How and where we work is no longer just a matter for property managers and HR directors. Find out why these experiential executives are shaping the new hybrid workplace.
As the world turns to new, hybrid patterns of work in the wake of the pandemic, forward-thinking firms are looking to fill a new role: that of the workplace experience manager.
Workplace experience – WX – is the latest corporate buzzword, and it’s borne of companies’ desire to create physical and online environments that will keep employees happy, safe and motivated.
The workplace experience manager is the individual whose job is to ensure that employees get everything they need to work effectively. As we emerge from Covid-19 into a new world, where – as IWG’s founder and CEO Mark Dixon puts it – “work has become a thing that you do” rather than a place where you go, the workplace experience manager may be the most important employee you never knew you needed.
What does a workplace experience manager do?
“By nature, the workplace experience manager’s work is cross-functional,” says Tiffany Fowell of workplace solutions firm Envoy. “They [consider] the three core components of the workplace experience: space, technology, and people. They bring employee challenges to the attention of their organisation and lead the effort to solve them. This means their success depends on their ability to work with HR, IT, and facilities on implementing creative workplace solutions.”
Chad Smith, Vice President of Product Strategy at workplace and facility management software company iOffice, offers this job spec: “In many ways, a workplace experience manager is a hybrid role between an HR manager and a facilities manager. They are responsible for the overall employee experience and the elements that influence it, including the physical workplace, technology and policies that shape the company culture.”
In short, the workplace experience manager is the person who pulls together a string of corporate resources with a single-minded focus on the experience of the employee. They can also be the voice of staff when it comes to taking significant decisions on new investment in workspace, or which collaborative IT tools to deploy.
Day-to-day responsibilities might include ensuring that the office has the right blend of spaces to meet people’s needs, providing a user-friendly desk booking system, creating a digital community where employees can share ideas and arranging ‘wellness’ activities such as yoga sessions.
In terms of the physical office, the workplace experience manager’s remit might also extend to issues such as air quality, ergonomics and Covid-19 safety. Organisations including Netflix, car makers Jaguar Land Rover and Which?, the UK’s largest consumer charity, already have workplace experience specialists on staff.
Why are they needed now?
Recruitment for the role of workplace experience manager is on the rise, and one of the key reasons for this is the adoption of new ways of working, accelerated by the pandemic.
As Tiffany Fowell explains, organisations are largely embracing a hybrid working model, which means employees working part of the week in the office and part remotely, either from home or a local flexible workspace. “At the centre of these changes,” she says, “is a workplace that supports the needs of employees.”
The person at the heart of efforts to identify and meet such needs is the workplace experience manager. “They’re responsible for curating on-site experiences that support employee productivity and engagement,” says Fowell. “They help ensure their companies get the most out of real estate and workplace tech investments. Without them, the workplace isn’t the efficient, supportive environment employees need it to be.”
Belynda Cianci at workplace experience company Robin says that one of the key priorities for workplace experience managers, post-pandemic, will be ensuring that all employees have equal access to the organisation’s resources. “The true challenge in remote or hybrid work models lies in successfully translating the in-person experience to the virtual environment,” says Cianci. “Concepts like access to files, collaboration and communication tools and remote-friendly company culture cues are increasing in importance as we accept the new normal.”
The hub-and-spoke experience
Many companies are committing to a hub-and-spoke model of working in the wake of Covid-19, which means employees split their time between the corporate HQ, home and a workspace close to home. Standard Chartered bank and NTT are among several global firms that have partnered with IWG in the first half of 2021, adding more than a million new users to its worldwide network of flexible workspaces.
Business leaders in firms such as these need to consider the concept of ‘workplace experience’ more broadly than in years gone by – so specialist help is likely to be welcomed.
“We now have more reason than ever for thinking about the work-life experience holistically,” says Melissa Marsh, founder of workplace consultancy Plastarc. “[We have to become medium agnostic and] provide support and tools to people through space, through technology… through culture and personal interaction.”
Marsh predicts that workplace experience managers will be tasked with managing the day-to-day working lives of both physical and remote employees in the new hybrid world. They’ll need to ensure that corporate ‘hubs’ are properly set up for collaboration and creativity. It’s also likely that they’ll be key players as companies strike deals with flexible workspace providers, ensuring that ‘spoke’ locations are appropriately situated and well-equipped.
Arvind Kumar, Global Vice President of NTT Global Sourcing, says that, for his firm, IWG is the ideal flexspace partner. “What we were looking for, that IWG could give us, was a solution that’s flexible,” he explains. IWG’s ability to create “custom solutions” that could accommodate “the executive team, the consultant and the back office person” was critical, Kumar explains, for an international firm with employees all around the world.
Mark Dixon, IWG’s Founder and CEO, expects to see many workplace experience managers enquiring about flexspace in the coming months – and many more enterprise partnerships struck.
“I believe we will see more and more companies make the property choices that the likes of NTT have recently made,” he says. “The future of work is already with us, and it’s only going to improve.”
With thousands of smart flexible workspaces all around the world, IWG can offer the services your company needs to navigate the new normal.