🎂 The Future Workplace
2020 marks Cloudflare’s 10th birthday. To celebrate this milestone, we are hosting a series of fireside chats with business and industry leaders all week long.
In this Cloudflare TV segment, we will have a fireside chat between Caroline Quick and Brett Hautop, VP of Global Design + Build at LinkedIn.
Hi, everyone. We've had an incredible lineup of conversations this week for Cloudflare's 10th birthday week.
And as we wrap up the week, I'm excited to be here to talk about the Future Workplace with Brett Hautop.
Welcome, Brett. Hi, thanks for having me.
Thanks for being here. For anyone watching that has questions for us, please feel free to submit them via the link below, somewhere down there.
And we'll try to answer the questions throughout the segment here.
So many of you who are joining today have tuned in to one of the many webinars out there that talk about the future workplace.
What does that mean? Well, for the purposes of this conversation, we're not talking about the interim kind of purgatory timing of this return to office that a lot of people are working through to help get people back in during this pandemic.
We're talking about the future, future state here. So really looking towards what are the potential, what are the possibilities in the space that we are creating?
So Brett has a really unique background and is perfectly aligned with this conversation that we'll be having today.
So a little background on Brett for those of you that don't know him, Brett was a practicing architect and started his own firm, which was then acquired by Gensler, which is one of the largest architecture firms in the world.
And then from there went on to work at LinkedIn and now leads Workplace Experience for LinkedIn globally.
So Brett, what does that mean?
What do you mean about Workplace Experience and what does that encompass?
Because it could mean a lot. So yeah, it's everything that has to do with your experience that now the definition is expanded, whether you're at home or whether you're in the office, the experience of getting your work done.
So my team includes, we have a design team, we have an implementation and construction team, we have IT and AV for all of our spaces.
And then we also have technology team.
So that's the apps that we create to help manage the workplace. That's all of the data that we gather to help create a more effective and seamless experience for employees.
But this is going forward. And as a result of the pandemic, really, we've gotten a much, much, much closer partnership with our talent organization, our HR team, to think about what is the experience for an employee and kind of the full experience and all the places you might be where you do your work.
So it's really fun.
It's a great team. I absolutely love what I do.
And I love the way it's set up at LinkedIn. And LinkedIn really does empower us to create an experience that makes employees their most effective selves.
And, you know, and so I'm really lucky to be working with a company that's so progressive in the way they think about it.
That's great. And I know that in the work that I have done with you guys in the past too, it's been a lot of fun kind of, you know, having the opportunity to really push the boundaries and think differently around kind of this topic.
So, you know, considering that we are here celebrating our 10th birthday, we're thinking a lot about kind of the past 10 years and what's changed over that time and what's really surprised us.
So, you know, let me ask you over the past 10 years, what has surprised you in the workplace and how things have changed?
Well, I mean, one of the things, and we were arguing about this in February or March within my team, we were trying to add four foot desks in a bunch of locations around the world.
And we've never used a desk that small before. Four feet is a really small desk.
It's 1200 centimeters approximately or four feet. And it was out of necessity because we just kept growing.
We couldn't keep up with the growth and we needed a desk for every person we hired.
And so hire a person at a desk, all the other things that come along with it.
And we were packing people in a smaller and smaller space, which didn't really work for anyone.
We didn't like it. Employees didn't like it, but we didn't have another solution.
And I think what's the change that I saw is going from the where open offices came from and why they were created and then how they became a forcing function to just fit more people within a space.
And it wasn't even just us pushing it.
It was the people in the business were just, I just need everyone to be in the same space.
I need everyone together. I can't have some people on one floor or another building.
They need to be in the same space. Well, in order to do that, if you go and make the assumption that everyone's gonna be in the same space at the same time, you just need smaller space for each person.
And I think the change that we got more and more dense while we were all saying we don't like how dense this is, we don't like that we're putting people in these situations, but we kept doing more of it as an industry.
And I think that's one of the in the last 10 years, because, you know, there's new technologies that came along.
There were new furniture ideas.
There was a lot of things that happened in the last 10 years, but generally it was the same thing.
It was 10 years previously, but somehow just more dense.
And we knew better than that, but we were all still doing it. Yeah, absolutely.
And, you know, it's interesting because real estate is one of those areas that is insanely slow to evolve.
And those of us that are innovators in this space have been fighting to see a change in the industry for many years.
And so then all of a sudden this pandemic hit and wow, look, you know, we are forcing innovation in real estate faster than we've ever seen before.
And it's an incredibly exciting moment because we've been waiting for this for a really long time.
So considering that, like, we're now taking the time to really think towards how can we how can we evolve the space to meet, to truly meet the needs of the people?
