical spaces. It does really help to have shared space where you can be really active and separate from all the other things you're thinking about.

And a thing that we often don't talk about is it also really helps to have more introverted spaces, spaces where you can do deep work, where you can take the collaborative experience that you just had and really process it. And so, a lot of the ways that we started designing out spaces is to make sure we have a lot of different modes, that there are spaces for together time. Excuse me. There are spaces for alone time. There are spaces for kind of like alone‑together time, some together‑alone time, so that you can work in all of the different modes that you need.

MS. ABRIL: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

We received a question from Twitter, and I think it's a really good one. So, I want to go ahead and pull that up and read that to you. This tweet is from @SouthShoreEric, and he says, "What do you think about a hybrid metaverse workplace? Is IDEO experimenting with this?" And, you know, I'm very curious about this too. We've heard so much from tech companies‑‑

MS. SPEICHER: Yeah.

MS. ABRIL: ‑‑about the metaverse and the future of work. So, what's your take on the matter?

MS. SPEICHER: I mean, I think it's such an exciting question, and, you know, it feels like we're at the beginning of a whole new era of the way we think and the way we construct ourselves.

One of the things that we're experimenting with is around what I would‑‑I would kind of think of it as realm building, right? So how‑‑whether it's in the metaverse, whether it's through shared documents, how do we build new agreements? How do we build new rituals for how we come together and what we do in those spaces? And so, it's not just about showing up there. It's actually about designing really intentionally the way that we come together, and, you know, if you think about it, we have a long history of being in shared physical space together, and there are a lot of norms. We might even learn them, you know, in elementary school about how to treat each other, about how to make room for each other's voices. And, actually, we have to establish new behaviors and rituals like that when we're together in other types of realms, and all of that should be designed as intentionally as possible.

MS. ABRIL: So, this kind of pushed us into the next segment, which I'm really excited about. I focus a lot on this, and you mentioned it earlier in one of your answers, and it's really about how technology is playing a new role in this office, especially as many of us are remote or hybrid or some kind of mix of all of the above. What role does tech play in developing the future workplace, and what should leaders keep in mind as they consider all of their options here?

MS. SPEICHER: Yeah. I mean, technology is obviously playing a huge role in helping us expand the way that we have been working and always will, and I think one of the most important things for leaders to be thinking about is how to not start with the technology solution but start with the human need. So, how are we as leaders listening to what people need in how they spend their days and how they do their work?

I'm thinking, for instance, of some work we've done in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, that we partnered with an airline, with a port authority, and with a health system to ask the question of how do we make sure we're including the voice of frontline workers in the decisions that we're making about technology that helps support their work.

So, in a lot of cases, in big organizations, there will be like a back‑office technology team that's making decisions about technology that gets used by the frontline workers, and of course, frontline workers, like, they know what the real needs are. They know what they're doing every single day, and they know what they need technology to help them with. And yet, their voice is not often included in those technology decisions, and then sometimes that technology can feel‑‑fall really short.

So, you know, we're talking today a lot about taking a design approach to these questions. With a design approach, a human‑centered design approach to these questions, you know, a leader would go and ask, engage with the people that are actually using these tools and say, "What would actually help you? Show me the work that you're doing. Help me understand the work that you're doing, and help me understand what would help make it better." And, in this case, in that work that we have been doing, we've actually been getting the workers to design with us to, you know, and design with that technology team to really help create custom solutions that are right for them.

MS. ABRIL: And you just mentioned this human‑centered design approach. You know, for our audience‑‑excuse me‑‑who may not be as familiar with that, tell us a little bit more about what that means.

MS. SPEICHER: Sure. Thanks. I love that question.

The way I think about this is that, actually, we could all just start by looking around us. Everything around us has been designed. This chair that we're sitting on, the computer that you're using, the software that we're using to talk, even the organizations that we're a part of, all of that has been designed.

