Our latest guest on #HRTechChat was Ryan Anderson. As vice president of global research and insights at Herman Miller, he helps lead a team keen on investigating aspects of the world of work long-linked to the employee experience. More recently, their efforts have focused on how those dynamics play out amid a worldwide pandemic.
Some in our audience may be aware that, for a long time, Herman Miller has been about far more than office furniture. Alongside Boston Consulting Group, Fortune, and “quite a few HR leaders,” Anderson says, the company is a founding partner of the Slack-launched Future Forum. This consortium strives to help “executives at leading companies deliver on the transformation needed to thrive in the post-pandemic world.” Part of that centers, of course, around protecting the employee experience and maximizing positive aspects around it.
With the sudden disruption of the pandemic last year, Ryan says, he’s noticed the responsibility for optimizing office environments increasingly becoming the domain of HR, and less the responsibility of facilities management. In parallel, the greatest influx of inquiries to his division, at Herman Miller, have come from leaders in HR asking questions on how to optimize employees’ work environment as work, for many, becomes less of a physical place.
This was a great discussion for the video podcast. Ryan shares much around the nature of these inquiries, as well as Herman Miller’s philosophy around the employee experience. I encourage you to listen in.
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Brent Skinner 00:03
Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of HR tech chat. And I am very happy to have with us today, a very interesting guest. I’m very much looking forward to this conversation with Ryan Anderson, who is VP of global research and insights at Herman Miller.
Ryan Anderson 00:24
Hey, Brent, thanks for having me. Yeah,
Brent Skinner 00:26
yeah. Well, thank thanks for thanks for agreeing to do this. This is going to be super interesting. Because, you know, a lot of people in our audience probably heard of Herman Miller, you know, you, you’re known for office design, office furniture, this sort of thing, but it’s really so much more than that. And, and, and in your role in Herman Miller’s sort of place in the market has, has evolved significantly, in very, very intriguing ways over the course of the, you know, for lack of a more positive word, the pandemic. But, but maybe we could I know that you were we spoke a few weeks ago, and you’ve been mentioning that, that your sort of your interactions with HR leaders, has actually increased significantly, especially over this past first half of the year, maybe? What’s going on? How is your role changing? How, what’s what, what are these dynamics?
Ryan Anderson 01:30
Sure, yeah. Well, I’ll give you some background first. You’re right. Herman Miller is primarily known for modern design for our chairs, in particular office chairs, we’ve been around a really long time, we actually started out making products for home, then we got into office healthcare, higher education, and we’ve essentially made products for people to support them in a really wide variety of areas. And we’ve had a research function for a long time, we formalized our research group in 1960. And that group started looking into the future of work future of workplace, way beyond the furniture. In fact, one of my favorite stories is when Stanford debuted the first personal computer to the world, in an event known as the mother of all demos in the tech world, we design the environment for it. So we’ve been looking into things like how technology impacts work, and how that changes our built environment for a really long time. And my team continues that tradition. We’re the global research insight team. The research part is like the mining, it’s the uncovering of, of, hopefully, the gold, which is the insights. And we do that for work. We’ve got a big project right now on future of home life. But in particular, you’re right, the pandemic gave us a chance to revisit and share a lot of kind of our vision for where the workplace was going. It started out a long time ago back in 1968. Kind of a predecessor of ours, Robert probs wrote this piece called the Office of facility based on change. It was a manifesto of sorts that was very human centered, it was about how the environment could create more fluid, flexible experiences, enable change management and be more equitable. And then desktop computers rolled along, and everybody got tethered to a desk and those desks effectively became cubicles. And it kind of began revisiting our thinking about future office, when mobility started to come around, you know, 2005 2010, we started to see the workplace becoming more and more dynamic. And we had this idea. And it was based on what we were seeing in the world that yes, in fact, more flexibility was going to be the new normal officers were going to become more on demand. And that we would see this essentially hybrid work state unfold. I don’t think we saw it happening nearly as quickly as what the pandemic accelerated. And the one big surprise for me, has been the involvement of HR really pleasant surprise, like I couldn’t be happier about it. Because for decades, we wanted to