A Third City of Entrepreneurs: The workplace revolution of Los Angeles
[July 02, 2019] BY Kazumasa Ikoma
Named Silicon Beach, Los Angeles has been attracting attention as the third largest startup city in the United States. In areas where startups are concentrated, there is a tendency for advanced work styles and office awareness to be high. And finally, Los Angeles held its first-ever WORKTECH conference. In this city blessed with perfect weather year-round, the pioneers of the workplace industry gathered to engage in active talks to make positive changes to the Los Angeles working environment.
The Relationship of Changing Needs: From the company to shareholders to employees
The event started with a talk by Chris Kelly, CEO of WORKTECH’s venue partner, Convene. Now that competition for recruiting is intensifying, the relationship between employees and employers has changed. As a result, the landlords are becoming stronger and more prominent service providers. Kelly stated that the real estate industry is now undergoing major changes. He said the real estate industry is now required to provide more user-centered services for tenants, even saying that his company is a “hospitality company” that “happened to be in the real estate industry.” He introduced that the concept of today’s coworking spaces is changing to be used by large companies.
In addition, as a newly created problem, companies in a rapidly changing society promote work outsourcing, In a very fast-changing society, companies advance their work outsourcing, while mentioning the contradictions that they are actively using real estate as a strategic weapon to win the recruiting competition, and the change in the real estate and workplace industries will continue to be significant.
Managing Director of Workplace Strategy at Savills, Shannon Woodcock, also introduced the transition of employee needs for companies with the history of the workplace. Woodcock explained how the workplace has evolved, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s when minimum wage was guaranteed and 8-hour workday was enacted, to the birth of the designed office, to the current fitness, mental wellness, and medical health-focused mindset established.
Just as WeWork has recently become the first big company to tell its employees what they can and can not eat, Woodcock as well as Kelly, pointed out that today’s companies are now committing more to the employee. Moreover, forecasts for next-generation trends include personal workplace technology, more user-friendly designs, flexibility and freedom in working styles, and societal justice, which employees of Generation Z value as important for companies. Responsibility for Employer’s workplace will grow with the changing needs of employees.
It is important to use data to understand changing needs. Now that Gen Z is joining the workforce and the needs of our employees diversify, its importance will be further strengthened. Under the moderation of Ari Kepnes, Scott Anderson, Kieran Hannon, and Terry Raby all have the problem of what to digitize and how to make that data available in the office; Not just for facility management, but also as a necessity to measure the employee experience. Data obtained through reporting and employee evaluations are used to evaluate the benefits and services provided by the office, and to evaluate apps and technologies in the workplace that are said to be more user-friendly. For the panel members, it is possible to use data for improvement as well. The speakers unanimously agreed for the need to continue to look at a broad perspective on where we can use data.
The Discussion of Millennials is in Full Swing
As the percentage of millennials in the workforce increases year by year and Gen Z enters the workforce, the way of office management will and has shifted focus to this particular work force as the main users. The panel sessions of Yester Sabondzhyan (Manager of Workplace Analytics & Programming, Hulu) and Kate Dodd (Workplace Strategy Lead, Woods Bagot North America) proclaimed that 75% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2025, noting 40% of the employees at tech companies will include Gen Z-ers in their 30s. For Millennials and Gen Z-ers, UX is very important, not just the design of the workplace, but also the usability of everything from apps to the work itself.
According to Woodcock’s presentation, Gen Z craves stories that have impactful meaning and as employees, they will seek companies that uphold societal justice. In regards to the work style of this generation, they will amalgamate their private time and working time more than Millennials. Concepts like Work-Life Balance or Work-Life Integration will shift to something more like Work-Life Jenga for more Millennials and Gen Z-ers as time passes.
Kelly Robinson’s talk was impressive discussing the meaningful impact on society from the perspective of the workplace. She explained that corporate offices trying to raise awareness about greenery and food together with employees, such as Apple Park and Pasona in Japan, are increasing one after another all over the world. For Robinson, the kitchen in the office is also a place that has an important meaning as “a powerful place to rethink the way we think about nature”. She even gave the event participants some tips on what offices and workplaces can do to protect the global environment.
Office Technology Accelerates as Digital-savvy Millennials Increase
Workplaces around the world are reborn every day for its Millennial and Gen Z employees and in order to support them, the technology itself has also been updated. Ungroup’s CEO & Founder Phillip Ross explained that cameras and sensors are located everywhere in their offices, and in their latest workplace using who is in the office to determine what each employee is doing; what kind of preferences such as lighting brightness, desk height, room temperature; where employees are planning to go, what they do next, and where to go next, etc. to explain that the latest workplace can grasp everything, with various examples. Like this, we can use the term “Sentient Workplace” to describe an office that “feels and responds automatically” to everything.
