5 Things We Learned at WORKTECH 15 New York

Work Design Magazine was proud to support WORKTECH 15 New York. Check out highlights from the event below.

WORKTECH-goers sit rapt with attention last week in the Time-Life Building. Photo by Robert Manella.
WORKTECH-goers sit rapt with attention last week in the Time-Life Building. Photo by Robert Manella.

On May 13 and 14, we joined hundreds of other workplace experts for WORKTECH 15 New York to explore the latest thinking on the future of work and the workplace. Below, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite conversations that took place over the two days of masterclasses and presentations. To stay apprised of future WORKTECH events, click here, and stay tuned for coverage on this site about upcoming WORKTECH conferences around the globe.

1. The workplace is a huge opportunity for us to make an impact on the health and well-being of employees

Jamie Russo, the chief of work and wellness at Enerspace Coworking, and the president of the League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces, gave a Masterclass presentation about what corporations can learn from coworking communities.

We spend 32 percent of our days sleeping, 36 percent working, 10 percent on leisure and sports, 9 percent ‘other’, and 5 percent caring for others,” said Russo, indicating just what an impact it’d have on our lives if our workplace helped us to be healthier.

As for what approaches corporations can steal from coworking spaces, Russo said that “coworking spaces are designed to support and attract a variety of people. They’re not designed with a corporate real estate budget in mind.” In other words: Design your workplace for people—your living, breathing, human employees—and you’ll be on the right track.

2. Why not have an office “library”?

We haven’t done this,” said Robert Luchetti, an architect, academic, and founder of Robert Luchetti Associates, Inc.We want acoustical privacy—why not just have an office library?”

Seriously, why don’t more people do this? In our rush of digitization and the open/closed debate, telling ourselves things like “headphones are the new doors”, why on earth don’t more offices just have a library? An office quiet car, if you will? Where you go to do focused work and nobody talks or bothers you because it’s a library, and everyone knows the rules.

Robert Luchetti during his presentation. Photo by Robert Manella.
Robert Luchetti during his presentation. Photo by Robert Manella.

“Today’s office,” he added, citing polychromatic finishes, large open spaces, and exposed ceilings as touchstones, “is enticing, but I’m not sure we‘re going the whole distance.”

To illustrate his point, he showed a still shot from a scene in the 1960 film The Apartment, Jack Lemmon in his office, Rolodex in hand: “Here’s an early adopter of portable work,” joked Luchetti. “Here he is, looking to touchdown somewhere.”

Jack Lemmon in the 1960 film The Apartment. "Here he is, looking to touchdown somewhere," joked Luchetti. Image via prettycleverfilms.com.
Jack Lemmon in the 1960 film The Apartment. “Here he is, looking to touchdown somewhere,” joked Luchetti. Image via prettycleverfilms.com.

“Then, in 2015, we have an aerial view of a model of a large Silicon Valley company,” he said, showing the image (which I wasn’t able to capture, sorry!). “It’s a large open space with desks”—and indeed, it was difficult to detect any radical changes in the space layout between 1960 and today.

3. There’s a strong correlation between learning styles and work styles

Arnold Craig Levin, a principal with the workplace strategy group at SmithGroupJJR, gave a talk titled “Designing for Inclusiveness”, using the Lab School of Washington—a school designed specifically for students with learning differences—as an example of a space that’s designed effectively for the different ways in which everyone works, not just a particular few.

Arnold Craig Levin, center, mingles with other WORKTECHers. Photo by Robert Manella.
Arnold Craig Levin, center, mingles with other WORKTECHers. Photo by Robert Manella.

“You want to modify a space so that it’s especially good for people with learning differences or [work] styles, but it’s also going to help each student [or employees], regardless of style, work more effectively,” he said.

“It’s all about choice,” he added. “Activity based work settings succeed because it allows you as an adult to choose where you work best.”

4. We know how to work from home. How can we start “homing from work”?

Tracy Wymer, VP of workplace for Knoll, drew a laugh from the crowd with this line, but he has a point. “We‘ve always been interested in working from home,” he said. “But what about homing from work? How do we foster community?”

Martha Clarkson, an experience designer for Microsoft, said that they “bought a latte machine and that seemed to solve everything.”

“Seriously,” she said. “A latte can have a huge impact!”

Part of this “homing” also includes better furniture solutions, said Clarkson.

We look forward to a future where there’s really some substantial movable parts—sort of like exhibit design,” she said. “It would enable more choice, be better acoustically, and could change easily.”

5. Everyone works differently. Take, for example, Le Corbusier.

In his presentation about workplace typologies, Primo Orpilla, principal at O+A, emphasized the importance of place in the workplace to support the variety of ways in which people work. There are echoes of point number three above in this sentiment, but Orpilla shared fun facts to highlight especially idiosyncratic work styles, including the nugget that Corbu painted for four hours everyday before he went into the office. And apparently—again, everyone works differently—in the nude:

Thanks again to Unwired for another great WORKTECH!
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