You know, noting that a lot of companies are working successfully remotely now.
And so our densities are very likely as, you know, policies change, will change.
What do you think? What are your predictions for the next 10 years?
Where could we go from here? There's so many possibilities. Yeah. So a couple of the things and actually in the last two years, we were already working on a couple of ideas and had built models around this.
One of them is asking people to consider working in a team fashion.
So most work gets done with a functional team, however many people that is 10, 12, 20 people that are actually working on some project or product together.
But we're trying to organize in much larger groups where, you know, often it's like going to an event and you're sitting with 10 people at your table.
Well, even the most social of butterflies only gets to talk to so many other people in the event over the course of the night because you have to focus on the people that are there.
People that come in teams working on projects are sitting in a space together.
They need proximity to one another, but you don't really need proximity to everybody else.
And in going to a model of team based seating where the functional team has all the stuff they need for that team and they have some people who are anchors who are there all the time, other people who come and go and you have room for those people that come and visit you every once in a while who bring some insight from some other function or subject matter expertise that come to the space.
So we were already focused on this.
We had done, you know, three pilots around the world. We were already getting it kicked off.
But, you know, there was some interest, but it wasn't like people were clamoring to do it.
Well, suddenly it is we see this as the way of the future.
And we see it kind of relating back to an old concept, which has been around for almost 30 years.
And a lot of people didn't really embrace, which was activity based work.
And we think if you take the idea of activity based work, which is designing spaces specifically around the function that you're carrying out and team based seating and kind of merge them together, you get what we've kind of started calling and had been calling dynamic work environment.
And a lot of people are talking now about dynamic work.
And I think it's just the idea that a team and how they work, the projects that they're working on, the way you spend the hours in your day, it will be far more dynamic than it was before, because there is no requirement likely for most companies to come to the office every day.
Most people came because it was expected of them that they would come, not because they really wanted to or saw any huge value in it was, well, I have to show up to show that I'm showing up literally like I, you know, it doesn't really for some people didn't matter.
Were they getting anything done? Well, I showed up. I got here early and I left late.
But did you get anything done? So I think that's one of the big things is team based sitting, seating and a much more dynamic workplace environment is one of the huge things.
And so then the next question becomes, well, every all these predictions about more and more people working more remotely, how much of that is going to stick and how much of it is going to focus?
You read kind of an equal number of perspectives on that, that in time, this is going to wear off.
People are going to be like, look, I need to get back around other people.
And you're already seeing it for a lot of folks. And it depends on personalities and it depends on the work that you do.
But it's we're going to get to the point where there's an equilibrium.
I think most people would agree if you ask any in our surveys have shown in other companies, surveys have shown you ask people, yes, I love flexibility.
I don't want to come to the office every single day, but I do love coming to the office when I need to.
So I think that we're going to see a future where it is accepted not just by tech and not just by the companies that really afford it, but by everybody that we should focus on outcomes rather than on how people are actually doing their work.
So and in a world where suddenly you don't have to be tethered to any of the technology in the space, everything can be done over your laptop or your phone.
You have that freedom. And so putting constraints back on people is artificial and is kind of likely will stifle their ability to be collaborative, innovative, creative.
Whereas if you foster their ability to come together when it makes sense for them and then give them the best environment possible, they're going to be more successful as a result of it.
So I think that where we have been talking about choice for the last 10 years as an industry, we give people choice.
Well, we gave the choice. You could sit in that seat or that seat as long as you're here.
And it's between these hours. Now, people are going to have real choice where they want to work.
Literally what city, what state, what country, time of day, you know, team they work with.
And we will begin to see more people distribute where they work and maybe work for two or three companies.
And we've been hearing about that for a while. This, I think, is going to make that even easier in the future.
So those are a few of the things I think I see coming in the next 10 years.
Yeah, I mean, you know exactly what you said is the workplace is evolving from a what I've been kind of saying, a place of business where you go every day to do your job and sit at your desk to a place to do business.
So it's much more much more purposeful. And if when we have this kind of rush back to the office, whatever that looks like in whatever form it is, when actually it's safe to go back with more than just a few people that need to be there for extenuating circumstances.
If we don't have a change when people walk in, it's going to be very easy for people to kind of slip into the old way of work and will miss this amazing opportunity to really kind of experiment within the space.
So when you think about that, one of the things that is missing most dramatically during this time that a lot of us have been talking about is, you know, the serendipity, those random interactions, moments for in-person collaboration and also mentorship.
Like those are really missing for people remotely right now.
You'll get all the surveys and have all the conversations that those are the, you know, the things that people are kind of saying are the most painful right now.
