Angie Lee: What Working Outside Teaches Us About Working Inside

Published Nov. 2018

Angie Lee, Head of Brand and Marketing for Industrious presents their outdoor co-working project with L.L. Bean and how owners and developers of office space need to embrace new lessons on creating an amazing day at work. 




Hi my name is Angie Lee and I'm the Head of Branding and Marketing for Industrious but I'm here to talk to you a little bit about a collaboration we did with L.L. Bean. It was an exciting opportunity for us to really understand what working outside teaches us about working inside.

We are committed to delivering an amazing day at work where thousands of members across our 50 locations across the country and over the past five years. Since we were founded we've helped over 2000 companies actually really grow and scale their businesses. And what makes it really interesting what really helped us stand apart is the fact that we can look across all of these 2000 companies to really distill what delivers on an amazing day at work and really the secret sauce boils down to two things that our ability to marry gorgeous high quality spaces that are designed really to drive productivity not just by creating beautiful spaces but about spaces that drive productivity and the other is to marry that where the workplace experience it really makes people proud and excited to come to work.

So we're talking about scale in terms of office space but then individualising the workplace experience and we're incredibly proud of what we've done. We have amazing space. This is actually our space in Chicago Fulton Market and of course we have our Center City location out in L.A. And what we've done is an amazing job of flooding all of our spaces with so much light and really filling it with green to really bring the outside in because we've all read the same research that having a lot of sunlight, having a lot of greenery can actually increase productivity in the workplace. But really at the end of the day what all of our 50 locations share is the fact that they're inside office buildings. So as much as we want to bring all of this outside in, we're still inside. And so when L.L. Bean came to us and said you know, what would it look like if we were to redefine what an office looks like when you actually have no walls? We really jumped at this opportunity ask ourselves if we're really challenging ourselves to deliver an amazing day at work. What can we learn from working outside that can actually influence the way we design spaces inside? So thus was the L.L. Bean be an outsider campaign.

So this past summer what we did is we built these amazing outdoor pods these pods were designed using some basic principles around the cost of the building itself but then what we did was peppered in the principles that really drive productivity and effectiveness in an Industrious space. And then we took this pod on the road. So first we started out in New York City Madison Square Park typical tenant doing a typical conference call except he's doing and stationary bike. Right. And you see a bunch of people on the corner of here who are kind of sitting around milling around outside. We went to Boston, we went to Philadelphia, and we went to Madison Wisconsin.

So in the course of taking this thing on the road four locations, three to four days in each location we spoke to over 15 hundred people who showed up to really take advantage of this opportunity to work outside. We learned some really interesting things that really reinforce some of the principles we knew already deliver an amazing day at work but also then helped us translate what working outside could tell us about creating productive workplaces inside.

So because these talks always end up with three takeaways I’m going to walk you through three of those ideas. So first and foremost working outdoors really drives productivity indoors. Now to some of you guys this may be a little bit counterintuitive because when you think about going outside when you're at work you think of it as a break from productivity. I'm going to take a walk to clear my head. I'm going to get away from my desk, you take a walk when you go out for lunch. Those are the moments in which we're thinking about that as being a break. But let's take a step back and ask ourselves what defines a modern workplace today? What's fundamentally changed the modern workplace from say a factory in the eighteen hundreds. Is the idea that we don't believe that individuals are cogs in a machine but that our role is to really design workplaces that bring out the best in individuals and bringing out the best in individuals means you have to offer different productivity based types throughout the day.

So think about your day, you start the morning you're a little tired you're getting kind of settled in, you might go into BuzzFeed you're sitting at your desk right. You go to get coffee to kind of stand up walk around and you go to the kitchen and all of a sudden you're interacting with your colleagues. You then have to go to a conference room and so on and so what you see is these spaces can actually either contribute to your productivity or they can actually in some cases zap your productivity. So if you take an average person's energy levels throughout the day you might see some patterns so here's an anonymized individual over a five day period and what you see is every morning they would sit down on their desk and you would see that they're not really a morning person. They start out on their energy levels starts to climb and then eventually they go through lunch and then they end up going to a conference room in the conference room either zap's their energy because meetings zap and diverts energy or because it's just later in the day your sugar levels are dropping or increasing. You are getting sleepy and then you go back to your desk. And so the idea is that if you actually design a space for humans you're designing them not to force humans into the spaces that they're in but to give as many opportunities for individuals to kind of work in those spaces.

