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A Holistic Approach to Flex Space with Hana, Part 1 - STO Building Group
Creating spaces where people with purpose can accomplish great things—that’s Hana’s mission. But what does a flexible workplace look like in the post-pandemic world? Executive Vice President of STOBG Global Services, Rob Leon, spoke with Hana’s own Director of Brand & Communications, Lindsay Wester, and VP Global Head of Product & Experience Design, Andrew Kao, about how the flexible space provider is preparing their spaces for what’s coming in the short-, medium-, and long-term. This is PART 1 of our two-part interview in Lindsay and Andrew.
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A Holistic Approach to Flex Space with Hana

A Holistic Approach to Flex Space with Hana, Part 1

Creating spaces where people with purpose can accomplish great things—that’s Hana’s mission. But what does a flexible workplace look like in the post-pandemic world? Executive Vice President of STOBG Global Services, Rob Leon, spoke with Hana’s own Director of Brand & Communications, Lindsay Wester, and VP Global Head of Product & Experience Design, Andrew Kao, about how the flexible space provider is preparing their spaces for what’s coming in the short-, medium-, and long-term. This is PART 1 of our two-part interview in Lindsay and Andrew.


Rob Leon

Executive VP, Global Services, STO Building Group


Andrew Kao

VP Global Head of Product & Experience Design, HANA


Lindsay Wester

Director, Brand & Communications

Narrator (00:09Go to

Welcome to STO Building Conversations, a construction podcast powered by the STO Building Group. On today’s episode, Rob Leon, executive vice president of STO’s global services group, will be exploring the future of coworking with Lindsay Wester and Andrew Kao of Hana, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CBRE that offers a new approach to flexible space solutions. This episode is part one of our interview with Lindsay and Andrew.

Rob Leon (00:47Go to

This is Robert Leon from STO Building Group. I’m executive vice president of STO global services. And I’m here today with Lindsay Wester and Andrew Kao from CBRE, Hana Thank you for joining us. I guess I would like to start off by understanding what is the mission of CBRE Hana and the origin of the meaning of the word?

Lindsay Wester (01:10Go to

Yeah, well, I’ll dive in and Rob, thanks for having us. Let me start for a second on why Hana was created. So, we are a wholly owned subsidiary of CB and a flexible space solution that’s really designed to uniquely meet the needs of portfolio owners and enterprise grade occupiers. When we first launched Hana, we repeatedly heard from portfolio owners that they wanted to work with a trusted partner like CBRE to deliver great flexible workspaces. And then, in the same vein we’ve heard from enterprise grade companies that they wanted a more professional, flexible space environment. And then the last part of it was we really can sit in the middle of that and play matchmaker between the two. So for me at Hana, I oversee brand and communications. And you had mentioned, you know, kind of what’s our mission, what are our values and what does Hana mean. Well, I guess I’ll start with what we’re really kind of set out to do.

When we started Hana two years ago, we kind of set this mission to enable and really create places where people with purpose can accomplish great things. And there’s two words in there that I think are really powerful: purpose or people with purpose, right? You know, right now we’re all kind of trying to figure out our purpose in this time of COVID. And then the second part is accomplishment. I think, as we talk further today, we’ll really dive into what this idea of accomplishment needs and creating spaces that are really all about accomplishment. So that’s kind of what we started with and I think has really grown over the past two years and then Rob, the last part was what does Hana mean. So, Hana means a variety of different things. First, it means “work” in Hawaiian, it means “one” in Korean, it means “hope” in Arabic. It means so many different things in a variety of languages. And for us, it’s really about creating an inclusive workplace for everybody to be able to feel like they can accomplish great things.

Rob Leon (03:05Go to

I think it was really amazing. And I think especially as like, what we’re seeing in this day and age is that sense of community and bringing people together is really important and defined not just how the space is supposed to work and be designed and service the people who are there, but to find that actual word, that fits it so well is just a really, really nice thing. So it’s great to hear that.

When we think about the evolution of the workplace, one of thing I think that stands out, and a word that has been used over and over the years is community. Can you talk about how Hana addresses the desire for community?