elevate the role of workplace. And that’s not just office that could be worked from home, it could be co working flex space, whatever. We wanted to elevate the role of that in terms of its value, its impact on people, its impact on engagement, the need to focus on inclusive and equitable experiences within the workplace. And we love the people we serve within facilities, real estate, but for better for worse, real estate has often been viewed organizationally as a cost center. And so the people that we we know and love there may be very passionate about the topic, but often they’re measured on real estate costs. And so having HR jump into the conversations then awesome, and I think in a nutshell, what has really happened is we saw this pendulum swing, we’re only 18% of organizational leaders thought remote working was really viable before the pandemic. Then the pandemic hit, we went into quarantine organization started to say, huh, remote working seems to actually be pretty something we could scale something that We could keep, by the time fall rolled around, we were getting questions like, do we still need offices. And we’ve actually studied remote first companies since about 2013. So we say yes, you’ll still want offices, they’re going to need to take on a different role. The good news is you can get more value out of them they once did. And by the winter, particularly in those climates where people were cooped up, it was like, I think everyone realized remote working is not necessarily a panacea. And they were beginning to seek more of a balance. And that forced the topic to shift from place to work, really future of work, thinking about what it takes to move into hybrid working and the whole host of things in terms of how we help work team leaders manage teams, how we think about cybersecurity, how we think about real estate investments, and actually, that’s how our research is done, we focus on people then process then place. So we, we want those spatial insights to go create great furniture, but we get to them by having a deeper understanding of people how they work.
Brent Skinner 06:04
So much in there, let’s unpack a little bit of it. So first of all, as you mentioned, work being not necessarily a place it’s, it’s work, you know, and I thought to myself, okay, dude, how many, how many people have stopped saying, I need to go to work? You know, I, you know, I need to start working. I don’t remember the last time I said, I need to go to work because I work in the office, my office in the basement of our house. So I need to start working. Now. I’ve said that I remember saying that yesterday morning. But that’s really interesting to me. You know, another thing just, you know, a little Curio here is you mentioned that your Herman Miller’s research into this, your division was sort of I think I heard this correctly, it was founded in the early 1960s. And, and it was looking at back then the future of work. That to me is, is amazing. Here I am, you know, in my sort of my own little bubble in the HCM technology space, thinking that the term future of work was, was new, I need to read more books. You know, what, now, but let’s get into this idea of work being a thing versus a thing you do versus a place you go. And because it makes complete sense to me this, this this, this shift, you know, it’s not so much about your, you know, your real estate, you know, it’s not facilities management so much anymore, but you’re dealing with, with the folks that are, that are have the greatest and vested interest in making sure the employee experiences very positive, maybe. Could you deep dive a little bit deeper into that? Sure.
Ryan Anderson 08:05
Yeah. I think there’s a continuum here. You’re right. People are by and large, not referring to going to work as if it’s a place as much. And I think beyond that, we’re seeing more and more people beginning to think about work, not even as a series of activities, but really focused on outcomes and productivity. And we’re seeing a major move away from presenteeism, which is, I think a good thing, I think there’s quite a few solid pieces of research indicate that presenteeism wasn’t a particularly good measure of productivity from the outset, we’re a founding member of something called future forum, which is a collaboration between slack and Boston Consulting Group and Fortune Magazine, and Herman Miller and others. And there’s quite a few HR leaders involved. And one of them said, in a pretty straightforward way, we need to start thinking of work as outcomes, not activities, stop measuring just if somebody’s doing something and begin to move towards more goal based ways of measuring if somebody is successful in their job, because as the workload becomes more flexible, and in some ways more employee centric, that means, yes, more autonomy, more autonomy for the employees, but more responsibility, like people have to step up to those whom much is given much as expected. And as we see, location, flexibility becoming more reality, people have to take accountability for meeting their own goals. But there is there’s always a spatial dimension to making sure that we’re supported and doing our work. In terms of the process, there’s how we work, there’s the tools we use, and then we’re always somewhere. And that somewhere can be