And, you know, when you're approaching the design of something, many people will often think about what do I want, what do I need, how would I want this to be, but the reality is, if you're designing for yourself, you're really going to be missing something because people's needs are way more varied and complex than your own. And so, taking a human‑centered approach to design is really about starting with the needs that other people have in order to imagine what to design, and that means if you're designing a chair, you're thinking about the many needs that the person has in that chair. You're thinking about all of the different types of physiology that somebody might have as you're designing that chair.

But, if you're thinking about the design of an organization, well, the needs that people have are way more complex and incredibly diverse, and so this is a really great moment for design as we're revisiting all of these questions of our workplaces and our work spaces, both, to really take a new approach and be deeply listening to people and what their needs are and prepare for that to be ever changing, prepare for that to be a constant part of the work that you do.

MS. ABRIL: Sandy, this is a great, great segue into a question we just got on Twitter, and I'm going to read that as well. This is from @KlimateKarma, and @KlimateKarma asks, "What do you foresee as designing more accessibility into design or workspaces and technologies for occupants with disabilities?" And you just mentioned, you know, the needs are so diverse. Tell us a little bit about that.

MS. SPEICHER: Yeah. It's such a great question and so important to be conscious of because, again, that idea of when people are designing, we really need to be considering the full range of experiences that people have in the places or spaces that we're designing, and I think one of the things that's really evolving about design in an exciting way is recognizing that in so many cases, it's not just about a designer kind of sitting at their desk designing for someone else, but really how do we create ways that we're constantly designing together? How do we co‑design the environment that we're living or working in or the thing that we're experiencing?

And so, to the question about accessibility in particular, I think there's a great opportunity for organizations, particularly to the workplace, to be thinking about who they're including in the design process, how they set it up to be collaborative across many types of people, and maybe even also ask the question, who's missing from the conversation, so that we make sure that we're always thinking about the widest range of needs that people have in this place.

MS. ABRIL: So, I want to bring up another term that you refer to often, and it's called "disequilibrium," and the way I've heard you describe it is the mental model you have of something doesn't match the current situation. Can you tell us why this is particularly relevant to a post‑pandemic world?

MS. SPEICHER: Sure. Thanks for bringing that up. "Disequilibrium" is one of my favorite words, and yet it's pretty complex. It's hard to understand what it means, but it's a term that comes out of learning, learning science, and the idea is basically that we hold‑‑to know anything, we hold a mental model of the way things work, the way things are, the way we understand the world to be. And then, some type of information may disrupt that understanding, that we realize, wait a minute, this may not be what I thought it was, or maybe there's something else that I need to understand about this. And when you're in that state where your mental model kind of no longer holds up, that's when you're in a state of disequilibrium, and it's a very natural state. In fact, we have to be in it all the time. If we're not in it, we're not learning, and we're not growing.

So, first of all, I think there's something to learning, to appreciate that something has been disrupted can also be a good thing because it helps us look underneath the surface and say, "What was incomplete before? What did I not really know or understand before?" and then we can seek a deeper understand to get to a point, again, of equilibrium.

And so, if you think about the time that we're living through right now where it's just so much uncertainty and every single day kind of like things are destabilized, there's something about getting comfortable with that process of disequilibrium, of being in that state of not knowing, and enjoying that we can learn our way into a new state of knowing that helps us engage in the world in an even deeper and broader way.

MS. ABRIL: And, you know, we touched on this with the accessibility question, but I want to broaden it a little bigger as we kind of step back from everything you just said, whether it's about physical work spaces, how we think about work, tech at work. I want to ask you, can you help us understand how all of these things that we discussed impact equity and inclusion at the workplace? And give us a little sense of how leaders should think about this.

MS. SPEICHER: Absolutely. You know, equity and inclusion feel to me like some of the most important questions of our time, that this moment that we now really understand that the world that we have created does not serve everybody in it. It is the time for us to really embrace that we can design it differently, and we can design it in a way where more people are included and that we can rebalance our systems of power.

Now, this is very, very complicated and difficult to do because it often requires us looking at our own lives and kind of wondering how it might be different than somebody else's. And at first, those differences can feel disappointing or scary or threatening, but actually, I think that the goal of inclusion is really about getting to the point where those differences are really celebrated and cherished.

