On May 17 2023 / by Cassie Daley

Understanding workplace experience & how to deliver it well


The way we work is changing, and with it, the purpose of the office. Today, employers recognise that the office must be more than just a place to work. It must be a space where people are drawn to, where they feel connected to their colleagues, and where they can thrive. Workplace experience is at the heart of this transformation, as employers look to redesign the office for a more compelling and engaging experience.

Webinar recording

Key takeaways:

  • Context of workplace disruption, scale of the change that has occurred
  • Organisations got through it, but there are some residual challenges, including managing occupancy levels
  • Hybrid is here to stay, along with a radically rewritten purpose of the office
  • Workplace Experience is a key part of solving the occupancy challenge
  • At its core, Workplace Experience is a people-centric approach enabled by design thinking



Kezia Lynch: Welcome to our first webinar in a four-part series about driving operational excellence in the workplace. I'm your host, Kezia Lynch. Over the coming weeks I'll be joined by industry experts to discuss all things people and place in property. This webinar series is presented by Parkable.

From talking to their customers, Parkable knows that people and place leaders are in a particularly challenging position at the moment. Navigating the constantly changing face of hybrid work while battling labour shortages and constrained budgets is a balancing act. Parkable is striving to help workplaces overcome these challenges and support their teams to deliver ROI while maintaining workplace and customer experience.

Leading employers like Meta, Workday, KPMG use Parkable to optimize their carpark performance, enhance their employee experience and automate administration so their teams can focus on more valuable tasks. Parkable thinks beyond the boundaries of the parking lot, and are excited to bring Nina Fountain to you today.

Nina is a leading workspace strategist and a published expert on the flexible modern workplace. She's the founder and Lead Workplace Strategist at the Workspace Connection; a specialist workplace strategy, consultancy, and change consultancy. Nina’s worked with senior leaders from Visa, AIA, MinterEllisonRuddWatts and Xero to develop future fit workplaces that improve employee wellbeing and job satisfaction without blowing up the bottom line.

I'm really looking forward to this interactive session. There's some fun activities planned , so please keep an eye on the pop-ups and the poll box and the links in the chat box. By the end , you'll be well equipped to redesign your office for a more compelling and engaging experience.

Over to you, Nina.

Nina Fountain: Thank you. Great to be here. Great to be able to dive into this topic of workplace experience, something that's really topical. I'm looking forward to sharing a whole bunch of contact with you and as Kezia said, bringing us through in a fairly engaging experience today.

Before we dive into the topic of workplace experience, let's understand the state of the workplace we're dealing with. What is happening in the office today? And as we all are no doubt experiencing, workplace disruption defines it.

There's a scale of change that is occurring today, like we haven't seen in our lifetimes. Forbes has described it this way, that "Hybrid work is upending workplace norms and conventional wisdom in the commercial real estate space".

What does occupancy look like now? I know this is something we're all trying to keep on top of as it changes. We're still seeing low occupancy across the world, even though it is bumping up in some places. So in the US over 50% occupancy in major US cities. In the UK we've got a nationwide stat. We're looking at 35.9%. But JLL's stat is 47 amongst their occupants. And then in Australia there's a variety of stats. I'm not able to pin down some New Zealand stats for anyone who's able to do that for me, that would be great. I would love to know where you get yours from.

At the same time we know that there's a real commitment to the office. JLL's future of work research looked at corporate decision makers, and of those 72% agreed that in the long term, the office will remain central to their organisation's ecosystems.

Even though there is that flight to quality and deals are involving consolidation and downsizing. There's a really strong and high level of commitment to the office. Why is that? Because the office has a unique role. It uniquely can accelerate innovation, it can be a key part of up skilling when you think of onboarding and people embedding in the culture from the start.

Advancing digital and technological transformations as people come together and use a variety of technologies. Stimulating collaboration. We're all so focused on that word at the moment in connection, creating an optimal hybrid environment and diversifying talent, getting closer to customers.

There's something that real estate can do that is unique in the workplace experience in the workplace model and across people's working week.
But we're also seeing that it's with greater flexibility. CBRE has shown that 66% of its major employers are adopting flexible work.

We've also got data from Leaseman from Q4 last year where 72% of corporate leaders said their organisation will have a hybrid model where employees can use the office and the home.

