Reinventing the Workplace: [NET]WORKed in New York
10.28.2013
Amanda Carroll in Consulting, Mobility, New York, Reinventing the Workplace

Image © Gensler

Reinventing the Workplace is a recurring blog series in which Gensler designers predict how the workplace will evolve over the next decade. You can find all the entries in this series here.

Decades ago the clairvoyant Albert Einstein stated, “It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.” Today, it couldn’t be more obvious: He was right. And we are designing spaces that accommodate new technologies but don’t support people’s innate need to connect with each other. And though technology has enabled us to do work anywhere anytime, people still thrive off connections with each other.

With the average mobile worker globally carrying 3.5 mobile devices and with 70% of the world’s population projected to be living in urban environments in search of a more connected lifestyle by 2050, workplace designers need to address a broader problem: How do you design a 24/7 workplace that is flexible enough to keep pace with technology and the ever increasing speed at which work is done in cities? For Gensler New York, New York City was the most appropriate platform to solve the problem and provide scalable solutions.

All the awesome quirks in that secret sauce of New York—the culture, diversity, energy, and spontaneity—need a new recipe for success that blends the physical and the virtual. The city and its workforce needs a boundary-less workplace of the future where work, play, and data converge to become completely [NET]WORKed in the workplace city.

How do you create a boundary-less workplace? Our [NET]WORK design is an intentionally modular solution. The combination of planning, programming and integrated components allows the user to physically shape the arrangement of personal spaces and resources so that every space responds to ever changing work needs. Additionally, the policy set by office managers and HR departments should ensure equal access to all resources, thus eliminating the corporate boundaries typically established by hierarchy.

Rooted in the desire for the knowledge workers of today to keep pace with technology, while remaining loyal to their cities and to each other, our concept for the [NET]WORK starts with the reinvention of the existing urban Class B building stock. Class B office buildings have an authentic character that people are inherently drawn to; they are the keepers of a city’s history. And though many tenants are flocking to the brand new stock of Class A buildings that are going up around the city, Class B buildings, when properly renovated, can take on new tenants and provide the amenities necessary to create a 21st century workplace. It’s a happy coincidence that they are also readily available to take on the surge of new tenants.

Take, for example, the Woolworth Building. Once the tallest and most innovative building of its time, the Woolworth Building inspired us to address how to evolve Class B buildings. In the year of its 100th year anniversary, it is once again time for the Woolworth Building to redefine possibility as an important piece of the New York City skyline. But before it can evolve, it needs to bring the vibrancy of the streets inside and up to get the workplace on par with all of the recent advances in technology. A city workspace must not only allow the future worker access to an urban lifestyle, it must blur the lines of the live/work balance that we’ve all been trying to achieve into a completely symbiotic relationship. The future worker willingly participates in the advancement of smarter services and spaces this boundary-less workplace offers because of that relationship.

Image © Gensler

[NET]WORK is the symbiotic relationship between people, devices and the workplace city. It allows the physical and the virtual to inform each other so the workplace can keep pace with the future worker. And it starts with the power of one, the individual. Each person acts as a single data point. When networked via their smart devices, the workers generate data that can be mined and measured for the physical workplace to respond to in real time. This unleashes the physical workplace, finally setting the pace and no longer trying to keep up with constant change.

[NET]WORK can respond in a multitude of ways that would be similar to that which you would expect in a car. When you first sit down in the driver’s seat after you’ve let someone else drive, a smart car readjusts itself to your preferences at the touch of a button. Some cars employ sensors and make the adjustments for you. Similar user-centric adjustments occur within [NET]WORK; light levels, temperature, volume and content that is automatically displayed in a room upon entering is preset to the user. If the space is tied into more specific user preferences, it can also extend that same value to the data set being built around occupancy and use.

Image © Gensler

The concept that drives [NET]WORK is the mixing of the secret sauce of the streetscapes with the people and devices that define work. [NET]WORK functions as a gateway to the city and provides a welcome to every occupant both public and private. The design calls for pocket parks to be located within the building, thus allowing employees to feel that they can leave the office and experience urban amenities without travelling far. It is a place of community and a social catalyst for re-charging. It mixes a wide variety of people and demographics and acts as an incubator for serendipitous connections. These offerings provide a healthy and active workspace that will bring nature, movement, and community engagement together across all areas of the building.

[NET]WORK mixes public and private programs in a dynamic and blurred way. Small and large companies can come together in partnerships not possible in the segregated workplaces of today, resulting in cross-disciplinary interaction that will forge innovation. For employees, the workplace is composed with a flexible kit of parts that allows for hundreds of solutions able to tailor itself to its occupants’ ever changing demands. Solutions are anything but one-size-fits-all. They are varied and boundary-less. As a direct result, occupants will be happier, healthier, more productive, and engaged in their work and their community.

Image © Gensler

[NET]WORK responds to all the needs of the future worker both professionally and personally – space to focus, inform, care and connect. It improves the user experience by providing the choice to access any and all of them 24 hours a day.

It starts with the focus desk, where the individual can create truly flexible work settings for themselves and their teams.

Image © Gensler

It is complemented by the focus pod, which provides a first class experience for solitude and serves as a “…a catalyst to innovation.”

Image © Gensler

Larger work settings for learning are accessed in informal settings where the user is immersed in technology and ideas to respond to the changing ways the future worker thinks. More comfortable, serene areas can be found in connect zones where people can sit around the campfire and brainstorm in virtual settings that change with the click of a button. All of this living is elevated through care zones, where the user is given the opportunity to prioritize their well-being by recharging or taking a shower.

Image © Gensler

[NET]WORK is a scalable solution built on the power of one with possibilities that are infinite. Its inspiration and potential impact go far beyond New York to all Class B buildings in urban environments around the world prepping themselves for a reinvented workplace.

Image © Gensler

Other team members who contributed to this project: Megan Niemczyk, Milena Jovovic, Kelly Benjamin, Zach Kuehn, Eric Tan, Yeesan Loh, and Brian Berry.

Amanda Carroll is a design strategist and North East Regional workplace practice leader in Gensler's New York office. Contact her at amanda_carroll@gensler.com.
Article originally appeared on architecture and design (http://www.gensleron.com/).
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