So if we are looking to optimize for those things in the future office, we could see a scenario where the team based seating that you kind of mentioned isn't even a thing, right?
That people are really there for very specific reasons that, you know, without team based seating, they're more likely to sit next to other people and they're using technology to find their way if they need to find someone or not.
And, you know, the technology around kind of the physical environment has also exploded during this time.
So if that's the case, what do you, you know, are we are we going to end up in a place where we before we were optimizing for packing people in and high growth companies?
And if we kind of swing too far, what is our danger there?
Like, where could we end up? How can we be make sure we're kind of landing in the right place and making the right decisions?
Yeah. And I think it's so the focus needs to be on.
So it's on experience and it's on what are the activities you actually need to do?
What do you need to accomplish? I think we are the goal will be to try and excite people that show them that there's value in taking the steps and making the effort to come in.
Now, there is a risk that you do all this and people get to where it's like, well, yeah, I know I could do that, but it's so much easier to stay in my sweatpants and just stay at home.
And yeah, it would be good to do that.
But I don't know. It's a lot of work. It's an hour drive.
And so I think it has to what we're saying, a couple of things. We want the experience to feel more like home when you come to the office, that it feels more relaxed and comfortable and has that sense of like you just feel at home there.
But we also have to give them something they don't get at home and we have to create experiences that aren't available to anybody from wherever else they work.
And we're kind of helping beginning to work on what those things are.
But I think you for us, it's so in going beyond team seating, if you said really want to have space that's for you, if you just want to come in and find a place to work and you like the noise of being around other people.
So something like a coffee shop or a co -working space appeals to you because you just like that energy.
We'll have those. If you're looking to sit with seven people on your team, seven other people on your team and have a two day work session on something and you want to be you want to have monitors, you want to have the whole setup, but you want to be close to the people around you.
We'll have those. If you like sitting around other people, but don't want anybody to talk like you like the library in college and you like just working and having heads down, but not being totally alone.
We'll create those spaces.
And then if you like quiet and you can't get it at home and you don't want to be distracted visually or acoustically, we want to give you the spaces where you can literally focus on nothing but what you're doing and get that work done.
But we have to build all this stuff really flexibly because the way we're looking at it is, you know, hopefully to the point you made before about if we don't make any changes, when people come back, they could slip back into old habits and it'd be hard to entrench that or unentrench them from those the burrowing back into the way they used to do things.
But we can start to experiment. And our goal is going to be to site by site.
We'll have different opportunities for different experiments. So over the next year or so, once we're back in it, once we get past this purgatory, I mean, once we get past that, we will have some time to kind of think through and see what it actually see what actually works and test A versus B in different locations.
And it could be that certain things work really well in one culture and not in others.
So and so we see this as a three to four year process to really get to what is the future look like.
And it'll be a slow iterative evolution rather than like an overnight.
We're just going to make a change and flip the switch and we were this and now we're that.
I think it and I think by the way that we're going to come back to the office slowly and the way we're going to do that in a controlled way, the way that people are going to select spaces using technology to the other point you made, we really, really, really, really believe strongly that technology is at the heart of this actually being successful in the future.
Absolutely. We're using app based technology. We're using sensor technology to help people.
And all these things will become normal as you come back slowly and you'll get a little taste of it bit by bit.
And then by the time we start looking at making more major changes on a more global basis, these things will have been well vetted and tried by a number of people.
And we'll get to see what was just what seemed like a great idea, but didn't end up panning out and what surprises come along the way that we never even thought about that we learn about our changed nature as human beings as a result of this and what we can never see until we are back together in physical space.
The Workplace Lab is an incredibly important, vital part of this and something that we've tried to do before.
But now we really have the reason to do it to make sure that like to look at our past and see where mistakes have been made with like high cubes and open desk benching and all this stuff to really get it right.
And it's a great opportunity for us to dog food, right?
We talk about that all the time where we're eating our own dog food, testing our products.
Now we can actually do it in the space too and get real time feedback.
And, you know, sensor technology has come a really long way where we can actually get real time data to understand how are people using spaces?
Are they using them in the way that they intended instead of having people kind of, you know, walk around with a clipboard all day for multiple months and then like hope the data is accurate.
So it's kind of like all these things are coming together, which is super exciting and really having an opportunity to talk to, you know, our employees and our colleagues about like, here's what we're doing.
We want everyone to be a part of this and really like help us create what this future looks like.
And it's going to be not a very, it will definitely not be one size fits all.
We'll find, you know, cultural differences.
We'll find team differences and even like, you know, differences in seniority around like how long people have been there at the company versus like new grads and how they want to work.
So it'll be very interesting.
