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The Workplace Experience Reimagined – Hybrid Workspaces of the Future with Sudhir Saseedharan

September 16, 2021
Borderless Leadership - article

Watch the full conversation with Sudhir Saseedharan of Tetra Pak here: https://youtu.be/cIZ4NUOI5u4 

Andrew Kris 

Sudhir, we’re talking to a whole group of people that have spent the last year working very differently. To start off, what have we learned over the past year that’s going to change the way that we operate in the future?

Sudhir Saseedharan 

I think the best way to describe the future of the office is “necessity is the mother of all invention.” We’ve learned that we can be agile as every company was forced to figure out how you can be productive where you are. We also need to figure out how to approach our customers and how to keep the momentum going through this virtual medium.

Andrew Kris

As we come back from understanding that employees can be productive at home, what is the purpose of the physical workplace anymore?

Sudhir Saseedharan 

Actually, we have been conducting interviews with leadership, current and prospective employees all across the organization about this very question and we’ve found two of the most important things are having something meaningful and creating an ideal user experience. Employees will be asking themselves in the morning, “What is it that I’m going to be doing? Do I need to be at home? Or do I need to be in the office?” We need an office that easily and meaningfully fills the needs that cannot be met at home.

Andrew Kris 

The last year has broken down some hierarchical barriers in this process. Has that been your experience?

Sudhir Saseedharan 

Yes, I would say it’s become a big equaliser, both between managers and staff and between members of global teams. For example, if you had a team that was mainly in one region or in one office, but you had other colleagues in other offices, the team in this local office would feel closer because they met more often. But now the entire global team is actually coming and meeting together on a more regular basis. This is also true for hiring: we’re seeing that talent is no longer based on location, talent is based on talent.

Andrew Kris 

How are you working to build a meaningful, productive hybrid work environment that will serve your employees the best?

Sudhir Saseedharan 

One thing we have done is asked our employees to evaluate our processes. What has been helpful? What do they need to work?

Over the past year, we have continued this program to see what they’ve been doing at home. What were the activities they found worked better at home that surprised them? What do they miss about being in the office? We found out that a majority, about 55 percent, have told us that a lot of focused work can happen, or there’s more focused work that they thought they couldn’t do, while at home. However, they did miss socialising and meeting people, they missed the physical contact with each other. They also saw a reduction in how creative work could happen while at home.

Perhaps the office is a place where you’re socialising, meeting, collaborating, or creative brainstorming. It is a place where you have the coffee line in which you can catch up with colleagues, or the watercooler discussions and town halls. Then when you’re at home, you will have more of the downtime to sit and do concentrated work.

We do not want to make a rigid schedule where, for example, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays you’re going to do creative work, because everyone is in different places in their projects. Instead, hybrid work would be based on working from home, working from the office, or even working from a partner site. It’s more of a workplace ecosystem, where you can work in different places based on the work that you’re doing at the moment.

Andrew Kris 

What is the outlook for office real estate given this hybrid model revolution?

Sudhir Saseedharan 

If I look at real estate from a larger perspective, there is going to be a change in the way we look at the kind of spaces that we would have in our offices.

When building or leasing an office, there are new questions we need to be asking: How and what kind of services are we giving to those employees who choose to come in? How are we building community? How can that office building actually help and support us in doing that?

A second element affecting the real estate industry is sustainability – what good are we doing to the planet? We need to consider how our workplaces and our services contribute towards sustainability. It’s something we talk about all the time, but how can the workplace actually promote a company’s sustainability objectives?

Andrew Kris 

What are companies doing in terms of helping their executives think more progressively on these issues? Do you have any advice for leaders today?

Sudhir Saseedharan 

The next step now is talking about data. Specifically, it’s about the whys and hows of what we are doing to grow. In tandem, this evolution is also about attracting the right talent and trying to be an employer of choice. If you’re not able to give new talent this kind of flexibility, then they are going to go somewhere else. