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The Workplace Experience Lab: The Role of the Office in Hybrid Work

The workplace experience lab
Britta Schellenberg
Published on

For this final month of 2022, we’re welcoming JLL’s Lauren Hasson into the Workplace Experience Lab. As Vice President, Workplace Strategy, Lauren’s role is to help JLL clients understand and manage the impact that hybrid or flexible work has on the amount of office space they need.

Lauren guides clients through the often confusing new world of work: “Success for me is facilitating the transformation from discouraged to inspired by the potential of hybrid. After partnering with our team, clients feel they've taken action, engaged their employees, and are in a better place organizationally.” 

Lauren, you may recall, also joined us at the recent Hybrid Work Conference in October, when she brilliantly led a panel called “From Good Enough to Golden: A New Office Era,” exploring how organizations are adapting to hybrid work environments.

The Rightful Role of the Office

There’s no hybrid work without the office serving as a hub for collaboration and culture-building. “Organizations need a place that's a touchstone for employees,” says Hasson, “a place that reflects their brand and culture. The size of that touchstone may have changed, although not as dramatically as many people assume.” Hasson explains that office footprints in Boston, where she works, have been reduced by an average of only 10 to 15%. 

“The office matters to people,” she says, “and I say that not just as a JLL employee, but from my own experience. I get so much energy from coming into the office, to a place that’s intentionally designed for you and your peers.” 

For Hasson, the planning process starts by examining the type of work happening in that space. “It's figuring out the different needs of people and teams,” she says, “so is this going to be a space exclusively for team onsites or do we still need to make space for people to do focus work M-F?” 

Defining those use cases dictates how much space a client needs. “So if your software engineers are saying they don't necessarily need to come into the office more than once a week, you're probably not going to design this huge encampment of workstations for them,” says Hasson. 

Quote from Lauren Hasson from JLL about hybrid work and the office

Officing with Clear Intention

Today’s office space needs a clear and well-considered purpose adapted to the needs of the people using it. For Hasson, that purpose should be less about flashy amenities or parties (although those are still fun!) and more about employers and employees agreeing upon clear expectations around how the office should be used. 

“You have to give people a light set of expectations regarding where and how work happens. It’s hard for the office to compete with the autonomy and flexibility that people have at home. The most successful companies have examined what they think will align with their business goals. They then develop a hybrid framework and expect their people to be in the office in alignment with that framework. It's not about freebies, but about giving people well-considered structure that they can then adhere to.” 

Hasson believes that there has to be an ongoing, two-way conversation between employer and employee where both are constantly checking in on how things are going. “As a business leader, you're continually determining if your hybrid work policy is actually supporting the business aims that you've established,” says Hasson, “and then checking in with employees to see if they’re happy and productive in the office.” That conversation used to be very top down, notes Hasson, “but it’s going to be a lot more egalitarian moving forward.”

The Role of Technology

Tweet from Robin about workplace technology

Getting the office aligned with the needs of both the organization and employees is an ongoing experiment. Hasson believes that technology is a big part of that iterative approach. 

“There's incredible benefit to having the right tech stack in your workplace experience package,” she says. “And I always ask our clients to minimize the number of apps that their employees need to engage with. It’s better if you can find a platform that's going to do multiple things for you, such as desk and room booking, an announcement tool, and more.” 

Creating more friction in your RTO experience by forcing employees to use multiple apps is not the best way forward. Tech can also offer employers enormous benefits by providing actionable data for decision-making. 

“If you have data about what desks and rooms are popular,” says Hasson, “that tells you how you're going to iterate in the future.” 

People Matter Most

When it comes to “attracting” employees back to the office, people are the most important amenity. “If you know the people you want to collaborate with are going to be in the office, you'll make more of an effort to show up,” says Hasson. “Or if leaders are going to be on site, you’ll hustle to join there. So any technology solution that gives you visibility into who will be in the office is a powerful driver.”

Hasson feels excited and optimistic about this evolving era of the office. Before the pandemic, she says, “people were largely accepting of what they were given. We tolerated dated design or endured open plans that were too dense, loud, and distracting. 

Now people realize that they don't have to work that way. I'm encouraged by how intentional companies have been about investments in their space. There’s a new trend in town: elevating the employee experience.” 

We’ve enjoyed having JLL’s Lauren Hasson join us in the Workplace Experience Lab. Hope you have a Happy Holidays!

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