Yeah. And that's a great point. It's going to be really interesting to see in that one size fits all.
We've known as industry in one size never fit all, but because of the pace of growth and what we were all trying to keep up with, there was almost no option.
I mean, you had variety, but it was subtle. It was really not that much different for, you know, an engineer versus a salesperson versus somebody in HR and for most companies and there are exceptions to that rule.
But in general, it was a pretty similar experience. What's going to be interesting to see is how far we can go with that.
Meaning if we have 20 different user types, 20 different personas, and we try and provide custom tailored solutions for all of them, can we actually do that in a world where people have the choice to work in any space they want, any day they want and show up on Tuesday and not show up again for three months or come Tuesday for 10 days straight and work in the same space or work in five different spaces.
Technology, again, is the only thing that's going to allow us to kind of even consider doing something like that and having an environment where we have those options.
Because if we don't have technology, our human brains I don't think are capable of keeping up with that and processing all those variables in real time and providing options to people.
So I'm very hopeful that we can accommodate a really broad spectrum of user types, team types, personality types, cultural norms.
And for us, it was always, we would say that our offices were all unique to their site, but all felt uniquely LinkedIn.
They all felt like you knew you were at LinkedIn when you went to one of them, but they were all very specific.
But that was really around the personality of the office.
It wasn't around the functionality of the office. And that's a much, much harder thing to do.
And to the point you made at the very beginning, this is super exciting because this is something we've all wanted to be able to do, but you never imagine something that's going to happen that's going to allow you to actually do it.
And now we're here. I mean, again, it's great to be in an industry and with companies surrounded by companies who all seem to be empathetic to this idea and are all trying to help and support each other and share the ideas of what they're doing because we're all learning together at the same time and we have such an opportunity.
So it is really great to be in an industry where it's being seen as an opportunity, not as a challenge to basically like, all right, let's put up, let's put everybody in a plexiglass boxes for as long as we need to, until you can release them, you know, and, you know, so we're all going to be penalized and what a terrible existence, you know, I would think that would be.
Absolutely. So, you know, you guys have a pretty strong, like dedicated team to workplace technology at LinkedIn, which not every company is as fortunate to have, but it's, you know, it's great because you guys are really kind of pushing boundaries there.
But if you think like future, future, future state, and like all these presentations where people are like, we're going to have a workplace on the moon or whatever it is, or, you know, you can, you know, beam me up between offices.
Like what is, if you were to think like, what is one piece of technology that you really wish we could have to help kind of move things forward and make, you know, what we're trying to create here attainable?
What is it? So I was just talking about this an hour ago. We're, one of the things we're going to reimagine is the meeting and why do we meet?
How do we have meetings? And you go from this, what we now have is a very level playing field and everybody, you know, everybody has a voice in the same way.
You can't dominate the room necessarily.
You can't decide who sits where. Now it isn't equitable for the fact that some people have a great home office environment and other people are trying to have a meeting while they have kids or dogs or whatever, climbing on top of roommates, climbing all over them and trying to focus.
So in meetings, thinking about what is a meeting, thinking about how do we do meetings in physical space when almost every meeting will be hybrid?
We're just talking about how, what if, you know, so think about we have always meetings are focused around video now, you know, someone is presenting something on a wall and that came from, we kind of went back, you know, there were slide projectors, then there were overhead projectors, and maybe I don't know which one came first, but we, but it was projecting something on a wall.
Then there was a video projector with a screen and then there was a monitor on the wall.
And now, you know, we've gotten to the extreme where we have huge monitors on the wall.
All of that is predicated on the idea that we sit around a table or are in a rectangular or close to rectangular table all facing that monitor.
Well, what if we didn't have to look at a wall anymore and everybody had a screen that they could see, but it was at with them.
So they might be at a table or they might not be, they might be at a chair with wheels that has a monitor at it, all of us with the ability to maybe write on it.
So if I could have a screen, so we all looking at the same thing, but we can all see each other's faces too.
And then the people who are on video or on a video panel there, suddenly it's a very, very different experience of we're around each other.
We can feel proximate. We can feel the energy in the room. We can see, read body language.
We can also understand the people outside the room and they have that same view of that same window.
I think a hardware software solution like that, that also allows users outside the room to maybe even control which camera, because every one of them would have a camera.
Now, every person could control who they're looking at and when they're looking, I think that fast forwarding that, that would be an excellent solution for meeting rooms immediately.
If somebody could figure it out now, there's a whole lot of technical things to figure out and it's easy for me to say.
In the interim though, maybe a laptop works. We were saying that the nice thing about a product like that would be no one can kind of wander off in the meeting and be IMing somebody or doing something else with, if the technology is just for that video conversation.
