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Inside the Futuristic Workplace Everyone’s Trying to Mimic

Innovative approach by Red Thread creates space where nomadic employees ‘do work where we need to work’ rather than sticking to one desk all the time.

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“We have the ability to do work where we need to work,” says Marshall, noting executives are also among the nomads. “When customers come in, what they live in is all they really know. How far can you stretch the rubber band before it starts to pull back? We always want to challenge people to think about the future. What you’re seeing here is how technology is embedded into the space.”

Perhaps the most high-profile example of that is the presence of a 55-inch Microsoft Surface Hub, a nod to Red Thread as one of the product’s launch partners. Soon, the WorkLife center will have three 84-inch Surface Hubs scattered throughout, creating even more opportunities for collaboration.

Marshall admits not everyone was on board when Red Thread announced its plans or even when employees saw where they’d now be working. “It took about 30 to 45 days for everyone to feel comfortable.”

“We believe that, by giving people a choice, they’ll be more engaged,” says Burdett. “A lot of people like the buzz they hear now, but they had to figure out the rhythm of the new space.”

Adds Mitton: “We developed this space to lead our customers. It’s something people need to experience. They need to see it.”

Mitton was among those who lost their office in the move to Red Thread’s new digs, and it took him some time to adjust, he says. “The thought of losing my office was pretty profound,” he explains.

“I was pretty vocal about it, as anyone here can and will tell you. What I’ve found, though, is by not having an office and by working in different areas, I’ve had a different kind of experience. It’s a different kind of choice and control.”

What’s been interesting is watching customers talk to and ask questions of Red Thread employees as they tour the WorkLife center, says Marshall. “Customers want to hear from the people who are working and living in the space,” he says. “We encourage them to be honest.”

“The thought of losing my office was pretty profound. What I’ve found, though, is by not having an office and by working in different areas, I’ve had a different kind of experience. It’s a different kind of choice and control.”                  —John Mitton, Red Thread

Red Thread has added a lot of young employees in the past two or three years, says Marshall, and their influence is felt strongly in the WorkLife center.

“They think, act and do things differently and that’s reflected in this space,” he says. Red Thread’s youngest employees have an expectation that “the place where they work will provide the tools to help them work,” says Mitton.

Balancing Act Between Company Culture, Innovation

Burdett knows the workplace of the future isn’t something all companies are prepared to embrace yet. “Not all of our clients are this progressive,” she says. But Marshall is proud that Red Thread is on the forefront of what he expects will be a transformative approach to corporate living.

“This is who we are and this is who we want to be,” he says. “That spreads throughout our people. It’s not just about hiring young people. It’s about getting the people who are already here to buy into it and most of them have.”

Although “people definitely have favorites” in terms of spaces they like to work, says Burdett, most employees have found themselves sampling the wide variety of spots now available to them. “It’s really about what you’re doing,” says Marshall.

Mitton agrees the important thing is finding “the right space for the right job.” Burdett says there’s a lot of focus on why employees are doing what they’re doing, and what they’re hoping to achieve. “The whys lead to the whats,” says Mitton.

Certainly, the concept of creating an ultra-flexible workspace sounds great, but Keener knows “everyone thinks about budget.” But he understands that’s not the only consideration.

“Those who are balancing the budget with culture and getting their employees to innovate are the ones who are more likely to think about doing something like this,” he says. “Space plays a big role in creating the culture,” adds Marshall, pointing to a crossroads among people, space and information.

“The whole idea is to get them early in the process rather than thinking about it in pieces.” “The decisions these companies make up front are going to affect them in the long term,” says Mitton. “We want them to learn. We want them to see it’s not voodoo. It’s not magic.”

And, although many might see Red Thread’s WorkLife center and believe they stepped into the future, Keener sees more potential. “We still don’t do enough with video conferencing,” he says.

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