In the case of IDEO, we're really looking at that about how do we make sure that the differences that we bring to the table actually become the fuel that really drives our collective creativity, and so there's a lot that we can do about learning the mindsets and behaviors of inclusion. What does it mean to really see and value and integrate and respect each other's differences? How do we create foundational systems that actually create a clearer path for folks who may feel marginalized by the current cultures in different organizations? And how do we create environments that then create support for people who then are kind of managing their own questions about what it means to be part of a shared environment, particularly in an organization?

So, there's a lot that we can do in design to really listen to people, understand their experiences, respect how that might become part of the routine way that we think about leading our organizations and designing our organizations.

MS. ABRIL: Sandy, we're just about out of time. I just want to thank you so much for joining us here and offering your invaluable insights. I just found it incredibly helpful and interesting as we talk about the future of design and the workplace.

MS. SPEICHER: Thank you.

MS. ABRIL: We will be back shortly with our next guest, Joyce Bromberg. Please stay with us.

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MS. UMOH: Hello, everyone. I'm Ruth Umoh, leadership editor at Fortune, and today we'll be discussing the explosive opportunity found in commercial real estate technology.

Joining me is Mihir Shah, co-CEO of JLL Technologies. Welcome, Mihir. Thanks so much for joining us.

MR. SHAH: Thank you, Ruth.

MS. UMOH: Thank you.

The commercial real estate industry has seen seismic shifts during the pandemic as employees and consumers alike shifted to the virtual realm. Now, we're seeing this resurgence in working from the office, in person shopping, in person dining, and so on. How is the real estate industry adapting?

MR. SHAH: Yeah. So, clearly, offices and work spaces need to evolve to meet the demand of hybrid work, and I think this is a great opportunity for real estate technology.

In the last few years, we've seen prolific growth in the adoption of real estate technology. Forrester did a survey last year of top CRE decision makers, and 80 percent of them said that they were going to spend more on real estate technology, or "proptech" as we call it.

In the last couple of years, we've seen proptech startups go from a couple of thousand to over 8,000. Venture capitalists flowed into the field at a high rate, and the result of all this is JLL's clients have come to us to ask for advice on how to navigate this space. And we've invested a significant amount in technology as part of our long-term strategy in the last few years. We've hired hundreds of people from the technology industry, and the idea is really to marry those folks and have them partner with the real estate experts that we already have at JLL to provide solutions and to help our clients navigate this environment.

And the way I would think of it is this is really the onset of intelligent real estate, where data and technology are going to drive better outcomes for the entire industry.

MS. UMOH: We're invariably seeing a growth in this space, and heavy investment at that. Can you share some examples of technologies that real estate owners and tenants can adopt to make the transition to a hybrid working model easier and certainly far more effective?

MR. SHAH: Sure. So, when I think of hybrid work, I think of three things. The first step is, if it's hybrid work, people are going to come to the office maybe a few days a week, work from home a few days a week. So, what you need is you need to understand what is the utilization of one office. So, in that sense, we have a JLL Spark investment called "VergeSense" that has IoT sensors that help you understand what is the utilization of your space, so you can plan appropriately.

The second thing is really help with logistics around hybrid work for employees. So, for example, many companies are going to hoteling instead of permanent desk. So, now the employees need a way to book desks. They need a way to book conference rooms that have the right technology for hybrid work. They need a way to know which of their colleagues will be in the office so they can plan appropriately. So, in a space like that, you need an employee experience app like JLL Jet that helps you navigate that.

And the final piece of hybrid work, which is really something that's been going on for a while, is that employees want a healthier and more sustainable environment, and for that, I'll tell you about a technology called "Hank" that we recently acquired. And what that does is it's an AI based virtual engineering platform that creates better comfort in buildings for hybrid workers but also helps save 20 percent of the energy in a building.