Now what happens if we start to treat the outdoors not as a novelty as this crazy idea that we're encouraging people to work outside but we simply treat it as another productivity space time. All of a sudden you're like oh I'm going to have my conference meeting I'm going to do this I'm going to have a meeting outside. You go to S.F. people in S.F. are notorious for their walking meetings and that's kind of the same thing, if you're already having a one-on-one with someone, why not go outside get a little bit that the energy in and get the endorphins running. But if you start to think of it as simply another productivity space type and not as a novelty, then you start to think of it as well, what could the impact be? So you take that same person and you stick them inside for a little bit and all of a sudden you start to see spikes in energy that actually exist once they return back indoors.

Now all of you guys know this you take a walk at lunch and you come back feeling refreshed. How amazing does it feel? It feels like it can give you the energy to get through the rest of the day. But that brings it to the second principle is that simply being outdoors is not enough. Delivering an amazing day at work, what we have found across all of our members is that you really give folks the energy or the environment to feel truly productive. So even just take a moment to think about what makes an amazing good day for you, it might be that you felt proud about the accomplishments that you achieved or that you felt incredibly productive and you got a lot of things done. If you're a checklist person, you are checking things off.

Let's have some honest talk.

Landlords a while back. You guys come onto the idea that being outdoors is a really great idea. And so you build these things right. And this all of a sudden was your outdoor space. Hard surfaces, completely rigid. I mean you spend two minutes eating a bad pizza out there and you're ready to go back inside. So landlords are putting these up outside these pavilions and then they said well no one uses them. It's not a good use of my time or energy. So therefore this willy nilly stuff about creating outdoor workspaces is just a fad. But what we found working with L.L. Bean and creating this space is that in the same things that you need indoors you need outdoors and you begin to make those outside spaces as productive. So if you look at the way that we've designed these spaces you have a mix of task seating and you have soft seating.

So are you being heads down and working on that memo. Oh you're boss or are you having a conversation to further further the relationship you have with a colleague. Are you. Do you have a convening space where you and your team can stand around Jim white board where you can actually collaborate and kind of be on the same page and putting things up on a screen. Is there fast reliable Wi-Fi. I mean anyone who's been stuck in an airport with no Wi-Fi knows that without Wi-Fi in this modern age it's a little hard to be productive and most specifically is just screen friendly shade. I mean if you think about using a laptop outside the one thing that gets in the way is glare and if you have an old school I mean this compared to this is obviously a completely different experience.

And so what this tells us is that yes people want to be outside but in order to be outside you actually need to have a space that's designed for productivity outside. This brings us to our third principle which reinforces what many of us already know is that outdoor amenities can create an outsize workplace experience. Now in the course of going on the road with L.L. Bean we had 1500 people show up and the response was overwhelming. Teams show up to hold their weekly check ins outside. We had people coming up to us saying you know I feel so refresh I can go back and you know kind of really work.

But what was really interesting is a lot of the team members the individual that came to us had smaller offices they came from smaller companies and they were so excited to be have a novel experience but to be able to leave their smaller offices or come outside. And so when you zoom out a bit and you take our installation in Philadelphia which is in the middle of the park what you see all around it are big office buildings right. And so imagine if you were a landlord and you have large office buildings around it it's just a very small leap forward to think of it as a campus right. It's really the difference when you want to brag about having a campus is about activating the outdoor spaces and the common areas.

And what we're seeing more and more is more landlords are recognizing that by partnering by using your outerspace as an act of being a common areas you can actually optimize the tenant experience but also increase revenue. Right here you have a rendering of the partnership that we set industrious is working with Blackstone Q in order to reposition the Howard Hughes campus out in L.A. And essentially what that is is it is a reinvention of what the modern campus looks like.

And what we're doing is we're building up entire outdoor spaces you see over here as we're moving some of the walls completely and putting glass doors or bringing the outside in. We're creating all these areas. Everything is going to be a Wi-Fi optimize everything has to be designed for a truly mobile workplace. Now L.A. is the perfect place for this where you have I mean sunshine all the time. And so when we designed is really a campus that can reflect that coastal lifestyle. But then also just use all of the available real estate to create a truly modern workplace campus.

So what does that look like so you notice here you have convening spaces here like we talked about you have taxiing back here with tables and chairs you have open places where people can walk and talk. There is a lot of variety of spaces so they even within the outdoor space were bringing those same principles into creating a modern workplace experience.

So if we look at the outdoor areas you can also see that the the opportunities are to activate the indoor areas as well. But again removing some of the doors and designing experiences that bring the outside in means that we get the best of both worlds you have climate control here 5 all those details that enable folks to be productive throughout and so on reflection if we look at what we learned going through what many people look at perhaps as a novel stunt that we did with L.L. Bean what you really can take away is that there are many principles that really define how working outdoors can help define what happens indoors and if you go back to the ultimate question of what delivers on an amazing day at work.

Well we would argue, that an office with no walls is actually looks like just an amazing day at work.


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Angie Lee, Head of Brand & Marketing, Industrious