Rahul Shira, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Signify, said that even with a single light, there could be a major evolution of technology. Using the world’s smartest building located in the Accenture office in the Netherlands, The Edge, Shira explains that their lighting system exemplifies how lighting technology plays an important role in current office trends. Of course, the adequacy of illumination has an impact on employee performance, but also on the greenery and plant life now found in a majority of offices. Furthermore, proper illumination technology can prevent wasting energy and help adjust employees’ circadian rhythm. Moreover, in workplaces created for a multitude of uses can utilize lighting systems that are multifunctional. Smart Lighting is expanding the playing field.
Corporate Needs Reach Heights with Collaboration and Openness
While the needs of employees in the workplace are quite different, the needs of the company that owns the office are concentrated on collaboration and openness. In the afternoon session after the lunch break, two designers representing the West Coast talked about the company’s collaboration space based on a number of cases they have worked on themselves. Architect Clive Wilkinson, who designed Googleplex, a representative work on the corporate campus, and Primo Orpilla who worked for Uber, Slack and McDonald’s offices, explained that first and foremost office spaces are used for not only one purpose but for multiple usages.
For the collaboration spaces they designed, a high degree of freedom which allows those working alone to coexist alongside different groups working is the key to producing collaboration. Such offices often encounter two conflicting issues: Transparency and privacy. But fundamentally, it’s open as a co-creation space for all customers. After understanding that the five different generations that coexist in today’s workspace work differently, the two said it was important that the facility is made to support the freedom of work however they see fit.
Rohan Silva, co-founder of Second Home, a co-working space in the UK, is an interesting entrepreneur who is trying to make a collaborative innovative workplace space available for social contribution. By providing a workspace to support startups’ innovative activities, he is trying to bolster the growth of tenant companies, increase employment, and eliminate the problem of automation eliminating people’s jobs. By holding all kinds of events that stimulate the creativity of tenants, such as music from poets, talk events featuring astronauts, etc., you support the growth of the tenant companies with different sizes and stages of entrepreneurship and stimulate the connection with humans and society.
After success in London, England, and Lisbon, Portugal, they are finally opening a plant-filled workplace in East Hollywood, USA, and trying to create a collective society. There is great hope that the company’s efforts will contribute to the creation of startup jobs in the United States.
Image of SecondHome Hollywood (opening summer 2019)
This is not the only example of a collaboration space in Southern California. Roger TV’s office, designed by interior design company CHA: COL, incorporates wood grain furniture into the open space warehouse to create a simple and sophisticated office space. At the center of the space is a symbol of this office and an area called “The Pit” where employees from different industries can work together and have lunch to promote collaboration among employees. Roger TV’s Creative Director, Terence Lee, in collaboration with CHA: COL’s co-founder, Principa Apurva Pande, talked about how this design stimulates the creativity of the young employees who work there.
Revolutionary Workplace and Change in Employee Awareness Essential for Growth in Human Resources
Workplace updates will be made to maximize the value of employees, but eventually leaders will need to change their minds in order for the employees to grow the most, according to Robin Wooddall Klein, Senior Vice President of Root Inc. While she is aware of the fact that in recent years there are many employees who are actively learning and continuing to grow, she states that careers are what HR holds, what HR controls, but without trying to actively stand out, company shareholders and employees adopt passive attitudes towards control of the company. As a company, in order to increase employee productivity and efficiency, it is necessary not only to provide a fulfilling workplace environment but also to improve their awareness and actively draw out their abilities and values.
She wrapped up the presentation with the idea that the employees who form a company are those who understand the importance of change and have the strength of mind to do something about it. As she quoted Jay-Z, “I’m hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter.”
“Meditation also has great potential,” said Matthew Savarick, CEO of Headspace, a company that provides services at Google and Roche, as another tool to bring out the true value of people. Like athletes who use meditation to increase their concentration before a game, it is important to make meditation one of the benefits of the workplace as it is and can be an important practice for modern workers. Meditation has been scientifically backed by experimental research from institutions like Oxford and Harvard. According to Savarick, through 87 trillion nerves people experience 70,000 thoughts, 87% of which are negative. With such daily stress and pressure, using meditation to foster the feeling of acceptance of oneself would be a valuable skill for employees.
WORKTECH, the first in Los Angeles, has had a major impact not only on Silicon Beach startups but also on workplace culture throughout Southern California. While companies may have come with the intention of “wanting to increase employee productivity,” the participants put emphasis on the importance of updating the workplace and comfort through experience. At the same time, the low usage of personal technology by individual employees has been a blind spot up until now when discussing work style reformation. In order to enhance the value of employees through a sophisticated workplace, it is necessary to change the individual’s passive consciousness. Future workplaces will need to be updated with a finer, micro-perspective.
*This article has been originally released @WORKTECH Academy
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Writer of this post
Kazumasa IkomaWhile working as an office manager in San Francisco, he posted numerous articles about the office designs, corporate cultures, and working styles on the West Coast. He researches what constitutes comfortable offices for companies and employees every day and puts his ideas into practice at his company.
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