MS. UMOH: Mihir, to your point, the commercial real estate industry is in a period of tremendous transformation. If you were to look, let's say, five years into the future, where do you think the industry will be, and moreover, what are some of the technologies that companies and landlords need to adopt today to be better prepared for the future?

MR. SHAH: Yeah. It's a great question. So, as I said, I think we're at the dawn of intelligent real estate, and five years from now, we'll be deep into intelligent real estate. And what do I mean by intelligent real estate? Well, there's really three parts to it: intelligent buildings, intelligent spaces, and intelligent advice.

So, in terms of intelligent buildings, think of a building that has a modern building operating platform, something like Building Engines, which is a company we acquired last year, that digitizes all the operations of the building. On top of that, you'd have a tenant experience app, something like one of our portfolio companies, HqO. Think of that like a remote control to the building for access control and kind of dealing with all the amenities of the building, and then you add technologies such as Hank that I discussed or Turntide Technologies, which is a next generation motor that could save you up to 40 percent of energy in your building. All those together create a sustainable, a smarter building.

And then you go to intelligent work space, which is really about all that we discussed with hybrid work, right, where you can book desks. You can understand the utilization of the space and sensors around.

And, finally, it's about intelligent advice, where you take all this data these buildings, et cetera, are generating and create intelligent advice and useful insights from that. So, for example, we acquired a company called Skyline AI last year, and what this company does is it takes all this data, and it helps create actionable insights in terms of valuations of buildings and when an investor might want to transact.

So, when you combine all these three things together, this is really the future of real estate, and it's very exciting. It's a great opportunity for us and our industry to make lasting change, and as we like to say at JLL, it's really about shaping the future of real estate for a better world.

MS. UMOH: Well, technology has revolutionized nearly every industry, and so it comes as no surprise that real estate it also experiencing this digitization.

Mihir, thank you so much for joining us today, and now back to The Washington Post.

MR. SHAH: Thank you, Ruth.

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MS. ABRIL: Welcome back. For those of you just joining us, I'm Danielle Abril, tech at work writer for The Washington Post.

My next guest today is an industry expert with over four decades of design and strategy experience, and she joins me now to talk about the future of the physical workplace.

Joyce Bromberg, managing principal and co-founder of design firm Vanguard Collaborative, welcome to Washington Post Live.

MS. BROMBERG: Thank you. Lovely to be here.

MS. ABRIL: We're happy to have you.

Before we jump into this conversation, I just want to remind everybody watching that we do want to hear from you. So, please tweet us with your questions to @PostLive.

Joyce, you have been central to designing the physical and experiential components of the workplace for several companies. After two years of the pandemic, many people are scratching their heads about the value of returning to the office. What have you learned over the last two years about the function of the physical office?

MS. BROMBERG: Well, that's a great question. I think that the physical office is more important than ever, and the way we approach it, the way we approach the design of the physical office, is more important than ever as well.

So, I am now in Texas, and I gave a talk yesterday at SXSW. And one of the things that I realized is that I've been in the workplace since 1968 as a worker, and nothing has changed of very little has changed in terms of the physical spaces and how we interact with them. Yes, there have been technological advances, but it seems to me that the technologies have been in search of a purpose rather than the technologies themselves serving the purpose or the process of what people are doing in the workplace.

So, the gentleman that spoke before me spoke about intelligent rooms, and I have long thought about intelligent rooms, how we can use architecture and technology in combination to help people do knowledge work. And building on what Sandy said, there are lots of different kinds of workers. So, what I'm talking about right now is specifically knowledge work in an office.

MS. ABRIL: So, how do physical environments inform out interactions with others or our experience of actually being in the workplace?

MS. BROMBERG: So, when you're in the workplace and when you're collaborating with other people, there is a sense of joy and flow in the work itself that I think is hard to realize when we're collaborating digitally only, and bringing folks into that process in both the same time, same place in hybrid ways, I think, is the new challenge of hybrid work. How do we give folks who are participating remotely a real seat at the table or the ability to really interact and create? How do we make those things coming together more equitable, and how do we use a room and technology to help people do what they do?