really helpful. It can help us focus in on specific work activities. It can be healthy or unhealthy. And yeah, we spent a lot of our time trying to look at what those spatial dimensions are. Interestingly, the more we push the boundaries on where work can happen, the clear our senses of how each and environment has to support it. So as an example, in the midst of the pandemic, we did a little collaboration with Nissan. They wanted to do a concept car there Nissan caravan 350, MD 350 for the Toyota Auto Salon, and it was a basically a van tricked out for nomadic work. nomadic work is like the extreme edge of not having the work location, it’s, it’s just hitting the open road, basically, and living and going wherever you want and working along the way. And sometimes people would say to me, Well, why are you doing that? Do you think minivans are the future of work? Well, transportation actually does support work, often commuter trains, airplanes, autonomous vehicles probably will become places to work, but the answer was, no, the more I understand how work can happen there, the more I can have a clear understanding of what a working home situation might be like, or what the office needs to do. So we shouldn’t ignore the spatial dimensions and are the people we serve with in facilities management, corporate real estate, commercial real estate, are super engaged and involved in making these transitions happen. But now they’re doing it in much closer partnership with IT leaders and HR leaders, it was kind of involved in a lot of ways before the pandemic eights are less so. And as I’ve mentioned to you, I’ve had more conversations in contact with HR leaders in the last four or five months than I had had in the 25 years previously. That’s not a that’s not hyperbole or an exaggeration. The majority of people I talked to now are coming from HR and I love it because the conversations are people centered, and they’re about productivity and health and the workplace. Again, the continuum of places we now call the workplace has always impacted those things. It’s just organizations didn’t necessarily unpack their old assumptions about where work can happen. And now they are
Brent Skinner 11:52
you know, what’s interesting about the nomadic work and you mentioned so first of all, that’s, that’s sort of my fantasy is to get into an RV and just kind of travel the country and work because I’ll have a I don’t know some crazy satellite, you know, internet hook up on the top of my Winnebago. Maybe it won’t be a Winnebago, maybe some of it upscale, but anyway, getting here, I don’t, you know, beggars can’t be choosers. But anyway. But what you said about nomadic working, solving for the most extreme spatial working potential circumstances, right? And that way you can you, if you solve for that, then you’ll be that much more able to just kind of like that. So for, for me working in my basement, or, you know, or Jane Doe working in her, you know, her loft across town or whatever, remotely for their employees. In that that’s interesting, because there’s an analogy. And this may seem like a tortured one. But I don’t think so. Because, you know, I was just talking with a with a global payroll provider, we actually just did an HR tech chat with the Chief Product officer for a global payroll provider. And what they do is they, they solve for the strictest, extreme right regulatory environment in any given in all the countries that they that they cover for global payroll, and I think it’s 40 countries that they solve for global payroll. So they, they solve for the most extreme, most, most the strictest regulatory environment of those 40 countries. And that way, they know that they’ve solved for all 40 if they can, if they can provide a reliable auditable audit trail for that particular country, then everything else just flows. So it actually is. So if you’re solving for the most extreme scenario, you’re going to be able to solve for the average scenario pretty easily. What are some of the what are some of the things that you’re learning about, about making that? I love what you had to say, by the way, that everybody’s is, is some place all the time, right? It’s true. Even when you say but you’re in bed, trying to think where am I not someplace? And this Yeah, I’m literally someplace that all the time. What are some of the things that Herman Miller is learning about, about the, the, the, the workspaces that the evolution Well, in terms of how to how to make that as conducive to work as possible? outcomes based work because I also liked what you said, around presenteeism being basically a poor predictor of productivity. It makes a lot of sense to me, you know, promptness is a biggie. Do you know when you have a place to go for work? And maybe it’s maybe it is an indicator but presenteeism people are kind of working. I know my work schedule is, is very fragmented. You know, I have some time in the morning till three 3pm, I pick up my girls from daycare, and then I get back to work from four to six or something like that. And then I work in the evening after they’re in bed, you know? So I’ve rambled a little bit, but what it does I learned about workspaces and making them more conducive, you know, the evolution of the workspace making them more conducive to outcomes based work?
