“Absolutely everything we know about workers and workplaces is changing,” says Lauri Goodman Lampson, president and CEO of PDR Corp, the Houston design firm with clients across the world that's responsible for incredible local projects including the new TechSpace Houston, Quantlab and Vitol. The firm caters to a changing workforce that includes everyone from boomers to millennials.
“We want employees to be empowered to do their best work,” says Lampson. As part of that, PDR takes into account something she calls “workplace UX”—techie jargon for user experience. “Technology tools are causing us to work differently,” she says. “There are better places to work if your office isn’t inspiring. The only reason for the workplace to exist is to create hubs.”
Offices need to be structured like marketplaces, Lampson explains, with different hubs. While openness allows employees to bounce ideas off each other and experience the camaraderie of work, offices and enclosed areas are important, too. “I need to be able to duck into a room and take a phone call, but I also need to be able to make eye contact with my coworkers,” she says. “You need both.”
In addition to a variety of hubs, Lampson says every workplace should have four other elements. The first is an urban vibe, or what she calls human energy; the atmosphere can’t be too library-like or stern. The second is collegiality, or a connectedness to the work. The third is an element of fun, and the fourth is nature. “We have tons of science that says if you have access to an outside view—just a view—you are more productive.”
Not every office, Lampson adds, needs a rec room with ping pong tables and bean bags. But employers should listen to their employees’ needs. “How you deploy that is a cultural issue,” she says. “You don’t need to Google up your office. Employees just want to see the values of the organization manifested in the place.”