You can see that that's increased from 2001 through to Q4 last year. A greater intention to move to a hybrid model. Taking a strong position here and saying that they advocate for a shift from efficiency metrics through to experience metrics to reflect the new purpose of the office.

Similarly, JLL has said they're increasingly seeing their clients real estate focus and needs shifting to experience rather than physical space specifications. At this point, it would be great to check in. I'm keen to know, what is the state of the office in your organisation?

Is it status quo as it was pre covid? Are you hybridising probably a consolidation of space probably looking at the office to do something a little different? Are you tweaking or are you abandoning the office altogether?
I'd love to know, are you hybridizing tweaking or abandoning? And it would be great to see what your experiences are at the moment. As you're doing that. What I'm seeing elsewhere is that technology firms typically seem to be the quickest to abandon the office. That's what I've seen with clients, but also Stanford data globally showing that technology firms are some of the quickest to move to a fully remote office.

But there's also other types of businesses that are moving that way. Most professional services firms are hybridising. There's still a good portion of the market that's undecided. Perhaps making some tweaks around the edges while they work out their strategy.

We've got in the chat four days a week, hybrid, three days a week in the office and four days in the office, but flexible on some days with somewhat flexible times to best suit and then others who are completely flexible and hybrid. So a real tendency there in those answers towards that hybrid model.

Now you might have noticed that in your jobs in Facilities Management, in the operations space, this last few years and current state of affairs has created some additional jobs for Facilities Managers. There's now a much greater focus on cleanliness and hygiene.

There's now a need to ensure proper ventilation for air hygiene. Contact tracing has become important. Supporting people to work remotely - people had to suddenly work out how were they going to get screens and desk adjustments and support people potentially who didn't have great access to the internet and those kinds of challenges.

Also now in the office managing occupancy levels and in some places really looking to optimise that usage. You may have heard this term: Workplace Experience Manager. One of the most searched questions on this topic is what is a Workplace Experience Manager?

Second highly searched question is what is the job description of a Workplace Experience Manager? There's quite a lot of confusion around what this title means. In some organisations, people's title has been changed without really any further discussion or capability building around what that could look like.
This is why we want to ask this question. What is Workplace Experience? To contextualise it these are some of the companies who have Workplace Experience roles. They are in a variety of different titles, but all of these have in common Workplace Experience Manager and some of them are Global Workplace Experience Managers.

There are some names in there you will be familiar with globally and in Australia and New Zealand. When it comes to Xero we've got Nathan McLean on the call for a chat. After going through what Workplace Experience is and how to create a great Workplace Experience about his experience at Xero as the Workplace Experience Manager; so to understand more of that journey.

Why would we give this any of our time? What is the value proposition of Workplace Experience? This is where it can help: if the workplace is underutilized, if office satisfaction is low or lower than you want it to be, if occupancy has dropped in the office or if there's a need for a fresh approach.
I am hearing from people and talking with Facilities Managers, that their executives and leaders in some cases are looking to them for answers on how to solve these problems. Because they know that facility's purpose is to reduce organisational risks and to enable people to do their best work.

They're looking "where in our organisation have we got people who are thinking about that?" Tends to be Facilities. That's where executives are coming knocking for answers. This is great chance for us to find out what are your executives asking you for in relation to the experience that you provide your site users.

To do this, we've got a document where we're going to be able to see everyone's responses. We'll be reading out the responses. What are your executives asking for related to the user experience. What are they looking to you to provide?

More time. More employees in the office. So interesting, right? That need for doing something about this occupancy rate. Create a space that people want to come to. Excellent. Providing that energy to our teams while they're in the office to entice them back.

That social energy, I'll touch on that a little. Making them feel good about being in the office more often. Improved culture and energy. It's so great to see your responses coming through. The executives are looking for event promotion and coordination. Interesting. I'll touch on that.

Space management and office perks. A frictionless entry and work experience. A couple more coming through. They're willing to throw money at the problem. That's a nice place to be where you're a facilities person not having to argue for budget.

They're looking at food, drinks, benefits, etc. So you'll be interested when I get to a few slides down. Thank you. Let's click back over.

