Explore the dynamics of the evolving workplace with Janet Pogue McLaurin, a 40+ year veteran from Gensler, as she sheds light on the link between physical workspaces and business outcomes.
Janet Pogue McLaurin, the Global Director of Workplace Research at Gensler, joined me in episode two to share Gensler’s research and her insights on the future of office spaces and how organizations can adapt to meet the needs of this evolving work landscape.
McLaurin explained that the way we work has undergone a seismic shift over the past year. As remote work became the new norm due to the pandemic, organizations worldwide had to adapt quickly to ensure business continuity. Many organizations have adopted hybrid work to meet the needs of the workplace in a post-pandemic world.
Janet Pogue McLaurin elaborated on a surprising finding from Gensler's research. Gensler, a global design firm, conducted a survey of over 14,000 office workers across nine countries and ten industries. Counter to prevailing narratives about remote work, the research suggests that workers feel they need to spend more time in the office to maximize their productivity.
“People feel like they need to be in the office about two thirds of the week in order to maximize their productivity. The office shifted from a place where we just need to connect with each other and spend time and socialize with one another to simply getting our work done.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin, Global Director of Workplace Research at Gensler
McLaurin explained that the role of the office has shifted from primarily being a space for socializing and connecting to a place for focused work and collaboration. The majority of office workers now view the workplace as a critical space for productivity.
Janet Pogue McLaurin discussed findings from Gensler’s research about workspace choice in office environments. While there is an increasing level of choice within the workspace, she noted that often there aren't enough options for the variety of tasks that need to be done.
“When you stop and think about what people really need and the role of the office, it’s shifted. We asked about 16 different types of spaces beyond your individual desk and an enclosed conference room. And there were four categories of spaces that started to emerge.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin, Global Director of Workplace Research at Gensler
McLaurin identified four categories of spaces that emerged as essential for office workers: spaces for creative group work, individual spaces, spaces to reflect and restore, and areas to refresh and recharge. While neighborhood amenities such as outdoor areas and cafes contribute to the overall workplace experience, they are less important for getting work done.
Gensler’s research supports the idea that autonomy and freedom to change work venues can improve the workplace experience, thus enhancing productivity and creativity. Different employees have varying preferences and needs when it comes to their workspaces, and providing a range of options allows individuals to leverage their surroundings in the way that best suits their work style.
Janet Pogue McLaurin delved into the Gensler research findings about remote working and the need for office spaces. Notably, despite the increase in remote work, there's still a universal need for office spaces. Factors like parenting, commute considerations, and multiple time zone work significantly impact individuals' preferences and behaviors—but they do not diminish the overall need for office spaces.
“We do see that the younger generations actually prefer a more amenity rich, hospitality type of space—not just a corporate type of vibe—and having this ability to not only have access to senior leaders for mentoring and learning, but access to each other.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin, Global Director of Workplace Research at Gensler
McLaurin highlighted that being physically present in the office provides a different energy and experience compared to online interactions. Younger generations, such as Gen Z and millennials, crave access to senior leaders and peer-to-peer interactions for learning and growth. She also noted that Gen Z workers hired during the pandemic are now learning about office norms and culture. The office space allows for quick questions, manager check-ins, and the opportunity to establish meaningful connections.
Janet Pogue McLaurin highlighted that only one-third of workplaces have been redesigned since the onset of the pandemic. This is despite major shifts in how individuals value time and approach their work. Adaptable, employee-centric workspaces that encourage diverse experiences and leverage evolving work practices are likely to be a key factor in winning the 'war for talent'.
“If we’re designing inclusive environments, then we have to design to the edges. They need to respond absolutely to everybody.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin, Global Director of Workplace Research at Gensler
McLaurin’s advice includes listening to employees and conducting small experiments and pilot projects to initiate changes. By offering quiet zones, library spaces, or reconfiguring conference rooms, organizations can better understand and cater to employees' needs. Taking a personalized approach and considering the unique culture and ways of working within each organization is critical for success.
Organizations must reimagine the role of the office and design spaces that cater to the evolving needs of employees. The shift from a predominantly work-centric space to a multi-functional environment that supports diverse work modes and preferences is crucial.
By embracing flexibility, providing autonomy, and creating inclusive workspaces, organizations can enhance productivity, well-being, and collaboration. The time to listen, experiment, and adapt to the new work landscape is now, and Gensler's research and insights offer valuable guidance in this endeavor.
Jenny is a top Go-To-Market (GTM) leader in the Greater Boston area, where she has a track record of building powerful brands and categories, generating demand (for both sales- and product-led orgs), and creating energizing mission-driven cultures of belonging in the B2B tech space.
With 40+ years of experience in workplace strategy, research and design, Janet is one of Gensler’s global thought leaders on how the physical workplace can impact employee engagement and business performance.