Ryan Anderson 15:37
Sure. Well, I think what we need to realize is that, that 30 years or so, when desktop computing was essentially the means by which we were productive, can cause people across the globe to begin to think that work happened in one place in a very predictable sort of way. Because people didn’t have that autonomy. And our work activities became more and more varied. And the tools that we use, first died. But the assumption that it all had to happen in the office didn’t change for a long time. So what happened was that the design of offices were essentially overburdened. And what I mean by that is, if I were to challenge you, Brent to cook a meal that anybody on earth could eat anywhere, at any given time for any meal. And everybody would need to kind of like it, you would end up being forced into creating something that was uniform vanilla and generic enough that it could kind of go anywhere. Or we could use the same analogy for like a piece of clothing, like what could you wear in any climate in any place, it would force you into something that is very, very generic and simple. That’s what happened with offices, it was like, all of our activities are supposed to be supported there. But if you look at the design of offices, by and large, they drifted into lots of open smaller desks, and lots of generic conference rooms. And if you were to look at a taxonomy of activities, and we have this more research, so we can take a look at group activities like casual chatting, or group co creation, or presentations like activities that we do all the time. And we were to say, well, what’s a conference room good for long skinny table 12 chairs monitor at the end with a video camera whiteboards on the long end of the of the room, isn’t really good for co creation? Not really. Now, because the rooms stuffed with furniture and you can’t move through it? Is it really good for presentation? Well, not great, because you can’t really see each other you doing this bob and weave, try to make eye contact, like, I can just go down the activities and say, this means of making these spaces more generic compromise their ability to actually do any specific activity with a degree of purpose. So what’s been happening for a lot of years actually well before the pandemic is that we’re seeing work environments get more specific, okay, let’s really find a good place for people to do heads down focused, concentrated work, or let’s find a great place for somebody to be able to have a really good moment of individual creativity or whatever. And so what that means is that organizations need to move away from the idea that you do all your individual work at your desk and all of your group work in a conference room. And there’s like this diversification, which is kind of a revisitation of what I’ve talked about in 1968, this idea of offices landscape. And now that thinking is just extended beyond the walls of the corporate real estate portfolio, we have a sense of what can be well supported in the office. But we also know that home needs to support some really specific activities. But here’s the interesting thing. It’s very, very difficult to actually say that any specific individual might do their work in a specific location, you know that that location will be best for them on a given day, without having a lot of input from them. So if I were to take 100 people and say, where does this group do the best work? job title, job function, work style really isn’t going to answer the question. For me, there’s some organizational factors like the nature of their work, their team dynamics, their tool adoption, but there’s a lot of personal stuff. And that’s what you got to it’s your, your own schedule. It’s your demands as a caregiver, whether you’ve got aging parents, or whether you’ve got kids or pets. It’s our individual abilities, our physical, cognitive and sensory abilities that may impact where we are, whether we’re introverted or extroverted. And so when you start looking exhaustively at the factors that impact where somebody can be productive, you’ll ultimately go I can’t determine that and so the end result is don’t like give people choice, and then give them choices. And that’s the path towards more equitable experiences. Now you got to trust your employees to you know, use those, those resources and it doesn’t have to be pandemonium. But being able to say, you don’t just have to sit at that desk. You can choose anywhere within The facility, or you can choose one of these facilities, or you can choose one of our offices or home on a given day, it’s on you is the path towards much more equitable, healthy and productive experiences across the workforce. And there are some specific groups that we identified in our work with future forum that are asking for this most loudly. The two that that we highlighted just last month in a blog post are working moms and African American knowledge workers, who said for different reasons that that additional flexibility of not wanting to be in the office created better experiences for them. For the working moms, it was very much about that those caregiving demands. And you know, when we saw some of these banks in New York, say, you know, remote workers and anomaly we want everyone back in, it was largely the working moms that were like, hold up, like, as a CEO, you might have a nanny and a driver, but that’s not my life, like I need some flexibility in order to balances with African American knowledge workers, it was about representation, you know, there’s no head of a table on a zoom call, the need for code switching is reduced virtually versus in office. And so I think organizations as they really begin to look at place will begin to see that each of them shouldn’t just be like a generic copy of another office, they should have some intentionality to it. And there’s some activities that people will prefer to do at home, others that they’ll prefer to do in the office, we’ve actually gotten quite specific, in the sharing of our research around, if you want to design an office for post pandemic hybrid working, focus on these experiences, because these are the ones that are toughest to do at home. And think about supporting these activities at home. You know, we’ve got hundreds of customers that are now providing chairs, providing Wi Fi routers and other things for their employees, because they don’t want to leave 40% of somebody’s productivity to chance. So that was a long answer. But basically, the spaces are becoming much more purposeful, and less generic and more intentional. And if done, right, you can actually save the organization real estate dollars while providing the employees far more choice.
