A Holistic Approach to Flex Space with Hana, Part 2
What can the physical workplace offer the next generation of workers? Join Executive Vice President of STOBG Global Services, Rob Leon, in PART 2 of STOBG’s two-part interview with Hana’s Director of Brand & Communications, Lindsay Wester, and VP Global Head of Product & Experience Design, Andrew Kao, as they discuss the Hana Innovation Partners program and how COVID-19 could transform the way future workers think about the office.
Rob LeonExecutive VP, Global Services, STO Building Group
Andrew KaoVP Global Head of Product & Experience Design, HANA
Lindsay WesterDirector, Brand & Communications
Welcome to STO Building Conversations, a construction podcast powered by the STO Building Group. Today’s episode is part two of our interview with Lindsay Wester and Andrew Kao of Hana, a wholly owned subsidiary of CBRE that offers a fresh take on flexible space solutions. Last week, they covered the importance of building community in the workplace, technology’s role in the office and how HANA differs from other coworking providers. Here’s the rest of the conversation.
I keep hearing the two of you talk about the research, the data, the feedback, which to me is very impressive. And that’s one of the other things I think that sets you apart from the other coworking providers is that you brought us to the table along with a design firm, an engineering design firm, and a furniture designer to talk about how—to talk about innovation labs for a moment—to always figure out like, what is the next thing, not just the next trend, but what are we seeing as trends continuously improve the space based on the actual needs and the requirements of the end users? I think that to me is a really powerful thing that I see on it.
Absolutely. So I’ll just touch on that for a second, Rob, about this idea of research. So what’s really great about Hana is we get to kind of sit at the center of both the needs of the owners and the occupiers. So, we get the data from both sides and then get to play matchmaker between the two. What do the occupiers want? What are they asking for? Because we have this rich knowledge of working with basically every Fortune 1000 organization through CBRE. And then the other side, we get to work with all of these institutional owners and understanding, well, what are their needs too. So by having that data, we get to kind of create this solution and then bring in really amazing partners. Like you guys Structure Tone to compliment that as well.
So, you know, that kind of dovetails into the Hana Innovation Partners. We’ve deemed that “HIP,” um, because we’re all “hip” in the, uh, in the group. But, yeah, we brought together this group about a year ago and, you know, we had already worked with all of these partners, Structure Tone, Samsung, Herman Miller, and Muraflex, um, as we were building out our spaces, I mean, you guys have always been kind of co-creators of Hana from the ground up – quite literally. And, you know, as we thought about how we could really design the next generation Hana’s or think about the next generation of how people work, we brought together, this kind of think tank, this group, because each group has a unique way of looking at the world or looking at design or office space or the solutioning. And so why not bring everyone together to really address the challenges that we’re seeing in the marketplace, not just in a one-dimensional way, but in a 360 way.
So that’s really what Hana Innovation Partners was created from. And what we’re seeing now is we’re really focused on how do we bring people back to the office to do what they want to do, which is meet together. And then, they also are worried about doing that in a healthy and safe way. So, we’ve been working together over the past number of months to create the ultimate meeting guide in a kind of COVID era world. How do you get people to get into this space, have productive meetings, both in person and remote in environments so that they feel healthy and safe in, and in a way that’s really productive. So that’s kind of where we’re at. And I think it’s been a really great partnership, bringing everyone together and hearing all these different viewpoints kind of solve these unique challenges.
There’s also something really interesting cause COVID really has given us an opportunity to focus on something really discreet, right? We’re all facing the same challenges. And by bringing together the partners at Hana Innovation Partners, it’s great because we can set aside a lot of the project-oriented contexts that we’re typically used to. And we’re always trying to execute. We’re always trying to get products in the space or execute kinds of work. What we’ve been able to do is really clear that table. And what that allows us to do is really align our objective, right? We’re all focused on trying to accomplish the same thing. We’re trying to develop the best space possible for our end users in order for us to feel safe in a very challenging environment. And so I think it’s a refreshing take where we’re able to have a lot of frank and honest conversations as opposed to the typical sort of contractually obligated conversations that you’re used to.