Where this links in for the organisation, why would they be willing to throw money at a problem? Why is this a burning issue that executives are coming to you about? A lot of it links back to engagement. This is the three factor Theory of Motivation at work redesigned a little so that it's easier to access in terms of the words and what it means for us.

What this is showing you is people are motivated at work by three core factors. This is a really robust study. It holds across roles, it holds across ages, and it holds across industries as well. People are motivated by being treated fairly, having an equitable experience and feeling like, I'm respected enough here that this place is fair.

They are motivated by doing a great job, achievement, getting a good job done. That's why we work. We actually like that. Most people are not motivated by wanting to sit around, watch TV shows and games all day long.

People are motivated at work by camaraderie or those warm working relationships. If we look at how the workplace interacts with these, imagine you're a driver and you've got a parking spot. You get to work and someone is in your parking spot and you are just mad as heck because this is so unfair.
It's obviously your parking spot. Who has a right to take your spot?

If we look at achievement, people who struggle to turn their laptops on or have to turn it on after 15 minutes because wheel of death has turned up and they can't use the programs they wanted to use.

They feel they're hindered from doing the work they just want to get on and do. That sense of being able to do a good job has been taken away from them and they can get pretty intensely emotional about that.

Then those warm working relationships, this is something that Covid has highlighted how important it is to be able to develop these relationships with our peers.

It doesn't mean we have to know their favourite colour or their date of birth, but we feel we can work alongside each other, in this respectful, warm kind of connection.

Imagine the workplace is a sea of desks and there's really nowhere to just bump into each other, have a coffee people are outside the building, walking around the block to get a connection, to get that sense of a warm working relationship. Or imagine they have to be completely silent throughout the whole office, so there's no opportunity to talk.

They're going to start to feel quite strongly about some of those things. This model explains why people get so emotional and why you might have found that people come to you, red in the face with some of the problems they're looking for you to solve. Because they interpret their experience as part of the organisation's relationship with them.

You are a key part of the inspiration squad, the energy boosters, the momentum makers in your organisation. There are other people too, but you play a really key role.

As one of you said what people are looking for, whether they're guided to come in, whether they're mandated to come in, or whether it's their fully autonomous choice to come in, it's increasingly more important they have a frictionless, productive, and engaging experience in the office.

That makes it really important to senior leaders because workplace satisfaction is strongly as correlated with engagement as we can see from this Steel case study. Engagement is also strongly correlated with productivity. This link between workplace and productivity is really easy to establish.

JLL has said that if you want to bring people back, it has to be about how individual and team needs are being met. Forbes is putting it that "Many organisations around the world are paying more attention to the experience people have at work to secure that loyalty and sell their company to new recruits."

That's all well and good, but what actually is Workplace Experience?

"A great workplace experience is a second by second multi-sensory immersion that supports work tasks, represents the organisation's personality, creates an emotional response and leaves an impression in the employee's brain. "No pressure. It's like that moment when you first see a custard apple and you have no idea what this thing is going to be like.

Will it be sweet? Will it be savoury? Will it be poisonous? Will it be safe? If that Custard Apple is actually delicious , people have had this memorable experience, this moment of delight. But it also goes beyond moments. That's where we are going to dig into what is it that draws people to the office.

You could do Workplace Experience without this reference here to design thinking but you wouldn't get the risk management benefit from it. Workplace Experience when done well, is a people-centric process and mindset that is enabled by Design Thinking practices.

Design Thinking takes you from throwing things at the wall with no idea of the outcome, to clearly experimenting and prototyping and being much more informed about how you tweak and adjust your potential solutions. It's a risk management tactic. Where you spend the money makes sense and is going to land effectively with your people.

The odds of it landing effectively with your people are much higher if you use these ideas.

People are not drawn into the office. This is based on my experience in the last three years. Prior to that, about a decade's worth of consulting on flexible workplace systems, the whole workplace model.

All the research I'm reading and clients I'm working with who are trying this top set, and then getting to a point of realising that just didn't work. A lot of people have tried to create experiences like Taco Tuesdays, bringing doughnuts in, making it easier for people to do foosball and games, offering catering, et cetera.

Those things eventually tail off. It was a novelty effect if it did work and it doesn't work in the long term. So what are people drawn in by? They are drawn in by an organisational policy and guidance. That doesn't necessarily mean a mandate, but it might mean more of a team level guidance or it might mean a framework to work within.

They're drawn in by social energy and that buzz, and by having a productive and engaging experience at work. Having said that, there's no magic solution that will work for everyone because people are complex and there's actually five workplace personas, one of which really likes to be remote; the nomad is a remote persona.

Then you've got your nesters who are also a remote persona and they really like to work from home. I did this with a client recently. 54% of their working population were the office liking personas. And the rest were not. I talked about people being drawn in by these organisational factors.

Once you understand individuals, you see there's a really strong tendency for people in one direction or another. There's really no magic solution. There's no one thing that's going to bring everyone back.

It's important for us to understand when we have this conversation, and you'll see how we deal with that in a second. Just a side note, there's a dominant myth that personality is one of the reasons people work from home or work in the office.

Research has clearly shown that's a myth. It's actually much more driven by these personas. An example of persona is say retiree, worker or trainee. People with different life requirements and different behaviours that's a good way of understanding personas.

We will be taking questions at the end if you've got questions popping up around this.

It means there's no quick fix and we're all after a perfect solution, a technology that will solve that user experience because we could spend money on that, and that would be a lot easier than needing to deal with this people stuff. I say that with total appreciation for how this people stuff can be quite gnarly. It's not always easy. There's no quick fix because if you look at things that work really well for you in your life, like your iPhone 14, they have iterated that model and iterated over many years and over many opportunities of testing with users to get to something that just works.

That's the mindset we are bringing to this, getting to something that just works doesn't come through a quick fix. If you're thinking we're talking about the people preferences side of things too much, and that's more of an HR function. You're not wrong.

In the US for example, the shift of Workplace Experience has seen some facilities teams move into HR where people are already thinking about employee experience and Workplace Experience has become a subset. The link with HR is easy to establish and when you get HR involved, it becomes a different conversation because of the things they're looking for.

So that can be an asset as think about Workplace Experiences linking the two up.

The last one about the relationship with staff. When I speak with Facilities Managers, some of them love this people side of their job and for others, the people side is the challenge.

You might know where you fall on that or you might be somewhere in the middle. It might also be an area you recognise the times turning and you're curious about what this could mean.

Creating a great Workplace Experience.

To give you these five design stages, I'm going to be taking you through a pretty high level summary of it.

This is where I've noticed people feel really strongly about Facilities Management at the moment and are using amenities in the broader sense of the word. We could apply this to some of these areas by looking through the Design Thinking phases, I'll give you a couple of examples as we go through.

Empathise is the first one that's essentially an understand phase. We're putting the customer at the center, we're building a product or a service that works for them and we understand them. For example, you've got a cafe that's open on Fridays and you're not sure if people are interested because transactions are low.

But you have a deeper exploration of that user experience that shows 60% of people who come in on a Friday rank this as one of their most used amenities when they're in the office. What you do with that information is another question, but now you're in a better position with a deeper level of understanding than you can get in a hallway conversation.

I'll typically see people making workplace decisions based on. For example, the conversation with senior leaders or a couple of conversations in the hallway or things they've heard from a few people. But to get close to the coalface we've got to do some clever surveys and focus groups.

If you were going to get right down to it, you would do a time and emotion study because the quality of output is related to the quality of the input. We need to be not hindered by the fact that people say and do quite different things. We really need to understand their experience from a variety of different angles.

Then we are defining. In this stage we're coming up with a problem statement. We want to write that statement from the point of view of the user potentially. For example, a point of view, so it might be, I'm a busy working professional, I'm trying to avoid getting sick.

That's the last thing I need. I can't always trust the office is a place I won't get sick. At that point, you've defined the problem from the user's perspective. Then you want to ideate. This is where it's quite different. Instead of being the expert you are instead coming up with a variety of different solutions and then testing those.

You do an initial test to weed them out. Then you are going to do a prototype and actually try one. There's a range of techniques you can use here, brainstorming, mind mapping, then you're selecting it perhaps with six thinking hats, post-it voting or something called the Four Categories Method.

In this example, you might bring together a group of users and have a brainstorming and story boarding session. The way you might do this is try to answer the question, how might we give our Friday users a delightful experience?