Brent Skinner 22:04
Yeah, you went, you did a real deep dive there into the emerging hybrid working hybrid scenario, which, which I do think is going to be which, which I think is the future, the very near future. Right. And, and yeah, I shared, you’re just a, I was taken aback when I when I saw some of these banks in New York, they were saying, you know, no, everybody has to come back to the office, I thought, What are you? Well, what do you think? I just didn’t know, I did not understand that at all. Some sort of, obviously, they were thinking something and it felt compelling to them, but I just don’t understand it at all.
Ryan Anderson 22:49
I would just say, I do understand some of the leadership concerns about in particular around what does it look like to maintain a healthy, cohesive culture when you’ve got teams that are more and more distributed, but we need to remember that people like distributed working the spreading out of work, and it happened some Wi Fi. So people Well, before 2020, we’re working from home and the coffee shop and the supplier and the CO working space, it’s just organizations didn’t necessarily have a strategy for dealing with this. And some organizations like those banks will take an office first strategy. And if they do, so they need to make sure those office experiences are amazing, and that they cover off on as many experiences as possible. We’ve seen many of our customers, mostly leading tech companies move towards a remote first approach where they’ll still have offices, but home becomes primary workplace. But to your point, the majority are saying hybrid to some extent, and wrestling with what that really means.
Brent Skinner 23:46
Yeah. And in making your office if it’s going to be primarily on site, right, making sure this is the thing we talk about, you know, investing in your in your employees, right? If you’re if you’re going to, to investing in the employee experience, right, and nobody is saying there’s necessarily a correlation between work from home and a better employee experience. In fact, maybe there isn’t. We don’t know that that sort of a just a thing that some people Oh, yeah, better employee experience, because you can work from home, maybe not for everybody, right? But if you’re going to mandate or have somebody require that they that they come back to the office that then you are still going to invest in the employee experience someway, somehow, you have this great resignation happening right now. It is happening, right and so you need some way to entice employees to stay and you’re absolutely right. You know, designing that office putting the money into that office so that it so that it is an inviting place for them. I just want to go back to one thing that was super interesting to me. It’s a little bit of a tangent, but I thought it was really interesting. You talked about it. cubicles, right. And I mean, it was a movie about the, you know, office space and just the, just the total just soul crushing life of the of working in a in a cubicle we’ve all been there. And to me, you know, it’s interesting. The workplace you talked about, you know, back in 68, I think it was this idea of the Office of work being a landscape, right and then but then the desk, desktop computer kind of took over. And everything was built around the thing workspaces were built around, you know, accommodating the computer, this, this fixed asset is fixed at assuming, well, at the time, you know, actual desktop computers, not laptops, so that, you know, the imove, for the most part in movable, you know, not practically, you know, like, portable, like a laptop or an RNA pad or something like that. And so, that kind of homogenized the design of offices and, and there was little thought put into that because it was so it driven in terms of make, you mentioned it being involved in the process of making workspaces, right. And that’s a very, That, to me, is what the workplace looks like, if it runs the show, right, you know, that’s sort of the homogenization of the workplace, maybe you can just go into that a little bit.