So, I've studied collaboration for a long time and have found that there are three main types of collaborative work: informative, generative, and evaluative. And particularly with generative work, how can we help people make their thinking visible to one another so that they can build and create a shared mind to move forward with the work that they're doing?

MS. BROMBERG: Makes sense. I'm a little curious about, you know, when we think of workplace design and how designers look at the office, how you reconcile sort of workplace experiences and human based needs with space efficiencies and how we should think about that in the future.

MS. BROMBERG: Yeah. Well, you know, you bring up the word "efficiency," and efficiency has driven corporate real estate forever, and this whole notion of capping everything and a numerical view of the world, I think, has to change. So, I like to think about designing behavior, how people interact, physical space, and technology together, and for me, it starts with the social contract between the employer and the employee.

And if COVID has taught us one thing and the great resignation has taught us one thing is that that social contract needs to be redesigned, and for me, it's all about reciprocity, I will give to you; you will give to me, and understanding that people require choice and that not everyone is the same. And so, in the furniture industry, we used to say one size of furniture fits all, which absolutely wasn't true, and the same is true for people. People are different, and their needs need to be understood personally, and that really gets to the reciprocity between the employer and the employee.

MS. ABRIL: I'm so glad you brought up reciprocity. You know, we just got a Twitter question actually from somebody talking about, you know, the differing needs of certain employees. We received a tweet from Kate, Twitter handle @K8Holden, and she asks, "Are workplace designs taking family need more into account?" So, she's talking about childcare options, flexible hours, et cetera.

MS. BROMBERG: So, you know, I just read that Meta yesterday changed its sort of amenity offering for its employees, and they'll no longer be getting laundry service or dry-cleaning service, and dinner is now 6:30 instead of 6:00 after the last bus leaves, and so it seems a little punitive, in a way. But, you know, amenities are great, but they can't only be food and transportation.

And so, as a working woman who had a family and a husband and young children that I had to bring up while I was working, this idea of childcare and making it a part of the workplace seems to me also an option that has been overlooked, and what COVID taught us, what the pandemic taught us was that women had to leave the workplace so that they could stay home with their kids. And it was not only a loss for women themselves but a loss for the corporate world as well.

So, I agree. We need to supply different kinds of child care options as well as time/place options. So where do I work? At what times do I work? When it's convenient for me, but then how do I come together--and this is part of the reciprocity--so that I can help to create a corporate culture, so that I can help--so that I can get to know my colleagues, and so we can build the trust and the social capital that I believe is necessary for organizations to innovate and to create new things?

MS. ABRIL: And just to clarify really quick, are you actually seeing that happen?

MS. BROMBERG: No. [Laughs] Oh, you mean about childcare in the office? Not childcare, but yes, I think folks are really starting to wake up and say, you know, the old way is perhaps not the right way, and things are being considered. Although, I'm doing a job right now, and, you know, hierarchy for these folks is still of paramount importance, and I sometimes laugh to myself because, you know, there are really other things to consider and think about.

MS. ABRIL: So, I'm curious what you consider the workplace of the future to look like. What will the experiences of these places look like? What kind of technology will be involved in them? If you could just sort of drum up your idea situation, what would that look like?

MS. BROMBERG: Okay. So, I have to go back a little bit. In 1991 or '92 --I forget the year--I created an exhibit for a company called "Steelcase" called "Breaking Patterns," and in that exhibit, we did a film that defined what a knowledge worker was. We showed films of--we happened to find a laptop, one laptop, because they weren't very common then, and a cell phone and created a little film that showed that with the miniaturization and portability of technology, people could work anywhere. And so that smallness and that technology could allow movement was one aspect of that vision.

The other aspect, one that I have been thinking about for a long time is, what happens when technology gets large? What happens when we embed technology into a room or an environment that allows people to immerse themselves in the content that they're working with, that provides clues and tips for how they can go about doing what they're doing, and that allows remote participation in an equal way?

