The Purposeful Workplace


2020 marked many new challenges across the globe stemmed from COVID-19, not least an impacted economy and requiring many employees to change the way they work.

From a business perspective, changing consumer needs has industries inventing new ways to build brand trust, such as actionable initiatives that promote positive change. From a company culture perspective, the effect on employee wellbeing has required inclusive engagements, such as virtual experiences that support a positive purpose mindset. It’s been a disrupted change with new learnings and opportunities.

As many people made the shift to working from home (#wfhlife), a positive benefit emerged: Having the flexibility of working remotely is a good thing. In fact, 98% of employees WFH agree.1

When we consider that agile organisations require to trust their employees of their roles and responsibilities conducted in their own spaces, this fuels a positive reinforcement to deliver their best individual self. In Japan’s koumeiseidai culture, it exemplifies how mutual trust can be achieved: Knowing who should do what, who can do want, and who wants to do what.2

And with technology allowing organisations to easily connect, collaborate and share ideas, a paradox started to emerge: Employees were starting to feel more disconnected than ever before. The boundaries and rules of the office space have moved away from a physical central location to siloed ecosystems. If our human need to socialise and connect is not satisfied, we’re bound to start feeling disconnected within our workplace. We’re already starting to see the effects: 37% of respondents in Singapore cited increased rates of burnout due to lack of work-life balance and feeling disconnected from co-workers.3

2020 has past but there’s still much to do. How can the new workplace improve productivity and performance but also provide a platform to nudge a greater sense of collective purpose and belonging for every employee?

The missing element

As humans, we’re hardwired for connection. COVID-19 has pulled us away from our daily interactions we once had with colleagues that built the foundation of an inclusive culture: The small conversations before a meeting or the chance encounters that ignited new ideas. The office environment offered a place that allowed the nuances of human interactions. Virtual happy hours and “meet my pet” video sessions can only provide a slice of this.

Taking cues from the retail environment, we know brands have made an experience around community as the main pillar to their brand promise. At Starbucks, that experience revolves around a space where people utilise their time to socialise and connect over coffee. Dubbed as a “third space”, it’s an environment that defines an experience separate from home or work. The opportunity lies in creating new spaces that bring virtual and physical together, allowing individuals to be connected with its culture when they need it most.

Microsoft APAC HQ: Evolving collective growth

Understanding an employee’s typical day between physical, human, and digital interactions will inspire future platforms of the workplace. In late 2019, Microsoft launched their new APAC Headquarters in Singapore. Their ambition was to rethink the purpose of their office space to enable new ways of working that continue to further enable their Microsoft Growth culture. Landor & Fitch Singapore became the right partner for our expertise in omnichannel experience & environments to embark on designing a workplace throughout 12,000 sqm of 6 floors.

If we know that a retail flagship is an experiential representation of a brand’s ethos to consumers, then a workplace can be its own flagship experience of a brand’s commitment to a better culture. For Microsoft APAC HQ, it meant no longer being bound by the traditional four walls of an office space but instead enabled with four distinct zones that support their Growth culture: Introduction, inspiration, information, and interaction. Leveraging on Microsoft’s technology, we enabled the flexibility needed for every individual to be empowered and connected. Like an Innovation Factory space with clear panels to see the brightest minds at work. Floor plans as neighbourhoods, not permanent desk arrangements. Reception area as a café, not a waiting area, with cosy furniture and a library over a nice sip of great coffee. Meeting rooms were approached as personal and inviting, not just for presentations, where employees’ stories and their photography skills warm up the space.

“The new workplace experience at Microsoft APAC HQ represents the why in what they do, allowing employees and visitors to experience a clear vision of Microsoft in Asia to fuel engaging dialogues and to provide physical spaces that match any work style.”
—Apolline Picot, Design Director, Landor & Fitch Singapore

Microsoft’s agile workplace supports empoyees to shift seamlessly between the connections they need. It brings people together, allowing better collaboration and sense of community. All built with a true integration of technology with the flexibility of work environments to enable a ‘One Microsoft’.

WPP Campus, Hong Kong: Supporting creativity

WPP Hong Kong wanted to design a workplace for all their creative companies to not only coexist together but further build their already strong culture of collaboration to the next level, supporting their commitment as a creative transformation organisation. The nudge needed was to shift from retaining creative talent within operating companies to empower more intercompany connections.

Landor & Fitch created a new workplace that brought people together and created ease and flexibility for more cross pollination. Inspired by the form of trees, we created a central staircaise as the central trunk that connected each floor within each WPP company. The staircase meant access cards were no longer needed to step into different floors and companies, allowing for deliberate and accidental collaboration to happen.

The result strengthens an organisation of creative transformation, where instances of 2 or more WPP companies joined forces to pitch for work increased by 500% in the first year after moving into their WPP Campus.

“It’s about identifying and designing a set of experiences that will help create the transition between the digital workplace of today with the new workplace of tomorrow, backed by an actionable roadmap that unlocks the full potential of an organisation’s future physical space—a space that will help connect employees through physical, human, and digital moments that will help accelerate businesses.”
—Cally Williams, Managing Director of APAC Client Growth, Landor & Fitch

A future of deeper human connections

Through disrupted change, we are embarking on an exciting opportunity to create new ways of enabling human connections in the workplace that either evolve, support, or improve its brand culture. Which is why we approach workplaces as defining brandprints, not blueprints. It allows us to look at the workplace in a whole new light through the lens of brand and culture where we embark on understanding the organisation at all levels to develop deep insights that will inspire real and postitive impact.

“It’s about having a deep understanding of a brand’s purpose and culture to uncover new opportunities for the workplace that will nudge the organisation in the right direction. Our immersive research uncovers the evidence of what’s currently happening and the empathy of why it’s happening to help create a vision of how an organisation can adapt in a changing landscape.”
—Liz Kreuger, Strategy Director, Landor & Fitch Hong Kong

The opportunities are open for redefining how we work, anchored on our human need for connection. To create new types of spaces that can empower and encourage every employee to achieve work, when—and where—they need it most.

By Wilfred Castillo, Senior Design Strategist, L&F Singapore

  1. “State of Remote Report 2020”, Buffer & AngelList, March 2020
  2. “Know First, Trust Later: The Japanese Teamwork Principle of ‘Koumeiseidai’”, Kintopia, March 2020
  3. Work Trend Index, Microsoft, 2020

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