And so I think it’s been a really productive conversation and we’re able to bring people with a lot of different viewpoints because everybody has their own specialty and everybody’s been focused on their specific products, their specific services as it relates to COVID. But this is an opportunity for us to really draw a circle around all of that, bring it together and really decide what’s going to be, you know, efficacious for the future, uh, just in the near-term as well as the long-term. And I think that’s the thing that’s great. We’re all aware of sort of the challenges immediately, but we’re also keeping an eye towards what’s the long-term future because what the world looks like in 12 months will look very different than what it does today. And I think that’s something we’re all being really good about sharing our own collective intelligence about.
Yeah, I think that’s a great point. And that’s something that we’ve been, uh, seeing firsthand, you know, the immediate-term, short-term, middle-term, and long-term. I don’t know if your research has the information yet, but the question I have is I’ve got a 25-year-old, a 20-year-old, and 15-year-old. The 25-year-old is already in the workforce, doing what she’s got to do. My 20-year-old is in college trying to figure it out. But I think this era is going to most impact my 15-year-old in his thought process of what does work even look like. I wonder if you can share a little bit about some of the survey information and research that Hana’s done, what do you think it’s going to do to not the workers of today, but the workers of tomorrow? It may be a hard one. I know.
Yeah. Well, I actually, I don’t mind diving in on that one. So, my history actually is in mobility and I spent about five years in the mobility industry before coming into commercial real estate. And the reason I tell this story is, as people know, the kind of one-to-one car model was basically how everyone got around, you know, 10 to 15 years ago. And then all of a sudden, there was this massive evolution in transportation. There was public transit, but then there was Uber, and Zipcar where I worked and, you know, bike sharing and all of these different options became prevalent. And so, what you saw is people really developed a transportation portfolio, right? They had a million different ways to get around and they made a split-second decision of what do I want right now, and how do I consume that, right? And it’s all on your phone. And that kind of evolution is what’s happening today, too.
And I think we’re going to see in 5 to 10 years in the commercial real estate industry really take hold. So this idea of a mobility portfolio is going to be a work portfolio. It’s going to be like, I have things to accomplish. I have a meeting I want to do heads down, focused work. You know, I want to like write a, you know, a story today, whatever it might be you need to accomplish. I then have my portfolio of options for how I do that, and it really comes down to us in the commercial real estate industry to start to get ahead of that and think about how do we solution for all of those options, what they’re going to be. I mean, your son is young and he’s going to get into the workspace. It’s like, I don’t need to be tethered to a desk, I have my phone. But I also want these “in real life” or as the kids say “IRL” experiences, that gives me something really awesome, that makes me want to go into the office. So I think it’s really, it’s going to be interesting to see, and it’s really what Andrew and team are focused on is delivering these IRL experiences that make people want to go to the office and give them a variety of different, you know, workplace portfolio options.
Yeah. And I think this, this kind of flexibility that Lindsay’s speaking about is really key because even at the core of it, if you think about real estate and design and construction, everything has been centered around on how many people do you have in your workforce. And so it’s been a pretty blunt instrument. So if you have a hundred people in your company, there’s certain metrics and rules of thumbs that you just apply to that hundred number. And you result in this many square feet with this much furniture and this many meeting rooms. I think what you’re really going to see is as this generation progresses, that notion of one-to-one, between a worker and their desk or their office is going to go away. It’s going to be a more complicated equation and it’s going to be a little bit more difficult, but that’s just going to be the norm, the metric isn’t going to be centered around how many desks do I drop into a space anymore.
It’s really going to be about, well, if I’ve got workers coming in and out of this space, what are the kinds of activities they’re engaged in? Do I have sales teams that are on the road 40 to 75% of the time? How do I make sure I balance those needs? And how can I optimize this portfolio of space? And it’s not just going to be a single solution. It’s not going to be just an office. It might be even a whole constellation of offices that are connected in some ways or even secondary spaces that you may not own and may be a flex opportunity. It may be touchdown space. I’m really excited about seeing sort of a new generation thinking about work in a different way, which allows us design in a very different moment. I definitely think we’re at a watershed moment that you’re going to see a lot of companies start to depart from the traditional office.