It's important your, "How might we.." question strikes that balance between being too broad and being too specific. You’ve got to come up with ideas, then you'll whittle them down later. Once you've got your idea, you prototype. You literally are bringing to life physically a solution for what it looks like to, to deliver on this solution.

Say you're solving for the office hygiene problem. This would be you envisage a test area where people, for example, could walk you in directionally around the office to limit cross contamination and they would have access to hospital grade disinfectant, masks, hand sanitiser.

You've generated your prototype concept. Then you test. You're releasing at that point and trailing it out. You've got your approval to prototype your corner of the floor. This is when you comms it, you consult with HR. You monitor the utilisation of that space.

You're taking pulse checks with people each day regarding their satisfaction, whether they would recommend it to others. Through an NPS question, are you asking an open question about the impact on their work as well? Those kinds of techniques are very different to having the answer and this Design Thinking approach.

Catering for that complexity of human nature means we need to be approaching it as a curious investigator, if you like. We're facilitating the right conversations, making the continuous changes that deliver on those iterations that get it to being a really frictionless easy experience.

It does mean there's a challenge with seniors where instead of saying "This will work", we say we're stacking our odds. It's probable this will work. That difference in approach can be something you've got to work through with your senior leaders. You might want to have a think about where you are at in your organisation, how integrated is Design Thinking for you.

You could look at these levels to understand where you think you are at in terms of Design Thinking, supporting your Workplace Experience? Is there long-term commitment? That's something usually you'll have had a conversation before you get to that.

It does need a senior leader advocating for it to really get to that point. If you're at that low level, you'll identify that people are saying, "Okay, we've got some information, but what do we do with that now? We've had some small wins, we're in the discovery phase, but where do we go from here?"

Important to think about the right next step. I've asked Nathan McLean to join us because Nathan was the Workplace Experience Manager at Xero. He has a lot of experience in this Facilities Management space, not only in New Zealand, but he was the Executive General Manager, Workplace Experience and Global Facilities Manager at Xero in his last role and is currently a Workplace Consultant. He's really developed a world-class Workplace Experience team there and supported Xero as it grew. I'd love to ask you a couple of questions, Nathan to open up the question and answers.

Nathan McLean: Thank you very much for having me.

Nina Fountain: Great you could join and add to this conversation. Why was it important to Xero to have a thriving Workplace Experience function within their business?

It came down to values. When I joined Workplace Experience wasn't a thing. But part of their value set was beautiful and human. They wanted to do things in a beautiful way, deliver beautiful experiences to their customers which translated into how they treated their staff.

On the human value, everyone wants a human. Let's interact with people talk to people, understand people. When I first joined Xero, they just moved into a new HQ in Wellington. It was a beautiful building. Their design team had been involved with its creation and they certainly leaned on that sort of beautiful value. But whilst they did lean on that and they did engage with staff on the human front about what they wanted; what they wanted sort of landed more in the aesthetics.

It landed on those top things that you put under your slides, like foosball tables and a barista. So some great things people really enjoy. But because at the time designing, they didn't have any in-house facilities management experience they didn't focus on the experience people would have in actually using a space in their day-to-day work lives.

There were lots of frustrations that came out very quickly. Such as the acoustics was terrible cause everything was beautiful, polished, concrete, glass and steel. We had bespoke design desks for everybody, which were designed in a trapezoid shape to reflect the shape of the building.
So, beautiful design intent. But if anyone's ever tried to work for eight hours at a desk, the edge of the desk is on a 30 degree angle. It's not very pleasant and creates all sorts of functional issues. When I started the first thing I did was to really get to know the people and understand their pain points in this space so we could not only have a beautifully beautiful looking space, but have a beautiful experience of working in the space.
From then on I took my own focus on having people at the centre of everything we do and combined it with the, the organisation's values of ‘beautiful’ and ‘it's human’ to really drive that experience piece. The business got on board very quickly.

They understood if people find it easy and enjoyable to work, they'll be happier and productive and happier staff stay longer, they build stronger cultures. So putting people at the centre of the service we were trying to deliver it just made good business sense.

Nina Fountain: That's a great point. It makes good business sense. Couldn't have said it better. So how has Design Thinking helped you when you're creating that Workplace Experience?

Nathan McLean: When I first started out in the industry, I'd never heard of Design Thinking or Workplace Experience. I focused on people and infinity with people, and I understood that how people experienced a space mattered.

One of my first managers and facilities space had a mantra of 'Customer perception as reality', it sort of stuck with me and still sticks with me today. It wasn't really until I joined Xero that I started coming across this concept of Design Thinking because they were using that and how they were building their technology and the platform for small business owners to use.

I started to get more deliberate around people engagement and it really helped to tease out what the issues are. Particularly the issues in what people are experiencing with this space, not just the potential physical issue you might see in a modern work environment where you've got flexible working and potentially unassigned desking. Someone might come to you with a complaint of "there's just not enough desks".

You could take a literal approach and go, Okay, there's 100 desks and there's only 70 people today", problem solve, go away. But a Design Thinking approach will encourage you to dig into that deeper, ask more questions of that individual and of other people. Why do they say there’s not enough desks?

Is it the wrong type of desk? Is the desk not in the right place for them? 40 of the desks unusable because the IT setup is broken. All of those sorts of things can help you to really nail down what are the challenges you can fix to make that experience better for them in the future?

I think it's really important that last point of the process that test and revise. It's probably one of the most challenging ones in physical space because you buy 100 desks, next week you're not going to swap out 100 desks. It's quite a cost impact.

You should continue to monitor, to measure. There's so much technology these days that can help build that picture of what's going on. Whether it's desking systems or occupancy sensors. It's still really important that someone with the context of what's going on within the office space is using that data to understand what's going on.

And most importantly, use that information to spark questions and the discussions that you can go back to the people and have. What now needs to change? What more can we do? What are the friction points that you are now experiencing?

Nina Fountain: Fantastic. So we have some time for questions, and this is now open floor.

You're welcome to just pop them into the chat. We're very happy to respond to questions .

Kezia Lynch: We'll just wait for some questions to pop through. One of the things I thought of while you were talking, Nina, was about your garbage and garbage out approach. How do you really encourage people to provide feedback? It's very easy to launch a survey and not get many responses.
What's the way you can foster people to give that feedback in an authentic way ?

Nina Fountain: I could just be very fortunate, but I have found to surveys are generally 50% plus in the organisations I work with because workplace is something people are very committed to or, or interested in.

I often come in as a consultant and there's been some conversation in the organisation ahead of time, so there's some communications that's letting people know there's a project on to optimise the workplace that now makes sense in that context. It's important, it doesn't come out of the blue.

It's important that the survey's really well designed because that can be equally frustrating if it's, classic double barrelled questions that people are like, which question are you asking here? My response is going to be meaningless. That's when you start getting people dropping off quite quickly and you don't get that follow through.

There is a real skill and methodology around good survey design. The other way is actually to compliment that with the focus groups or the user group. With another whole range of other ways you can get that data. Surveys are great at giving you percentages, prevalence of a view or an opinion.

They're awesome at giving people the chance to anonymously fill in open text fields and, tell you what they think about something they wouldn't do in person. But they're not so good for being able to dig into the detail, understand the nuance, necessarily get the opinion of the perspective behind it and ask a follow up question.

Focus groups can be a lot better for that. I think there's a range of ways to get that great high quality input.

Kezia Lynch: One of our attendees, Judy, said it's not about gathering the data and then, people never hearing about it ever again.

It's about referencing the data you got in those surveys, to foster that kind of environment where people feel comfortable to share their thoughts with you.
Nina Fountain: Absolutely. If you come in and you've got one survey [00:35:00] but previously they've had five they never heard the results from, then unfortunately that is a bad start.

They haven't got that trust or confidence there. Obviously you can address that as best you can in your comms and in leadership conversations with their teams.

Kezia Lynch: We have a question from Josh Baker here. "Does experience require integrated systems?" He's suggesting to drive experience, you need to make it really easy and need everything to connect together, or can you have different facets?

Nina Fountain: I love that. It's a very broad thinking concept, and in general the answer is yes. For example, at a recent client it's a technology example, but WIFI was glitching in the middle of the building. Historically they've had two different systems.

