Up Close And Personal: The HX Workplace With JLL Global Head Of Research Dr. Marie Puybaraud

Will The Shift Towards JLL’s HX Workplace Drive Industry Growth And Maturity?

“We humans are the driving force behind the 4th industrial revolution. Welcome to GCUC and human revolution.” – Liz Elam, Executive Director GCUC, at her opening speech GCUC 2017, NYC

JLL released today a research report that reveals working attitudes around the world. The research, titled Workplace Powered by Human Experience (HX) could signify a new era for workers and companies across the globe (and long-term opportunities for workspace operators).

“A workplace that is powered by the human experience goes beyond a work-life balance. It drives how people feel about their place of work. How empowered, engaged and fulfilled they are, it’s the purposeful fusion of life and work based on authentic human experiences.” – Dr Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research, JLL Corporate Solutions

Elam was right. It all comes down to us: humans.

Flexible workspace operators have long known that the workplace is more than just a place to work. In fact, in a call interview with Allwork, Dr. Puybaraud said that the workspace-as-a-service industry was one of the first to show this (the human experience in the workplace) shift in operations.

Organizations will need to re-think their workplace strategies and how they utilize their real estate. Some companies are starting to look at flexible workspace operators to help them better manage their portfolios. This is the case between IBM and WeWork. And although this can lead to potentially good, long-term scenarios, Dr. Puybaraud is unsure “whether the industry has full maturity at the moment to fully embrace this type of model (WeWork + IBM).”

A Shifting Workplace

Dr. Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research, JLL

“We had the objective to decode what experience was about, we did not set out with human experience in mind. As we looked at what the responses were telling us, we decoded the user experience. Human experience has become crucial; all of our clients put HX as a key differentiator to attract and retail talent,” Puybaraud said.

This realization is driving a shift in the corporate world, a shift that many flexible workspace operators have already embraced. “In the past, the design of spaces has had the goal of being functional and practical; we’re seeing a shift towards working environments that are designed with the user in mind and that weave together hospitality and experience.”

As to why this shift is happening, there are many factors. However, Puybaraud noted that “talk around work and employee experience is very impersonal. People are asking for something different from work; human experience can provide a deeper and more meaningful connection.”

“What we want to achieve with the HX experience is the fact that human experience is not going to work if you do not have that spirit of community within your workplace. It’s very important to have a culture that encourages communities to be creative, to let them be.”

The HX Workplace

“Human experience is an impression an organization leaves on its people, beyond the physical environment, which results in greater engagement, professional empowerment, and a sense of fulfillment,” the report reads.

The HX Workplace is, therefore, driven through 3 pillars: engagement, empowerment, and fulfillment.

The HX approach is about realizing that “a place of work is far more than a property. It is a living environment that helps individuals and businesses craft and experience a better fusion of life and work.” Much of this experience is driven through  kindness and trust, Puybaraud tells us.

“One thing that was striking as we were looking at responses is what exactly creates significance for workers. Trust always came first throughout the countries we surveyed. The second element that came out strongly was kindness; this is fascinating to me. The way I see it is that, when you empower people to take control of their environment, when you give them choice, you also have to trust them to adopt a behavior that is suitable for them.”

The HX workplace, then, is a physical space where people will be driven to engage with one another, where they will feel empowered to make choices, and where these choices will lead to a sense of fulfillment.

For Puybaraud, this means “abandoning single-use spaces.”

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“We need to design environments that are multi-purpose. I am a strong advocate of activity-based working, it’s the most efficient way to work as it drives innovation and healthy collision.” Yet at the same time, Puybaraud admits that there is no universal ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to workspace design. She does, however, admit that there is a ratio that she strongly believes in.

“I usually push our clients to dedicate 70% of their working environment to unassigned workstations (including meeting rooms, breakout areas, and cafes), and to only allow 30% of the environment to be dedicated. This balance, in my opinion, is good because it allows for a high level of flexibility where you ‘force’ people to run into each other, which is what often times drives innovation and creativity.

The Challenge + The Opportunity For Flexible Workspace Operators

There are various advantages to the HX workplace. Yet, it is not going to be an easy task to make the switch.

“When you look at the different factors of HX, it goes far beyond real estate and design. It’s something bigger. You cannot achieve the HX workplace on your own; you will need HR, response teams, you will need to create something different at the organizational level. Companies will have to move it all to a hospitality angle.”

“The most important challenge companies will face when switching to the HX model is that they are going to have to change at an organizational level. Changing the culture of an organization to embrace HX is tough; embracing new ways of working, embracing the value of being together is all easier said than done. HX is about creating communities, creating territories where people can come together, collaborate, and be creative.”

If there is something workspace operators have focused on for several years now, it’s creating communities and finding new ways to bring people together.

This is where the opportunity lies. But in order for the opportunity to show itself, Puybaraud says that “flexible workspace operators will need to re-think their role.”

“When you talk about HX, when companies are serious about addressing HX, they need to acknowledge the fact that this type of transformation calls for significant level of collaboration across different disciplines.”

There is ample opportunity for cross-collaboration, both between internal departments of a company and also with flexible workspace operators. The question is whether operators are ready to provide the physical workspace and meet the demands of companies and to also manage it accordingly to their culture and the employees’ needs.

Even if that question is settled, there remains another challenge to overcome.

“We cannot ignore the level of investment which may be required to drive a solution around HX. I’m talking about the level of cash investment per square meter,” Puybaraud says. And although ROI is a common concern among most of her clients, Puybaraud mentioned that “it’s an investment worth making. I know because the HX model is already working. We have 9 different clients who have already changed to the HX model, and the feedback so far has been wonderful.”

If flexible workspace operators want to journey into the HX model, they will need to seriously think about their cash availability, the level of investment they’re willing to make, and whether it’s worth pursuing partnerships such as the one between WeWork and IBM.

In any case, the takeaway here is that there’s opportunity and room for everyone to improve: companies, employees, and flexible workspace operators.

In an age of technology, of competition, and of globalization, the HX model is a reminder for us to be human.

Read key findings of JLL’s Workplace Powered by Human Experience here.