And the only thing you can do is message the people in the group and whiteboard with the people in the group.
That is pretty compelling.
And I think it would be really cool to imagine. That would be a fantastic solution also for a lot of the challenges that parents are dealing with distance learning and all of the distractions that kids can get into when they're in class and on Zoom.
But it's absolutely true that in the very near term, this solution for how to meet when we are coming back together and we have even more of a remote group of people coming in is critical because those three minutes before and three minutes after a meeting are those things that you just can't replace if you're not in person.
So how do we replicate that or make sure that people are feeling included in those conversations because the playing field is incredibly level right now and we don't want to lose that.
We were talking about that last point.
That might be the single hardest thing to figure out. I don't know the whole idea because the big decision that's made right after the meeting, after you heard everything, but you wanted to say it to one person and not everybody else or the thing that happens serendipitously on the way into a meeting just because you're talking about your weekends or whatever and then you remember something.
We were saying that is really unfair to the people who are on a team. And unless you go back to that technology, remember the technology that had the iPad with the wheels and you could be like the telepresence person driving around.
I've looked online.
They're selling right now like crazy because people are thinking about buying those.
But short of having something like that or each of us having our own drone in the office that follows people around and is like my ability to see these creepy things, it's really hard to recreate.
So it's about changing a cultural norm and getting people to be more thoughtful about how to include people who aren't there to go out of their way to include them.
And that's something that could take years for us to teach ourselves.
Yep, that's going to be critical.
We used to have one of those telepresence robots at one of my previous companies and it would lose signal in the elevator.
So people would have to like help push it out if they were stuck going up and down.
So we have four minutes left. So in this time, I'd like to talk real quickly about sustainability because obviously you guys have, you know, for those of you that don't know, LinkedIn has a pledge to be carbon positive by 2030.
Is that right? Or carbon negative. It depends how you want to say it, but yeah.
So carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon negative by 2050.
Okay. And you're joining Microsoft with this like pledge and how to get there.
So like how, obviously this is at the forefront of a lot of our conversations right now.
So in three minutes, can you tell me, you know, how are you guys thinking about this and how do you think we should think about this going forward?
Yeah. And we have really audacious waste reduction goals and water consumption goals on top of the carbon neutrality and carbon negativity.
And this is to take all the carbon that Microsoft has put, Microsoft and all of its partners have put into the environment since Microsoft's inception, you know, almost 50 years ago.
So this is a big deal. It's like a lot. And this isn't just, this isn't just buying offsets.
This is actually trying to find ways to remove carbon from the world.
And I, you know, a couple of things that we're focused on, carbon sequestration and concrete is a huge one.
We're actually working with a couple of the leading companies in the world.
One of them is in the Bay Area who is capturing carbon and sequestering in concrete that it basically is locked there for thousands and thousands of years.
And it's, you know, it's fascinating because they're basically creating aggregate.
Concrete is, you know, parts of sand aggregate, which is gravel usually and cement.
The aggregate and the sand being created from carbon, if it's calcium carbonate and it's part of, it's, there's all sorts of processes that create it.
You know, gas plants and coal plants, a lot of other things create this as a by-product.
Well, you can capture it, put it in the concrete and then lock it in there.
And so you're in effect taking carbon out of the environment and the atmosphere and locking it into your building literally.
So that's super exciting.
We're also going to be thinking about how to make buildings far more transparent in a way.
And I don't mean necessarily visually transparent, but transparent to the outdoors.
So the indoors and outdoors are really blurred, the line between them.
And we create an environment that, you know, one of our goals for a re-administered workplace is to create an environment that makes you healthier.
Which is really audacious and crazy to say even that our hope is that our workplaces make you a healthier person by just going there.
So we're trying to go way beyond what, you know, the requirements of LEAD are or any of the other kind of programs.
And we want to, we're going to do those things, continue to do them, continue to excel at doing them.
But we want to go way beyond that and be really focused on the impact we can have on the broader environment, on the impact we can have on individuals, on your physical and mental well-being.
All of that kind of tied together in this, you know, under this big umbrella of sustainability and creating a more sustainable future.
In the long term, we like, you know, how much space we have and how we grow will also be very closely tied to this.
And, you know, and with the idea that we can probably be, do more in less space and have a much more dynamic and exciting experience in less space than we would have been able to before because we're going to think about the way we use it differently.
It's so interesting. I think we could have a whole follow-up conversation on sustainability in the future workplace because there's a lot that we can do.
So we are just about out of time. So thank you so much for joining us today.
And thank you everyone for tuning in and looking forward to continuing this conversation.
So thank you, Brett. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.