Ryan Anderson 26:27
It’s funny, I don’t think most IT professionals knew the impact of their choices, particularly their network choices on workplace. And I, in some ways, it led us into that era, but also led us out of it. So there was, and by the way, I’m a bit of a history geek. So and I and of course working in research, I can get super down a bunny trail here. But there was a movement after world war two in Germany known as bureau long shaft, which was office landscape, and it was the origins of what we would call the Open Office. But it was just that it wasn’t it was a landscape, it was it was in some ways inspired by urban planning. And what would it look like for the interior of the environment to have this kind of interesting variety. And so when we invented the first modular furniture product, which is we don’t call them cubicles, because that’s not what we designed. What we designed were panels, which were flexible, surfaces that supported work in a variety of postures, sit stand is not a thing of the last 10 years, we were supporting standing work sitting work from 1964. It was a really rich, interesting environment. There was if you look at the pictures of the time, there was a lot of color, there was a lot of movement, there was fewer right angles, it was left for diagonal and more varied. And it was specifically computer networks. It was cat five Ethernet cables, leading to desktops that when I entered the industry in 1994, it’s not an exaggeration to say the space was planned around the computer networks, you would look at a floor plan, say Where did the computers go? How do you route those cables, and the furniture became the infrastructure for bringing power and data to those terminals. And then the people got just placed in last. There was there was very little choice there now, for all that the IT world as it moved towards mobility, as it embrace consumerization. As we’ve embraced IoT. I mean, today, like we have a sensor product that measures real time, the use of space furniture’s become an infrastructure for sensing now. So in some ways, it’s all kind of reversed from that idea that it was a very static environment where the user had very little choice. And now it’s evolved to not it’s, it’s a landscape again, and we need to support mobile tools, and we need to support smart working environments. And before I pause, I’m gonna take a little digression back to your comment about employee experience and work from home because I will say, I know many of our viewers here today or listeners here today probably have worked with Gallup in some capacity on employee engagement metrics, many don’t realize that Gallup has put out a piece called state of American workplace every year. And if I go back pre pandemic, to the 2020 report, or the years previous to that, there was a pretty tight correlation, not necessarily between engagement, and specifically home, but engagement and choice of location. So if you look, it’ll show the lowest levels of engagement for those that work almost exclusively from the office, or almost exclusively from home, the highest levels of active disengagement for those that are in one place or another and then the middle, regardless of the ranges, the numbers increase, excuse me, the engagement numbers increase, but the disengagement numbers decrease. And the basic takeaway is, the more choice you give someone, the more engaged they’re going to be. And we know The positive effects of engagement and organizational outcomes,
Brent Skinner 30:03
that’s really interesting. It may also have something to do with people’s appetite for the average appetite for face to face, you know, interaction versus going back to, you know, not everybody is a full extrovert, not everybody is a full on introvert either, but most people are along the spectrum. So that might have something to do with it too. But it’s very interesting choice. Having that, the choice that that that that to me is a, you know, that that implies, I would infer that as freedom. If I had the choice, right, I have some freedom here. And free. People love freedom. You know, let’s, what I would like to get to go back to is, what are these HR, I can guess what they’re what they’re approaching you about. But what are some of the questions that these HR folks that you’re increasingly interacting with? What are they asking you? What do they want to know? What are their challenges?
Ryan Anderson 31:02
Yeah, most of the questions originate from things that aren’t necessarily spatial. So we started looking at supporting distributed teams long time ago, we did a deep dive with the head of user experience at Skype as an example, in 2013, and 14 on the use of video, and I hired an applied cultural anthropologist to study like, Can people trust each other effectively on video, I think in 2014, so a lot of it these days is around. What does it look like? If we just take a glance at other organizations that made this transition years ago, for teams that are more spread out to maintain a healthy culture? What does it look like in terms of specific leadership skills or practices to help keep those teams thriving? What’s the role of physical office environment in supporting people when, when and if they can work anywhere, but a lot of it boils down to employee experience? It’s basically the realization that workplace experience is a subset of employee experience. And what should the organization begin to do to think about creating spaces that are desirable, basically workplaces on demand in a world of hybrid working? And, you know, back in the fall, when organizations were asking me more, like, do we need offices? I would say, Well, we’ve been cooking from home last year, but nobody’s asking if we need restaurants, because we cherish the experience of restaurants. What you’re implying to me is that if you’re at you’re questioning the value of workplace, it must not be a great experience, because you’re what you’re willing to let it go, and so are your employees. So we’ve seen examples. And we’ve helped to create environments that people love to go to, you know, it’s really epicenter of culture. And we talk a lot with HR leaders around more things related to organizational behavior. So, Theory X Theory Y, or Douglas McGregor, what does it look like and the Theory Y organization to support a workplace, the topic that I personally love talking about the most is Mark granovetter, his old framework of strong ties, weak ties. So strong ties are immediate networks. So the people that were closest to our friends or close coworkers, weak ties, our extended networks, or acquaintances that people we don’t see regularly. But they’re really critical to our sense of community and culture. And what 2020 and the quarantine did, by and large, was it deeply strengthened the strong ties, right. So like, I know the names of my employees, pets, I know how much per piece of plywood, one of my employees paid to get his roof redone. And I know more about that group. And they know more about me than we ever dreamed. But there’s hundreds of people in my extended network, my weak ties that I missed, or how to even realize I’m missing them. And it’s very difficult when you’re only using video, or audio meeting tools to have any reason to encounter them. So most organizations, particularly leading HR individuals are beginning to understand that their physical environments want to become the cultural epicenter of the space, that it’s where weak ties flourish, that to get people into the office. It’s kind of like going to a party. Yeah, I want to go to the party. But I don’t want to go unless I’m going to go with somebody really close to me. So you need to both support like people’s on demand use of it as a team as a close team. But you really want to get these different groups interacting with each other in different spaces. So the whole community socialization part, more immersive team activities, stuff you can’t do on an hour long zoom call this desire to create more equitable work experiences. And then there’s one topic we haven’t talked about yet, which is applying universal inclusive design principles to create a more inclusive physical environment which even in the world of office design and interior design is still a pretty emerging concept. These are the common things were asked about. And we love Yeah.
