In conversation with Kay Sargent, WorkPlace Director – HOK15 Feb. 2021
“By creating environments that support wellbeing, inclusivity and inspire those within them, we can drive powerful outcomes and create spaces that reflect our humanity. We need to design with courage to define the next generation of great places to transform the way we work, live, learn and play. We are no longer just designing environments. We are designing the experience.”
Kay Sargent, Director of WorkPlace, HOK
FEATURED WORKPLACE DESIGN EXPERT
With more than 35 years of experience, Kay is a recognized expert on workplace design and strategy issues. She is an award-winning designer who has worked with several Fortune 500 companies to optimize their global real estate portfolios and create innovative work environments based on their unique organizational DNA. Kay was recently names ASID’s Designer of Distinction for 2020. Kay is considered an industry thought leader on workplace.
What trends and direction in workplace design are you most excited about?
COVID-19 has caused the world to ask fundamental questions – what is the future of work? In answering that we have the opportunity not only to address the issues of yesterday and today, but to look at what lies ahead so we can be future ready. Afterall, we don’t get the opportunity to rethink everything often. The notion of “returning to the office” is flawed. We need to acknowledge the things that were not working before COVID-19 and instead of returning to them, address what is broken as we move forward. We need to evolve beyond the notion of “an office” to “reimagining an ecosystem” of spaces that truly addresses our needs - now and in the future. We need to embrace the opportunity to address the disruption being brought forth and proactively rethink how we can best serve our clients, companies and the workforce. We need to design with courage so we can innovate and evolve.
Has employee productivity been impacted by remote working and would a hybrid approach help improve the productivity?
Studies have shown that many people are able to be very productive while working from home, but it isn’t for everyone. The younger generation seems to be less satisfied with remote work as they may not have the living situation or access to mentors that they desire. And over time, without the right policies and procedures in place, many WFH programs have failed. So it is important to create options and choices and acknowledge that people tend to be the most satisfied and engaged when they can work remote 1-2 days a week but still have access to the office, their colleagues and the culture. Hence, offering people a hybrid work model will likely increase engagement and productivity while staying connected to their colleagues, the company and its culture.
What do you see as the lasting impact to workplace design as a result of COVID-19?
In the immediate future we will see a continuation of caution regarding the return to shared workplaces. Physical distancing, masking, enhanced cleaning, and reducing touchpoints will all be part of our lives for the coming months. But there will also be some long-lasting implications in our shared common spaces because of COVID. Those will likely include:
- Increased remote work programs driving an ecosystem of space.
- More choice, options and spacing with unassigned work points.
- Enhanced lobbies that serve as transition spaces and workplaces.
- Increased shielding and dividers to create boundaries.
- More storage space for personal items and supplies.
- Enhanced HVAC, air filtration and increase air exchange.
- Increased use of technology to reduce touchpoints.
- Reworked restrooms to increase sanitation and increase handwashing capacity.
- Greater variation of meeting/gathering spaces.
- More outside space for working and refreshing.
- Tighter visitor controls and restrictions.
- A new minimalism as items are put away to reduce and enable enhanced cleaning.
Who are the main contact points/stakeholders or decision makers from the client’s side you would interact with on design
The dilemma for many companies is when and how to bring the staff back into the workplace. This can vary significantly based on the type of work they do, where the office is located, how it is designed and the overall sentiment of the workforce. Going forward, companies need to determine how they create environments that bring people together while keeping them safe. Assessing these environments will require HR, Corporate Real Estate, IT and Facilities, the C-suite and, perhaps even legal. Inclusive and transparent discussions will be far better received and are what we should be striving for.
How can a SMART office improve productivity/create the right conditions for innovation and attract talent?
Emerging smart technologies have the potential to reshape how we approach work and the design of the workplace and position savvy companies with a distinct competitive advantage. We can do so much more in the workplace, to create an autonomous environment, and improve the user experience. One aspect that is sure to change is leveraging technology to reduce the number of touch points in our work environments to create lo-to-no touch environments. In this new scenario, we’d leverage the technology already available to create spaces that are responsive to us instead of us having to respond to them.
How important are the WELL building standards in the current climate?
For many organizations the number one concern right now is the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff and creating safe work environments that address physical, emotional and cognitive health. The pandemic has created a renewed focus on human-centric design and environments that promote human sustainability. The WELL Building Standard and FitWel are designed to operate alongside sustainable-building standards such as LEED and BREEAM with minimal overlap. Executives estimate that an almost 22% increase in company performance can be achieved if their offices are WELL designed and spaces that address human sustainability foster a level of comfort, security and trust that is essential today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
KAY SARGENT ASID, IIDA, CID, LEED® AP, MCR/w, WELL AP
Senior Principal | Director of WorkPlace HOK
With more than 35 years of experience, Kay is a recognized expert on workplace design and strategy issues. She is an award-winning designer who has worked with several Fortune 500 companies to optimize their global real estate portfolios and create innovative work environments based on their unique organizational DNA. As Co-Director of HOK’s WorkPlace team, a practice that supports organizations undertaking multiple projects in various locations, and a member of HOK’s Board of Directors, Kay is responsible for helping clients redefine how, when and where their people work, and supports a holistic design approach that integrates an organization’s people, processes and technology.
Kay was recently names ASID’s Designer of Distinction for 2020. Kay is considered an industry thought leaders on workplace. She has authored multiple white papers and articles on a variety of design related topics including wellbeing; next gen workforce; technologies impact on the workplace; space fusion and the rise of the human factor.
Kay currently serves on the AVIXA Board of Directors; the National ASID Foundation Research Taskforce, the IWBI Mind Advisory Team and the Advisory Board for WorkDesign Magazine. She was recently appointed to the George Washington University Customer Experience Certificate Program Advisory Council. During her career she has also served on the International Boards of CoreNet Global and IFI - International Federation of Interior Designers /Architects, the Boards of ASID, IIDA and NCQLP and the Advisory Board of Virginia Tech School of Architecture and Design and NVCC. She is an active member of IFMA and co-founder of the IFMA Workplace Evoluntionaries, WE community and serves as an Executive committee for WE. Kay is committed to mentoring the next generation of designers and as such mentors multiple individuals within HOK and across the industry. She is also a Founder of the DC Chapter of UPWARD, a global network dedicated to the professional advancement of women in the workplace.