And even looking at the last 20 years, which has been largely led by, you know, tech companies and how they design the spaces, it still is a multiplier on top of how many people are coming in. If you think about all the amenities, the amenities were really there to draw people into a headquarters there to draw workers to stay longer hours like, let’s build a team. Let’s develop a lot of culture and we’re going to be faced with these new challenges. So as we reevaluate locations, if I’ve got workers across, you know, several different markets, how do I build these kinds of things in, in a productive way? And I’m excited to see how that is. And I think flex is definitely going to be a part of that because it’s going to be this, this arm of it that’s going to interact with both traditional real estate, as well as even maybe the shorter-term moments of real estate and space, and even then the home office as well. So there’s going to be these large macroscopic impacts across even residential real estate that’s going to have to get balanced against commercial real estate. And I think it’s going to be a really exciting,
You guys have hit on so many important issues there. So we talked about community at the beginning, flexibility, the evolution of what does the workplace versus home space look like and everything in between, which then could lead us into the conversation of what do the cities of the future look like and all of this. So it’s, I agree with the two of you that we are in a really interesting time, we’re going to see a major shift on, on all of those things. Um, one thing I want to focus on for a moment is that when we do talk about that flexibility, there’s two things we talked about, technology is the one, the other thing is, is health and wellness. So it’s, it’s a very personal thing I think. And I think people are very in tune with it right now, you know, back in probably 2014, when the WELL Building Certification process kicked off, one thing I noticed very drastically different from LEED to WELL, was that, WELL is about the person and it’s more quote, unquote transportable, meaning the things that we’re learning about how do we keep ourselves healthy and well, and we take care of those things at home, it’s more transportable now to the office. And also we’re going to make sure that the things that we need from the workplace in order to work from home is transportable the other way. Um, what has your data and research told you about the importance of health and wellness to the occupier and how we are building that into the space.
I mean, a lot of what we’ve tackled and what we’ve done research on is productivity. And a lot of these kinds of health and wellness measures are actually directly tied to the productivity of individual people and not just productivity, but the overall happiness of employees as well. So employees that are productive are usually happy and vice versa. And so making sure that they have, you know, good indoor air quality is a critical component of this, which obviously ties towards the challenges that we face currently. Uh, even secondly, we, we focus a ton on natural light, making sure that people have great access to natural light throughout our spaces. We have a huge program on biophilia and making sure that we have these natural elements within this space and greenery. So those are the kinds of things that we’re focused on.
And we’re, we’re definitely excited to make sure that, you know, as you mentioned WELL is a great kind of standard because it is transportable. And to me, what that means is it’s actually focusing on human behavior, right. Which is a critical part of this. I think what we’ve seen with a lot of the LEED programs is it’s a checklist of physical things that show up within the space. And once you kind of check it off, you assume that things are going to benefit tremendously. But a lot of these kinds of things are actually the day-to-day performance of both, you know, the people operating the space and for us, you know, our staff helping to operate the space in our hospitality component, but then secondly to the individuals within that space and how they perform. So I’m really excited about those kinds of standards, because I definitely think there’s a degree of interaction between the physical space, as well as the people within it that isn’t addressed by a lot of these other standards.
Yeah. I think Andrew is really touching on kind of two aspects of like what gets someone into the office or why they’re in the office and then really, like do I feel sane, right? and happy, right? Like how does it make me feel and those two moments, and then the other one, I think that you’re touching upon Rob is do I feel safe? Like do I feel safe going into the office and what are the things that you’re, that I need to feel safe? And one of the things that we’ve talked a lot about in the HIP program and that, you know, the Structure Tone team has actually brought up quite a lot in the HIP program is that now people are starting to learn what are the questions I need to actually ask? So, you know, a couple of months ago, people didn’t know what safety actually looked like. You know what I mean? But then we, as you know, are trying to deliver that safety, have to actually create the optics of what that looks like.