Brent Skinner 35:03
Yeah, I mean, that’s fascinating. One of the things you mentioned a moment ago, and we’re starting to run out of time here, but um, one thing you mentioned was, you know, the desire to go back to, to a workplace, you know, to the actual physical space and, and in, we actually had guests here on HR tech chat about a month ago, I was actually icims, which is a well known talent acquisition technology company, and they have their annual, the class of report, see know that the graduating class college class of that year, they cracked graduating class of 2021. And those, those people, they don’t, those college kids that are getting out of school, they don’t want to work from home, they want to have that experience they want to go. So we have to, right, it’s very important that, you know, there’s sort of a, there’s a rite of passage or a cultural experience a shared cultural experience that in the world of work that, that we have to be very careful that we don’t, you know, sort of throw away inadvertently. I guess it’s just another compelling, compelling argument for, for choice the hybrid workplace
Ryan Anderson 36:26
is, but I will jump in and say, under the kind of the guise of guideposts and guardrails. This is something we need to be a little concerned about. And there’s some debate, by the way, and I find myself it actually, Herman Miller, one of the ways that we uncover insights is we actually have a debating society, like we actually want to go debate some of this stuff. And this topic of do young people trend towards wanting to work from home or the office is one that there’s a lot of disagreement about, I will tell you the best data I’ve seen, and the best anecdotal experiences I’ve had indicate that long term, the people that are most comfortable working from home are the ones with the most established networks, who are most grounded in the culture, who are most secure in their role. And that’s not the new people to the organization. And that’s not usually the young people. So I think the bigger risk in hybrid is that the people who should be helping to a culture at the new folks, the younger folks are not present. And so, you know, at Herman Miller, we kind of have this Don’t be a stranger policy, where it’s, you don’t have to come in to do your emails or meetings, you can sit literally and have coffee for six hours if you want. But if you’re if you’re part of the company, you’ve been around for 15 years, and you’ve got your network, please be present, now and then to build into these people to acculturate folks to have those kinds of moments. I think that is something that we all need to be quite aware of. And I do fall under the camp of the younger people, by and large want to come into the office, in fact, perhaps more so than, you know, the folks that have been around a while.
Brent Skinner 38:11
It’s a great point. Yeah, you don’t want just a bunch of young kids at the kids at the office, right? You want to have a blend of the of the various generations and some of the leaders of the organization, right mentors and all this kind of stuff. Yeah, there’s so much that happens in person. Great, great conversation. Ryan, thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining the podcast. I mean, this has just been a fascinating discussion. I think that um, I know I’ve learned something.
Ryan Anderson 38:43
Well, I appreciate being part of it. We put out a lot of our research on our research tab on our website, but specifically around the topics we’ve discussed. If you just go to Herman miller.com, forward slash future of work, you’ll see a lot of the topics that we’ve discussed, reflected there, but this has been awesome. I’m really thankful that you had me on.
Brent Skinner 39:06
Thanks, Ryan. We’ll, we’ll make sure to include that link in the intro for this when it goes live. Thank you. Great. Take care. Bye.