So people have to literally hand off and hand over to the next network. That meant people couldn't walk around on a call or needed to reset when they're on the other side of the building. That essentially creates an invisible barrier because that technology layer wasn't considered as part of this workplace model of flexibility enabled by laptops and other mobile techs.

It is best when you've got a senior leadership intention and then you've got the capacity to go to different parts of the organisation and the mandate to seek their involvement because of the goal and the ultimate outcome that the organisation wants to achieve.

Kezia Lynch: This next question from Judy is probably relevant to both of you Nina and Nathan. "Do you see organisations creating different policies for different offices?" To me, it throws up questions of different countries and different policies as well.

Nina Fountain: I do see it with different countries. I've got a client who is global they're in Asia, they're in Europe, they're in Australia. Overall, most of their policies that would define the experience people have are global. But they do have some different practices in different places.

I think that cultural sensitivity is really relevant. It's a fine line to walk. Because who are people comparing themselves to when they think this is fair and equitable? But on the whole, they're going to be thinking mainly about their colleagues in their country.

You can have that conversation to unwind why culturally it's more appropriate. The opposite is often worse, to try to put equal arrangements on everyone. That's a key concept here is equal and equitable are quite different.

Equal is the same for everyone. But in a flexible world that squashes out the benefits for individuals if you just require equal for everyone. Whereas equitable is, you've arrived at the same result, through the same process but not necessarily exactly an equal definition of it.

Let's say the result is we want free and easy access to the office whenever people want to use it. And we're going to be a bit flexible about timing. So we've extended, insurance and security arrangements so that we know people will be in the office until 8:00 PM potentially, and we've allowed that.

But then you've got an office where, everyone leaves at five to battle the traffic. That would then be a conversation around, we're looking into our occupancy data and our utilisation of this space. At the moment, it doesn't seem we need that, that's the organisational policy, but at the moment it doesn't seem relevant here.

I think, it is very much around asking that question, is this equitable? Rather than is this equal? And then having an open conversation in the organisation around, how you've arrived at that so people have confidence in it. Transparency leads to trust and modern confidence.

Kezia Lynch: We have a fun question from an anonymous attendee about how to create the social kind of energy buzz around the office without doing things like Taco Tuesday and donuts and silly stuff like that.

Nina Fountain: It's a great question. Because those things can have their own buzz around them. They can be part of a great experience. They're not going to be the thing that makes someone decide to come into the office.

But they do have some value. But the question "What do you do in instead?" The mundane part of the answer is we've got really a powerful tool in workstation ratio and in opening up and closing laws.

If you have a very low utilisation of a space, that could be fantastic for someone whose work is very focused. They want the quiet we know people up to the age of 30 prefer the office. This doesn't mean they're always going to be the ones that come in because of all those other factors, but there is a preference there for the office because home is not always a place where they can work productively.

Same for people with children, for example. People with elderly dependents, who they need to look after. So there are some people whom that focus time and space in the office is going to work great for them. But the social energy and the buzz comes from people rubbing shoulders with each other, having line of sight, being able to have an incidental conversation in the hallway, the water cooler moments, those informal, unexpected moments that lead to all the great things that we're talking about. As well as the social energy and buzz, the transfer of culture, just sharing unsaid things that you wouldn't necessarily say in a formal setting on a meeting.

There's a lot of great benefits to literally thinking about that utilisation. How many people per workstations or work settings have we got in this space at the moment? Is it worth shutting down a couple of spaces, but also you want to think about all your use cases to think, have we got some people in those spaces actually needing that for the purpose it's providing?
And how else can we provide that ?

Kezia Lynch: Totally. Nathan, in your experience, Xero in particular, how did you go about creating buzz in the office? I've been to quite a few of the Xero offices and there's certainly a hum there.

Nathan McLean:
It's a combination of curating things so there are activities and that's not necessarily the case of Taco Tuesday, people coming in for it. But there is an element of benefit from creating a bit of buzz interactivity for people when they are there. To Nina's point though, it's about that density of people.

If it's a ghost town, you'll never get that hump. In fact, that might drive a lot of people to stay at home. If I'm going to come into the office and, and sit in silence, I might as well stay at home and sit in silence. So Facilities Managers, Property Managers, they need to find that balance with the organisation of let's reduce some of the space because we clearly don't need it to create some of that density to not force, but create greater opportunities for people to connect with each other and bump into each other.