Andrew Kao (03:42Go to

Yeah, so I think community in a lot of ways is very synonymous to culture. And I think that’s something that we’ve seen really come up for employers in the last 20 years. It’s about attracting talent and making sure they can retain talent. So I think community talking about these kinds of interactions between employees is really important, but I think sometimes, that’s a little bit overly simplistic. It’s also about making sure that it can reinforce collaboration within the workspace. And that’s really what people are looking for. Employers want to make sure that their employees are both happy, but at the same time productive. And I think in a large sense, employees are also selecting companies. They want to work for you. You’re seeing this more and more. The overall culture of it is a decision-making point for these kinds of employees.

So as they go into the space, we do find this to be a close-knit relationship, but it has to be a complimentary one. The physical space needs to support collaboration. It needs to support different ways of people working, different ways of people interacting with one another. And then secondly, it has to be reinforced with strong corporate culture. These kinds of companies have to encourage that kind of behavior and they go hand in hand. And so, I think our part is to really create these kinds of environments where people can collaborate with their coworkers, have these kinds of breakout moments. And you can see that within our product. We’re really trying to focus on not just the desk itself, but other places for you to go and collaborate. That might be a really great meeting room, that might be a tucked away nook with some lounge furniture in there, and then layered on top of that, our hospitality, our food and beverage services, the interaction with our own staff creates another layer of this. So people really can feel like they, everything they need is given to them. They can be productive within the space, or if you might have to, you know, run an errand or take a personal phone call for a few minutes, and that’s finding that space where you feel comfortable doing that. So we’re trying to make sure that we can provide all those kinds of multifaceted spaces in a way that people feel really welcomed and ultimately can benefit both employees as well as employers.

Lindsay Wester (05:47Go to

Yeah. I’ll just jump in and add there, one of the things that we tend to say at Hana is that it’s about building a space where it’s community when you want it, not necessarily community in your face. So no one goes to the office—and particularly now, as people are probably not going into the office nearly as much, or if at all—no one goes into the office to play ping pong or foosball, right? They don’t come home at night and talk to their partner or their husband or their kids or whomever and say, you know, “I had an awesome day, I like really nailed the ping pong tournament.” They come home and say, “I did something awesome that day.” You know, “I had a great meeting, I crushed my presentation. I got a ton accomplished.” That’s what we’re trying to create. Yes. You want to collaborate. Yes. You need to share information, but to feel really good, that joy you get is not from just, you know, just talking and having a great time. It’s about all the things that you’re going to do in that space that day.

Andrew Kao (06:38Go to

Yeah. Part of the definition probably in the last 10 years has really focused around social interaction as sort of the catchall for community. But I think more and more research as we’re starting to show people are valuing different parts of it. People work in different ways, right? Whether they’re more introverted or extroverted. And we want to be sensitive to that because I think making sure that we can support a diversity of employees creates better working environments for everybody. And it’s not just a simplistic thing where it’s about creating a party atmosphere or social engagement within a specific context. We want it to be a little bit more open ended. One of the things that we’ve seen in some of the surveys that we’ve put out is people, what they miss right now not being at work is not the social, like a friendship interactions, but really sort of the collaboration that’s at hand. It is sort of a very, it’s more art than science. It’s a very kind of blend of both social interactions as well as collaboration or just comradery of doing work with other people. So I think we’re trying to take a little bit of an approach where we’re not being prescriptive about it. It’s not just putting in, you know, beer taps. It’s not just about putting in a foosball table. There are other elements of it that are really critical in getting it right to really foster a strong culture.

Rob Leon (07:51Go to

I think both of those are great answers and great insights. When it’s thinking about other coworking space providers, it’s kind of like the flash in the pan kind of thing. You know, I could ride my skateboard to work. I could play foosball, ping pong. I can have a beer, but the real need from people, and you hit on it, is that it’s about professionalism and culture and the feeling of success and accomplishment that really resonates for a longer period of time. And I love the fact that you guys have this tremendous amount of data and research because you’re on the brokerage end and you’re on the project delivery end. And together it’s really about establishing that place where you can collaborate and have conversations that are not scheduled by a phone call or GoTo meeting or a Teams meeting. So, I think you guys are spot on with it, and I’m really excited to see how this evolves because it is going to evolve. That’s the one thing we know, right? It’s going to evolve. Can you talk a bit about the technology solutions that go along with supporting the design of the spaces.

