PUBLISHER’S DISCLOSURE: Catalyst is an advertiser with The Registry. This article is not a paid post, it was selected on the merit of its editorial contribution.
By Jack Stubbs
The talk of the town in Seattle and the surrounding region is increasingly centered around how to best program workspace and how to create a workplace design that encourages colleague collaboration and productivity—and workplace culture and employee well-being add another dimension to this unfolding narrative.
Seattle-based Catalyst Workplace Activation—a company that works with architecture and design teams and large corporations to envision and create engaging spaces for people to work, learn and collaborate—is one company at the forefront of this movement.
On Thursday, February 1st, Catalyst celebrated the opening of Loft 3.0, a 2,850 square foot space in the heart of downtown Seattle. The space provides a stage for workplace innovation and also serves as a laboratory for showcasing new ideas about what the optimal work environment and workplace design might look like.
The opening of Loft 3.0 is the latest chapter in Catalyst’s efforts to successfully activate the workplace. Every year, Catalyst presents a new iteration of the Loft, changing the theme, physical layout, furniture and technology tools within the space.
In September 2016, the company opened Loft 1.0, the original Loft concept, which relied heavily on Herman Miller’s Living Office Research and was a reflection of Catalyst’s Activated Workplace concept—a consideration of how people need to function and work in the “era of ideas.” Loft 2.0, “The Clubhouse,” as it was originally known, explored ideas about the most effective and productive workplaces. The workshop setting was integral to “The Clubhouse” and also informs Catalyst’s goals with Loft 3.0.
“These workshops are designed so that really great collaborative work and processes are leading to innovation and creativity, which has to be heard by other coworkers…that’s the juice of what Catalyst is trying to emphasize [with Loft 3.0],” said Sean O’Brien, president and CEO of Catalyst Workplace Activation.
Expanding on these previous iterations, the goal of Loft 3.0 is to provide a workplace exhibit and experience that encourages new conversations about the future of workplace design. The space will feature loft tours and thought leadership events, and will ultimately seek to foster new conversations about the future of work.
The driving concept behind the space is motivated by larger changes in the workplace, a problem that Loft 3.0 is hoping to address, according to Mark Jacobsen, co-founder of Calibrate Workplace Ecosystems, one of Catalyst’s project partners for Loft 3.0. “People really don’t understand how the nature of work has changed. Many businesses still operate under the mindset of the industrial era…[but] we’re now in the knowledge economy where the purpose of work is actually focused around people versus making something,” he said. “One of the purposes of a workplace is to collaborate; the other is to participate in the culture of an organization.”
Both the concept of work and the purpose of a workplace has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, with technological advancements, generational transitions and the shift to a knowledge economy, where the purpose of work has shifted to collaboration and generation of ideas, according to the Concept Brief for Loft 3.0.
In light of this cultural evolution, business leaders and industry executives need new partners to help them navigate through the research about workplace ecosystems, according to Linda Wagener, co-founder and director of workplace psychology at Calibrate. “Business leaders nowadays don’t have the time to read or triangulate all of the academic research about workplace design. We’re aware of the research out there, and we can see how it fits the individual needs of a business,” she said.
The overarching objective is to develop an exhibit that adds to the conversation about changing work ecosystems—to this end, Catalyst brought together subject matter experts such as Calibrate Work Ecosystems, a company whose “Future of Work” model informs the objective at Loft 3.0.
This “Future of Work” framework explores the intersection of People, Places and Technology. The space explores how the modern day workplace requires a consideration of all three elements in tandem: people (individual skills, talents and personalities), place (working at home versus remotely, plus creating engagement for companies that have large footprints of real estate) and technology (corporate and personal) all bring something different to the table.
To address this nexus of ideas, Catalyst brought on several other strategic partner companies whose products and exhibits will be shown throughout Loft 3.0. The project partners include Calibrate Workplace Ecosystems (addressing the people element); Catalyst and Herman Miller (addressing addressing the element of place); and software companies Buildingi, Sirqul, Simply Augmented, Blink UX and Nureva, who address the technology element.