But also create variety. You need variety of space. You will have those people that want a quiet space, they want that focused desk. They don't want to be sitting in a kitchen surrounded by people trying to do a zoom call. Those smaller spaces need variety to be able to cater for the different ways in which people will work and different ways in which people will socialise and interact.

There's no magic recipe. It is understanding organisation, listening to your people trying things, seeing what happens what's the feedback and continue to reiterate from that work curating Workplace Experience. You always need to be a finger on the pulse of what's going on in that office space.

Quite often, Facilities, Workplace Experience people can be much closer to the true day-to-day culture and vibe of an office than an HR team who can be a little removed because they're not the ones overhearing those water cooler conversations.

Nina Fountain: To that point, I have found you've got to be careful because HR does know a lot of the business. They'll often have a view on how different areas of the business work. That's what they've seen. Also impacted by their own experience.

You do want to be careful you don't go to HR to speak for the rest of the business because it's sometimes close, but not close enough. There's a couple of other questions here I noticed.

Kezia Lynch: Glen's question relates to something, you were talking a lot about Nina with senior management being wary to seek too much feedback. How have you managed the relationship between feedback and senior management in the past?

Nina Fountain: It's a really great challenge and one that can be addressed. There's a huge value for senior leaders in an anonymous, kind of closed group conversation where they're not having to go public and to front something without them getting their own confidence and their own level of buy-in to the whole process.

This is a tip of the iceberg discomfort that shows potentially a lack of buy-in and alignment with the whole process of a Design Thinking led Workplace Experience approach. To get to that point where you are in that medium level integration or, high level integration you apply change principles.

We used to be in a place where we knew change was 30% successful. But there's now been some great work done around what it takes to make change be 80% successful. There's a McKinsey book out about that. I can share it with the resources. When we say change, it doesn't have to be like, Ugh, great, that's not going to work.

We have some techniques and tools that help bring senior leaders along. This can be transformational, but I guess as one place to start that closed group anonymous, essentially anonymous or, not public to the organisation yet conversation where, senior leaders first get to work their issues through is really important.

Kezia Lynch: Thanks for that. I think that wrap things up and we don't want to hold people much longer. I believe there's a final poll to gather some feedback from the attendees about what they're looking to of deep dive to, into system themes.

If you guys are in the webinar you can click on that polls and quizzes box down the bottom and it'll pop up with a questionnaire to fill out.

Nina Fountain: Great to see people popping in there. While they're doing that, there was one other question, from Cassie.
When you're testing a new idea for a problem, do you test it on all staff or use a smaller sample group? Definitely a smaller sample group.

Kezia Lynch:
Test, learn, and iterate.

Nina Fountain:
Yes, absolutely. They can be your user group. They can be a portion of a floor. You could be testing a couple of hours visiting cafe on a Friday. How you design that group will depend on the solution you're testing.

Kezia Lynch: We've had lots of people keen to understand more about the workplace personas, which is something you touched on at the beginning, and then secondary influencing senior leaders, which relates to Glen's question too.

Nina Fountain: Good to know. Well, we can talk further about how to give people that information.

Kezia Lynch: That's going to bring us to the end of today's session, but as Nina said we have some resources we're going to follow up with afterwards. So you'll get a copy of the webinar, a helpful cheat sheet Nina has created, as well as some other resources she mentioned before - that Mackenzie study in particular.

So much practical advice. Lots of notes were taken. I was jotting away bits and pieces of my brain and some notes on my laptop . If you are interested in staying across Nina's latest work, you can follow her on LinkedIn. Same with Nathan. If you're after more tailored advice, these guys are your experts to come to for some proper consultancy.

If you are keen to optimise your car park, obviously Parkable can help you do that. Enhancing the employee experience and without adding to the administrative work. We can learn more at Parkable.com. As I mentioned at the top, there are three more webinars coming in the series about driving operational excellence in the workplace.

On the 24th of May, you can join me and author Gary Bowles to hear about co-creating that flexible work environment, the mindset involved, the skillset involved, and the tool set required. The link to register is being posted in the chat right now, but that's all we have time for today.

I hope to see everybody next week, and thank you so much Nina and Nathan for sharing everything with us.

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