Andrew Kao (08:56Go to

So, seeing as we’re really trying to appeal to enterprise occupiers, the bar has been raised in terms of the technology requirements for these kinds of occupiers. Their expectations aren’t just, you know, wifi is available. They want to make sure that the network is robust, and their demands are definitely higher. So we’re trying to make sure we build in that level of service, that those kinds of occupiers can come to expect. I think, secondly too, as we talk about collaboration, we’ve all been forced into a situation where we’re completely relying on technology to help facilitate our interactions right now. And more and more, you’ll see, as people try to address flexibility in the workplace, that means the technology at home has to match the technology in the workplace. And we have to make sure that that’s supported in the physical spaces we’re providing that’s within the team spaces of individual occupiers, or even the meeting rooms that are available to everybody.

We want to make sure that it’s a cohesive and streamlined technology solution. And I think that’s been really challenging to see, I think everybody has their preferences, but there’s some technology platforms that operate better than others. We’ve all been there where you have a meeting and it takes 15 minutes to set up because, you know, one or two people aren’t able to connect. And we just want to make sure that everything that we do, we have redundancies and we have systems that are reliable, that people can easily connect with. So, we’re constantly evaluating what the right thing is also within physical space. I think we’ve all been to meeting rooms where it’s kind of foreign and we don’t know what to do within that space. It takes you 10 minutes to figure out, you know, just even how to dim the lights, for example.

So sometimes the more complicated solutions aren’t necessarily the best ones. We try to make sure that there’s a degree of intuitiveness in the spaces that we build. A light switch should just turn off the lights, it shouldn’t be really complicated for you to figure out a way for you to turn on the screen or even just get to a video conference. That kind of thing really needs to be intuitive. And sometimes too much optionality can actually become cumbersome for the end users. We found that even furniture arrangements, for example as a compliment to the technology, sometimes people don’t have time to even sit down and rearrange the furniture. So we really try to focus on, we want to give end-users enough optionality so that they can accomplish what they want to within this space, and they intuitively can feel out what they can do within the space. But at the same time, if they’re overwhelmed with choice, it becomes really complicated. And they sometimes struggle to use the room to the maximum potential that it can have.

Lindsay Wester (11:19Go to

I would just layer on that when you think about like any time that you’re working with any company and something goes wrong, right? Technology is great when everything is going right, but the moment it goes wrong, what is the first thing you do? You want to do talk to a person, right? You’re like hitting zero a hundred times, like “Give me a live human being.” The technology is that great foundation that we need to layer on the hospitality services and the people services on top of, and really make sure that we’re training all of our team members or our employees to make sure that they understand the technology too. So for us, it’s about the foundation that really enables everything and then layering on with great hospitality services.

Rob Leon (11:59Go to

That’s awesome. And the hospitality, it takes us from technology all the way to meal services, correct?

Lindsay Wester (12:06Go to

Yeah. So we actually do full catering in our, in our meeting spaces. Um, right now during this COVID era, we don’t do as much food services, but you know, our general value prop is we do offer that.

Rob Leon (12:18Go to

That’s great. And maybe you could talk a little bit about how do you get the message out to potential clients about everything we’re talking about so far, the ease of use, the hospitality part of it, and differentiating yourself from other coworking providers?

Lindsay Wester (12:33Go to

Yeah, well, I guess I’ll start with just how we differentiate ourselves and our different audiences. So we have, kind of three different audiences for Hana, which is a unique thing as a marketer to talk to three different audiences in three very different ways, right? So there’s the owners. So we have to partner with owners to place our units into occupiers or tenants that have to fill our space and consume our spaces and then members, right? The individual employees. We have to kind of pivot our marketing and our approach to each one of those audiences. I think what I’ll start with just kind of the owners and how we work with them. It’s much more working within our networks, you know, working with institutional portfolio owners, but what’s really different about the way that Hana works with owners is we don’t view our relationship, we don’t do as, you know, a ton of just straight leased as if you will, we take space and then try to fill the space.