Loft 3.0 is comprised of a variety of workplace layouts and orientations, and includes data visualization dashboards that will display workplace space utilization data and furniture usage statistics. The space also includes augmented reality features presented by Simply Augmented, which will allow tour guides to drop three-dimensional digital objects, such as furniture, into the physical world through a mobile app.
The implementation of such cutting edge technology in the space contributes to broader discussions about the workplace, according to Boaz Ashkenazy, founder and CEO of Simply Augmented. “The larger trend is that more and more people are going to be experiencing augmented reality in their environment…augmented reality affects the way we work and the way that businesses use the technology to interact with each other,” he said.
According to O’Brien, the various features of the Loft are based on past research in the field—and research was key to how Loft 3.0 was conceptualized. “There’s a lot of research around the settings that Herman Miller has done in terms of major shifts that are [occurring] in workplace design today…so everything we show or talk about has to be supported by data and research,” he said.
The data-driven layout of Loft 3.0 was all intentionally and deliberately chosen, and is aimed at exploring the complex interaction between people, place and technology in the modern workplace environment. “There’s so much choice and variety associated with landscapes and floor plates today, more than than there ever were. So, we’ve selected the settings that really promote an engagement with collaborative tools,” O’Brien said. “These settings have certain DNA stamps of how teams work and how proximity plays into a group forum…it’s all about experiences with the technology, space and [other] people,” he added.
As well as providing information about the impacts that the physical layout of a space has on people, data also allows Loft 3.0 to explore the fundamental role of culture in the modern day workplace, according to Wagener. “We know can measure the fundamental dimensions of culture that make a difference in people’s productivity. We can measure people’s hardwiring, their skills, their needs for stimulation…there’s a whole world of metrics now that are based on scientifically-validated tools,” she said.
However, one of the challenges with Loft 3.0 was how to successfully translate these more intangible elements of the workplace into meaningful data, according to O’Brien. Catalyst’s Workplace Activation model provides guidance through three stages of the workplace design process: translating workplace innovations, ideas and research into potential solutions; curating the best solutions into decisions; and orchestrating the approved decisions into physical reality.
Accordingly, the project was created with these three phases—translate, curate and orchestrate—in mind.The space is transformational, aimed at translating complex data into meaningful solutions, according to O’Brien. “This space is all about translation…a client is often overwhelmed at this stage [of the process], so we help them translate all of the data about people, technology and place into some manageable direction,” he said.
While Loft 3.0 represents the translation stage of the process, Catalyst’s Tukwila office is the curate stage of the process, where clients are shown how all the different elements can be integrated into a Catalyst’s own living office, according to O’Brien. “[We] take them through this curation process to narrow down the options that they can sign off on. We can go through what our process was to create our living office and how they can do the same.” Each company can then create their own living office based upon their individual culture and purpose.
To this end, the space features a variety of interactive tour experiences and presentations on the future of the workplace. Some of the presentations include “The Internet of Things for Workplace Interactive Exhibit,” presented by Sirqul, and the “Knowledge Worker Engagement & Culture Cultivation Exhibit,” presented by Calibrate Workplace Ecosystems.
While the exhibits and the presentations allow industry executives to glean new insights about how to ideally design a workplace, one of the loftier goals of Loft 3.0 is to enact changes about how industry leaders think about the role of people within the workplace, according to O’Brien.
“A lot of people who are creating spaces think that [the space] will change people…but you have to extract how the people are wired first,” he said.
Ultimately, the aim is to envision what a human-centric work ecosystem might look like in the future. Serving as a forum for reflection and discussion about how to program the ideal workplace, Loft 3.0 will also invite a change in people’s perspectives, according to Jacobsen of Calibrate. “The other purpose of the Loft is to get people to think differently and be educated about the workplace holistically,” he said.
And ultimately, the hope is that the newest rendition of the Loft will lead to more impactful discussions about workplace design further down the line, according to O’Brien. “The space will enable clients to have conversations about things other than just furniture. If you believe what we think, which is that everyone is wired differently, that will play a role,” he said.
Future iterations of Loft 3.0 will undoubtedly build upon the conversations that the current space hopes to foster, according to O’Brien. “We don’t know what Loft 4.0 will look like, but we’ll learn a lot here.”