Second Annual Workplace of the Future Forum

August 2, 2017


“Real estate is personal.”

So began the second annual Workplace of the Future Forum (WOTFF) on July 19, sponsored by EMS and held in New York City at the downtown Manhattan offices of AIG. Over the next six hours, 60 executive-level attendees from over 40 companies networked and openly shared their ideas, successes, and challenges related to implementing the modern, digital workplace.

The office as we know it is changing.
Macro forces driving rapid evolution of the workplace include – but are not solely limited to – mobility, globalization, technology, work/life blending, and the general expectations of newer generations of workers. To accommodate these trends, organizations are embracing what is commonly called Workplace of the Future, even though it is currently underway.

New York City was an especially appropriate location for the WOTFF, as the difficulty of optimizing costly, often outdated workspaces to the needs of a dynamic workforce was foremost on the minds of the mostly East Coast-based attendees. Throughout the day, topics ranged from change management to booking rules to technological innovations.

Benchmarking on the Digital Workplace
The morning program focused on examples and comparisons, beginning with a presentation on the WOTF program of hosts AIG, followed by a panel of leaders from Citi Group, AIG, and BNY Mellon.  For AIG, the process of global deployment included how to automate hoteling for their 24,000 US employees, pay for and properly convert legacy spaces, and adjust the expectations of employees who are averse to changes concerning their private workspaces.

Advice from the panel concerning the move to a digital workplace included:

  • Lead from the top, as top management has an outsized influence on the success of any large-scale workplace program.
  • Include all the stakeholders in decisions from the start: Real Estate, IT, Hospitality, HR, General Services, Security.
  • Every space is an opportunity to learn and refine your approach, so don’t expect to get it perfect the first time, or even the second.
  • Communicate as much as you possibly can, as people can be hard to motivate (they’re basically selfish about how change impacts them).


Modeling the Future of Work
When done correctly, the digital office creates an environment that aligns with how we work today, whether we work on site or remote. Going digital can also reduce real estate costs, improve productivity, attract prospective employees, and differentiate your brand. Beyond physical space, technology plays an enormous role in enabling effective collaboration and meeting spaces. But getting the digital office right requires more than technology.


For the early afternoon, the forum shifted focus to a higher level, with a well-received overview of workplace strategy from Phil Kirschner, Senior Vice President in the Consulting group of JLL. In the digital workplace, he explained, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses their desk.”

What many organizations fail to consider seriously enough, according to Kirschner and JLL research, is how digital workplace initiatives must address and accommodate the human experience of engagement, empowerment, and fulfillment.

That’s why more than two-thirds of all programs that involve change management fail to achieve their stated goals — and why the workplace perspective should focus on strategy first, followed by design. Attendees agreed and closed out the day sharing their related experiences in open Q&A and facilitated table sessions.

Workplace of the Future Forum in 2018
Most large EMS customers are either deep into the digital workplace or starting their journey to that destination in new buildings or renovated offices. At EMS, we will continue to sponsor these events, bringing together like-minded individuals who can learn from and inspire each other, and help us to understand how we can support workplace initiatives with future additions to our scheduling platform.

If you are interested in attending one of our 2018 Workplace of the Future Forums in the US or in the United Kingdom, or in coming to our first annual Campus of the Future Forum this summer, contact us directly.