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Culture / Oct 2019

Trend: The Super Experience

“Super Experiences should take people out of their comfort zone and subvert social structures or hierarchies”

Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun, BHN Studios.

 

There’s no question that even the most enthusiastic employee can find the 9-5 working week dull, boring and repetitive. Regardless of one’s career, no-one is inured to elements of the daily grind – those moments in the office where time seems to stand still and the evenings entertainments seem impossibly distant. Imagine then, if your workplace had the capacity to intuit these minutes of ennui and then provide you with original, intriguing experiences to keep your mind engaged and alive.

Enter Super Experiences, a synergistic blend of technology, design and biophilia that promises to create a more exciting and compelling workspace, discourage cognitive burnout and ensure a future-proof workforce. To some, a workspace that offers a sense of frisson and perpetual engagement sounds like a misnomer, but there’s plenty of research and data to support the fiscal and human resource benefits to a connected, neurologically diverse and dynamic workplace culture (check out our February topic The Future Workplace).

Earlier this year Mirvac and WORKTECH Academy provided a report on Super Experiences, outlining the way they can optimize the modern workspace and how best to activate them. Paul Edwards, Mirvac’s General Manager of Workplace Experiences, and one of our Insight experts for this month’s Innovate panel, is one of the driving forces behind Mirvac’s focus on Super Experiences. In order to peel the onion on what’s set to become an enduring business buzzword, we must ask what actually are Super Experiences? Put simply, the term refers to moments of curiosity, intrigue and empathy that are embedded within the workday and deployed by both physical and digital tools. In a broader sense, such developments are evidence that today’s workspace – much like the employees – must remain in a state of perpetual innovation.  

Here are our favorite super experiences and key takeaways from the report:

 

Why Super Experiences?

In May, we looked at the War for Talentand how the future of organizations’ success depends on how well they attract, develop and retain talented employees.  Super Experiences are able to play an essential part in the War for Talent because they’re a huge draw card for prospective employees. But Super Experiences don’t just keep your staff absorbed, they’re actually proven to make the quality of work better too. In the words of Google, considered an exemplar of innovative workplace culture “[we are not] a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”

  

The Three Types of Super Experience:

1. Awe Inspiring Experiences

According to studies, employees are more creative, curious and susceptible to processing information when they are confronted with objects and spaces that inspire a sense of awe. Countless workplace studies have confirmed that a well-designed, employee centric office space with natural light and generous amenities translates to profitability and employee retention. So how do you give your employees jaw dropping experiences that arouse fascination every day?

Case studies: Bloomberg Office London, with its magnificent lighting scheme created by Foster + Partners. Inside, the multi-function ceilings are fitted with 2.5 million polished aluminium ‘petals’ to regulate acoustics, temperature and light. Another Foster + Partners project Apple’s new Menlo Park complex was described by The Guardian as “a world of whiteness, greenery and silver, with a 100,000 sq ft fitness centre and a cafe that can serve 4,000 at once, with the 1,000-seat Steve Jobs theatre, surmounted by a 165ft-wide glass cylinder.” And for all its foibles, Facebook has lavished millions of dollars on green spaces and non-traditional areas for employees to congregate.

 

2. Curated Experiences

As notions of work and home become increasingly malleable, workspaces are becoming facilitators of atypical earning and cultural immersion. Making space for these experiences requires time, energy and creativity. And the results are well worth it with a measurable ‘bump’ factor, which allows for random, serendipitous encounters leading to more collaboration and innovation (casual collisions). Here, as one might expect, tech and AI are opening doors: “Just like Netflix or Spotify suggest what you’ll enjoy next, these buildings can direct you to areas where you and your personality type might like to work, suggest people for you to have lunch with and make recommendations on how you might enhance your day. And now this technology is also facilitating super-experiences in workplaces, ” says paper co-author Paul Ross.

Case studies: Direct-to-consumer eyewear company Warby Parker is renowned for its progressive workplace culture. Among its core values is the instigation of “culture crushes,” which involved a dynamic calendarof group lunches, educational programs and unorthodox events. While workplace wellness isn’t exactly new, companies like Asana are taking self care and work/life balance seriously with design interventions like sleep pods, engaging classes and nutritious cafeterias.

 

3. Learning Experiences

Omni-learning, the process where each of us are expected to regularly update our skillset, has become a prerequisite among many organisations. According to the Mirvac and WORKTECH report “learning spaces typically found in museums and universities are entering the corporate office to create a culture of continuous learning.” In keeping with the promise of Super Experiences, these modalities of learning are a far-cry from the dry university lecture hall, but engaging, tech-driven developments woven throughout the work experience.

Case Studies: Google’s impressive “g2g” learning program was created to offer first-hand knowledge in diverse fields, from employees to employees. Dropbox, famed for creating one of the world’s leading smart workspaces, promises a highly collaborative environment where personal growth is prized. One of the company’s leading initiatives is ‘Hack Week,’ which allows every employee to work on personal code or dedicate time to a professional interest.

 

Conclusion:

Super Experiences are the next iteration of workplace innovation, and a company’s competitive edge in the war for talent and the imperative for optimal productivity.  The Office Space has long maintained that the workplace has become “a critical cornerstone of society. A cultural nexus where ideas, transactions, connections and inspiration flow.”  As the workplace increasingly blends work, life and community, and as workers derive great identity, social currency, and shared resources from their place of work, Super Experiences create a compelling reason to love your job.