Embracing a People-First Focus in Hybrid Workplace Design - Getting Hybrid Work Right

The Getting Hybrid Work Right call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders on all aspects of hybrid work. On this week's call, i4cp CEO and Co-Founder Kevin Oakes and Senior Research Analyst Tom Stone facilitated a conversation with special guest Bri Kastning, Talent Strategy Implementation Lead at McKinstry, a full-service, design-build-operate-and-maintain firm specializing in consulting, construction, energy, and facility services. Topics included McKinstry's approach to hybrid and flexible work; office redesign considerations for the future of work; and more. Here are some highlights from the call.

  • McKinstry's approach to hybrid and flexible work is called "PeopleFirst Work," and is aligned with their broader company core value of PeopleFirst that serves as an umbrella for many initiatives and programs at the organization. In this way, their hybrid / flexible work approach is not separate from broader, well-grounded aspects of their culture.
  • PeopleFirst Work grew out of their 5-year planning process that was going on in 2019 for their 2025 plan, but of course involved some adjustment once the pandemic began impacting the US in March 2020.
  • A key aspect of PeopleFirst Work is favoring flexibility at the business, team, and individual levels, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. In listening to their employees throughout the pandemic, they learned over 80% of employees desired flexibility post-pandemic.
  • PeopleFirst Work involves pushing a lot of decision making down to the manager level, within the guardrails of the overall flexible approach philosophy.
  • McKinstry intentionally uses the term "primarily remote" as such employees will at times be expected to come into a work site for an event, critical meetings, collaboration needs, etc.
  • A manager development initiative is involved to support managers in this PeopleFirst Work approach, and that has been particularly important given the number of new manager hires that the organization has had over the past two years. (See also the valuable recent article by Diane Gherson and Lynda Gratton at Harvard Business Review, Managers Can't Do It All.")
  • In their work with the clients, McKinstry has of course seen a trend towards using office space differently going forward. The office is becoming primarily the place to connect and collaborate, and the place to come together at specific times to work as one.
  • While that is a major shift, there will still be some space for traditional offices / cubicles for everyday work, as some employees at many organizations do not have good remote work environments and so will want to return to a traditional office space if they haven't already.
  • McKinstry has thought very intentionally about what amount of space they need with regard to total headcount, % working remotely, planned growth, etc.
  • We asked a poll of participants on the call: By the end of 2022, what will be your organization's office space footprint compared with pre-pandemic 2019?
    • 7% - More primarily because of organization growth
    • 4% - More primarily because of the need for more space for collaboration, social distancing safety, etc.
    • 45% - About the same
    • 1% - Less primarily because our organization is or will be smaller
    • 37% - Less primarily because of the shift to more remote / hybrid work
    • 6% - Don’t know
  • Several of the many participants who chose "About the Same" indicated that while the square footage will not change much, the purpose and use of it is and will be shifting significantly towards more meeting and collaboration spaces and less set office/cubicle areas.
  • Another participant noted that the combination of growth and some remote work will allow them to "grow into" their current space.
  • One participant shared the interesting architectural design firm AKKA Architects out of the Netherlands.
  • Regarding culture, at McKinstry they have a "Five C's" model made up of Collaboration, Creation, Connection, Celebration, Communication. This framework guides the way they make intentional decisions around how, when, and where employees work.
  • A key focus at McKinstry is trying to avoid thinking about going back to the way things were in 2019. Their thinking about how work can best get done has evolved very significantly in the past two years, so it is about moving forward, not going back.
  • One lesson learned that Kastning noted was the early thinking that they would be requiring, as a rule, people to come into the office two or three days a week. That kind of rigid, one-size-fits-all approach isn't flexible enough for optimal productivity and employee experience, and after listening to employees it was clear that was not desirable.

More details on much of the above is available for i4cp members in the research brief Designing New Workplaces: Optimizing the Office for Hybrid Work, where Bri Kastning and McKinstry were one of two organizations highlighted.

Read here