We really view it as a true partnership with the trust and backing of a fortune 146 company like CBRE. And it’s really all about making sure that we provide transparency into the financials and the operations of what’s happening in our spaces. So when we go to an owner, we really take a partnership look at the building. It’s how can we help you or work with you to create an integrated amenity throughout your entire asset or your entire building or even campus in this kind of COVID era, what’s happened is we’ve seen this demand for flex space or more fluid ways of working only increase from employers and owners are now challenged with taking their asset and delivering on that demand. And so what we do is we really work with owners to understand how flex space can be a true amenity to their tenants.

That can be things like overflow space. It can be meeting space that they don’t have. It can mean touchdown space, just amenity coffee, shop areas. So really what we do when we go and partner with an owner and say, who are the tenants that you have in your space? Who do you have around your building and how can we work to make Hana or our flex space solution, much more of an amenity for the entire asset, not just to kind of a one dimensional, flex space where we put, you know, just tenants in. And then I’ll ask Andrew to talk a little bit about how we deliver on the occupier side.

Andrew Kao (14:52Go to

Yeah, for occupiers, we really started with, you know, an enterprise type company, a fortune 500 type company. One of the advantages was we weren’t necessarily the first players to move into this space. But because of that, we really got a chance to do a lot of deep research on exactly what are the pain points in flexible space for these kinds of end users and occupiers, what do they find advantageous about it, but also simultaneously, what are the pain points that they experienced in things like privacy, technology, acoustics, just physical comfort. Even those are the things that we picked up on. And we did a ton of research before we even started our first location. And so we really were building a product tailored to solve those kinds of needs.

So once we started to identify those, we could build a product that from even a size perspective, what are the right sizes of offices to build for these occupiers? What are the features they need? And then thirdly, let’s figure out what the right value proposition is. And this is where, you know, partnering with a company like Structure Tone is hugely advantageous. We have to figure out what’s the right thing to build, how much money do you invest in it, making sure that the end user sees value in it. And as Lindsay mentioned, we’re constantly dealing with two different groups here. There’s the, the occupier and the decision makers that are trying to make sure from a bottom-line perspective, they’ve got to make the economics work for them, right? They’re constantly evaluating us against not just other flex providers, but with subleases traditional leases. And we want to make sure that we can provide a compelling case to them. Secondly, too, on the end users, if, if their employees aren’t happy with this space, that’s eventually going to trickle over either, in productivity itself or just the overall happiness and the morale of the employees.

So we want to make sure that we create a great experience for them as well. So, again, some of this carries over into the acoustics. We pay a ton of attention to acoustics, making sure that, um, people can find acoustic privacy as well as the visual privacy within the space. So if you look at our meeting rooms, that was something that we paid a lot of attention to. We made sure from an acoustics perspective for video conferencing, voice conferencing, or even just in person acoustics. And we wanted to make sure that you weren’t hearing your neighbor next door to you and that you could have these kinds of high level conversations without worrying about sharing something that you weren’t supposed to, and even on a visual basis too. I think it’s something hard to do.

We pack in a lot of people into these kinds of spaces. That activity is kind of exciting sometimes, and you’ll, you’ll see a lot of people talk about that, but at the same time, if you have something that you want to keep private, you want to make sure that too much glass could be a bad thing. So we’re very careful about it. We don’t want to wall off the space so it feels really cold and uninviting. And that’s why we use things like drapery with different degrees of translucency or opacity. It helps really attenuate it, it provides the privacy people are looking for, but at the same time doesn’t necessarily create an uninviting space. Uh, so people really feel comfortable in there and same thing with our offices as well. All of these offices really are geared towards making sure that they can provide the privacy internally as well. We have focus rooms rather than phone boosts that really allow people to have either heads down work and can allow people to be as productive as possible, where we create a lot of internal meeting rooms for our office suites as well, so that you don’t have to go into shared space.

You have an option within your own private space. So you really have the option to really attenuate how much privacy you need or want. And that goes towards, uh, even on the value proposition side for the decision maker, because you can decide whether you want more of that space or less of that space. You can take it on demand, or you can have it incorporated into your team suite on a dedicated basis.

Narrator (18:30Go to

Thanks for listening to STO Building Conversations. Tune in next week for part two of Rob’s conversation with Lindsay and Andrew, where they discuss the Hana Innovation Program, how health and wellness in the built environment impacts productivity, and how COVID-19 could transform the way future workers think about the office.