So, I've envisioned a room with three large screens with the ability to move information between the screens and the ability to tag seminal activities or seminal moments in this collaborative process that allow for what I would call "experience re-creation," for someone to take the experience away with them to review or that would allow someone to have an opportunity to see what was done without having been there. So, it's a little bit more complicated than what I'm saying, but imagine yourself in a space where the flow of content and information between your handheld device and a large screen is seamless, where you are moving information between screens, and you're taking advantage of some things that I think are really important for collaborative work.

One is that there is a strong connection between learning, memory, and physical space, and that people remember where content is, and as teams create content together, they want to be able to refer back to it. And the other is that we may not own our spaces anymore. We may come into them to use them again after a period of time, but we want that information to come back with us. So, think about project hoteling where people get together for a period of time. They disperse. They go do other things, but the next day or the next week, they come back. And the information comes back and re-creates the physicality of that information the next time.

MS. ABRIL: So, I have to ask you a really direct question because it's, I think, one that workforces across the nation are experiencing, and depending on what level of worker you're at, whether you're a manager or a CEO level or maybe you're just the worker, there's disagreement on different levels. So, I'd love to hear from you. Do you think it's essential for companies to bring their employees back to the office?

MS. BROMBERG: Yes, I do. I do. And I--first of all, in all the focus groups that I've done over the years and all the one-on-one interviews that I've had with end users, the workplace has provided for many a sense of community, a place for them to be with likeminded people. And, you know, companies think of themselves as having brands. People now think of themselves as having brands, too, and they want to come to--they want their personal brand and the organizational band to match up. So, that's one important aspect of why people want to be in the office, and so that's from an employee point of view.

From an employer point of view, having a corporate culture and having a corporate identity needs leads to a sense of loyalty, and I think that being loyal to a company is a good thing, particularly when there's reciprocity.

Sandy spoke a little bit about the rituals and the culture that happens every day in the office, and I think for a lot of folks, they miss those things. So, it can't be one sided. You know, just the desire to stay home and only work at home is useful for some folks, but employers have needs and requirements as well. And so, that gets to this notion of reciprocity: I have to do what's good for myself, but I also have to do and give what's good to the organization.

MS. ABRIL: Understood. So--

MS. BROMBERG: And then, well, one more thing. I didn't even touch on organizational knowledge and the transfer of organizational knowledge that happens best in--you know, people talk about the water cooler, and the water cooler, yes, great for ideas, but what they're really talking about, I think, is the ability for people to translate information and past experience that helps companies not reinvent the wheel and helps that organizational information move from one person to the other. Sorry.

MS. ABRIL: No, that's not a problem. I'm glad you added that.

So, given that and given that people need to be, if they haven't already, plotted their return back to the office, I am curious what you think people are asking for and what design elements are essential to the office of the future.

MS. BROMBERG: Right. So, I think people are asking for the acknowledgement that they are people, first of all, and that as people, they have individual needs and requirements. So, how can we devise a plan that satisfies my needs and satisfies someone else's needs?

You know, I always used to laugh that companies were really happy when employees came in at seven o'clock in the morning. It showed that they were really dedicated, and I'm the kind of person that has sort of a slow start in the morning, but I was always in the office until eight o'clock--or eight or nine o'clock at night. And that wasn't perceived as being as valuable as the person who got there at seven. So, creating a schedule that meets an individual's personal style as well as their individual responsibilities is important, and then creating that time when people need to be in the office and making sure that-- or to the extent possible that those times that people come together are useful and important.

MS. ABRIL: Got it. That makes a lot of sense.

Joyce, we're just about out of time, and I just want to thank you so much for your valuable insights, some great knowledge and takeaways here for people who maybe have already gone back or are planning their return to the office soon, so thank you again for joining me for this conversation.

MS. BROMBERG: It was a pleasure. Thank you.

MS. ABRIL: And thank you for joining us today. For more information about our upcoming programming, please visit WashingtonPost.com. I’m Danielle Abril. Thanks again for watching.

[End recorded session]

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