WHY WE CAN LOOK TO RETAIL AND HOSPITALITY DESIGN FOR BEST PRACTICE MODELS
Contemporary work styles and strategies
No doubt these are highly unstable times. With the introduction of new work models, like hybrid or fully remote, organizations need to find strategies to secure a trust-based relationship with employees. The aim is to increase loyalty and job satisfaction. Especially in the high-stress times of economic downturn and increasing energy prices, organisations need to take measures to be innovative and stay competitive. Having a purposeful office where employees can have in-person experiences and great work environments is now more important than ever before. How can such work environments be designed? What can be learned from other sectors like retail or hospitality design?
Fast changing environments
The last few years have been dominated by drastic changes in the world, simultaneously affecting the working situation. Where other work revolutions took a couple of years or even decades to evolve, the last four years have all been very different from each other.
Until 2019: Majority of office workforce have a 5-day work week in the office,
March 2020: Lockdown and fully remote work where possible,
2021: “The Great Resignation”, the historically competitive labour market, and emergence of hybrid work styles as the new normal,
2023: Return to the office due to economic recession and energy crisis?
Real estate developers, architects and other stakeholders are looking for new strategies, when designing or managing office spaces. Those spaces should be attractive for occupiers and thus futureproof. Fast changes not only demand a high resilience of the workspace but also of the workforce. A new workspace where a diverse, decentralised, and mobile workforce wants to be present and get work done.
Since 2020, several different forms of hybrid work concepts have been established. The idea of where to work from has massively changed the employees’ attitude of coming into the office. The sovereignty over the interpretation “how to work” constantly shifts between employers and employees. It depends on indicators such as market and economic stresses, workforce shortages, and likeliness of employee fluctuation.
Different perceptions between employees and employers
Comparing the number of employers that want their staff to come back five days a week, the number of employees is lower. Why is this? Evaluations show that employers and employees have different perceptions of work efficiency, corporate and employer branding, and communication. Additionally, to those main issues, 65% of employees think their office is not “adventurous” enough while employers evaluate the quality of the office more positively.
Obviously, there is a problem; employers want their staff back in the office, while employees don’t seem to see the necessity. And this raises the question if there is a need for the office?
It is essential for successful companies to be able to overcome market shifts and economic stresses by innovating and solution-finding. Especially in an ultra-competitive environment like today, bringing staff back into the office to increase work efficiency is key for business survival.
Another advantage is being able to get different types of work done better. This can either be collaborative work in appropriate spaces or it could be focus work in quiet areas. This is also highly dependent on each individual’s home circumstances. How many of us have a truly ergonomic home office? Is it really possible to concentrate with noisy flatmates or family? The question emerges, how can we make the office attractive, so people want to come back and benefit from the advantages of commercial office space?
Maybe we don’t need to invent everything new but just look into other industries and learn from them.
Retail – Experiential design
In the retail sector, there are two levels of competition retailers must face. First, the usual competition among all retailers. That has always been there. The second level is the competition against online shops. The interesting part in this constellation is that the scenario has parallels to the challenges the office is facing with remote work. The retail industry has an extensive data base for analysing customer behaviour. This gives them information about customers. What is a super customer experience that makes them want to visit their stores?
The conclusion from their research… first impressions really matter! Look, smell, feel, light, ambience, acoustics, and staff culture. Flagship stores are becoming mandatory for the big brands and their experimental, unconventional, and bold shop designs make headlines in the (not only architectural) news.
Coming into their physical shops triggers many perceptions of the brand’s values and visualised lifestyle. Increasingly, allowing customers to get involved and create personalised items, turns the visit in the retail store an exciting experience. By getting involved with the brand and its products, customer retention is being built.
When designing hospitality interiors, the expectations and preferences of guests are the fundamentals. Guests appreciate when a hotel incorporates and emphasizes parts of the local culture, history, environment, and other aspects of the place in its design. They want to experience a memorable stay, a variety of landscapes that are uniquely curated with a focus on wellbeing. The best hospitality interiors arouse emotional responses, experiences, and memories. Those design strategies derive from a holistic approach that includes space planning, lighting, acoustics, materials, textures, colours, and carefully selected objects.
One good example for applying retail design elements, is the workplace strategy of tech giant Google. For many years Google has shown how exciting and experiential environments can improve work enthusiasm and make everyone dream of working in one of their unique offices.
The so-called “Google Effect” is describing an office design approach that is based on the brand’s culture and giving the office personality. Similar to retail design, the Google office environment triggers occupiers’ interaction and creativity. Bold colours, extraordinary settings (i.e. yurt shaped meeting rooms), delicious coffee served by in-house barista-bars, calm breakout zones and carefully staged landscapes for different types tasks are tailored to create an adventurous work experience and facilitate employee satisfaction. This workplace experience is now being adopted as standard in the offices of Ticketmaster (London), Deutsche Bank (New York), Olympic HQ (Lausanne), and multiple other brands.
Hospitality institutions aim to host guests on their property for as long as possible to capture more of their leisure budget. Whereas, company leaders aim to benefit from employees‘ creativity and collaboration in a communal workspace environment. Creating entertaining and immersive places is one way to achieve that target.