So things like air quality right now, and we’re now asking the right questions. Does this, is this a MERV 8 or a MERV 13? Like, you know, I didn’t know what those words were, you know, six months ago, but now a lot of people really understand what that means and how that impacts airflow and whatnot, or, you know, whether you put a HEPA filtration unit in a room, whether that has a massive impact or if that’s optics or not, people need to see that. And so I think what we’re learning is there’s an element of things that you need to do to make people feel safe and then things that people need to see to feel safe themselves. And, you know, as we’re educating ourselves, it’s important to ask questions too, about like, what are you doing for this? What are you doing for social distancing? What are you doing? What are your health and cleaning protocols? And it’s really on us to make sure that we’re sharing that to all of our members.
Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right. Communicating that to the people, your work staff is of the utmost importance, especially right now. Um, this has been awesome. I mean, it’s been incredibly informative, but I keep going back on the data last time we spoke about sort of like how you collected the data, whether it’s through sensors and surveys. We can talk about that a bit.
Yeah. I mean, I think it’s an interesting topic, but I think we’re at a really challenging moment too, because everybody’s reticent to go into these kinds of spaces. So everybody’s seeing this kind of lack of information at this moment, and there’s a lot of, you know, bets that people are placing at the moment and some are going to be correct. And some aren’t going to be correct. I think, especially as you go towards the, you know, the polarities of what people are saying like, “Oh, you know, the office is dead,” right, at one end of the spectrum. And then another one where people are like, “Look, I just can’t wait to get back into the office.” I think what’s great about where we’re situating ourselves is. We actually anticipate, you know, a variety of different options. Some companies are going to have to be office heavy because they don’t have great remote solutions. Some companies, and there are a handful of them, have been remote for many years at this point. And they’re going to be a bunch of companies sort of landing in the middle cause getting one end or another right is going to be really challenging.
I think in the future, getting a full office environment is going to be a really hard sell to the employees. And then secondly, on the employers, getting a fully remote situation, making sure that everybody’s equipped to do so, it’s going to be equally challenging as well. And I think it’s going to be really hard to find, you know, solutions at those extremes. So what it means is there’s got to be a lot of solutions in between, and that’s why I’m excited about flex because it’s the most obvious solution we can help provide these kinds of interim solutions.
We can help companies understand what the new future looks like. I think the key thing is everybody has projections about what the future absolutely looks like. And nobody actually knows. A lot of these kinds of decisions with both even landlords, occupiers, the end users, even in our everyday experience, we haven’t made up our minds about certain things. I think we’ve, I’ve seen myself sort of question, you know, well, you know, should I go to a outdoor restaurant? Does that feel safe? And you know, if I, I felt one way three months ago and I, you know, come around a little bit and I’ve gone to some recently, so we’re all changing our minds constantly and we’ve got to be able to have solutions that can be adaptive. And that’s why I think flex is that kind of lever and mechanism. Cause we’re leveraging all these kinds of it’s the physical space, it’s the hospitality. We’ve got a bunch more different levers, so to speak at our disposal to make sure that we can create a solution that’s right for the future. And we’re going to continue to adjust this. As we start to see more and more people come back into offices, we’ll get more information about how people are behaving and we’re ready to adapt on the fly.
Yeah, I think just to bring everything full circle, when we started, we talked about this notion of accomplishment right on this one simple thing, which is joy through accomplishment, creating places where people can accomplish great things and, you know, using data to understand what it is that our occupiers and what they want to accomplish in that space and then create solutions that deliver upon that. And you know, it’s, it’s not going to, it’s not a one size fits all anymore. The office space, as Andrew said, isn’t one size fits all. And you know, really just listening to occupiers and owners as well as just understanding how people are moving through spaces to create that accomplishment, I think is really where the future of office space is going and hopefully where Hana continues to win with partners like Structure Tone.
Well, Lindsay and Andrew, this has been greatly informative, a really interesting conversation. I think one thing for sure is that it’s going to evolve and that the situation that we’re in right now, uh, the COVID situation has only shed light on the need to have us be there to meet the needs of the occupier when everything sort of does settle down. And as soon as it settles down, it’s going to change again. So we’re really, really happy and honored to be part of the Hana Innovation Program. And we can’t wait and build some more spaces and to see how it evolves and turns out. Thank you very, very much.
Thanks for listening to STO Building Conversations. For more episodes like this, you can find our podcast on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, or the Structure Tone website.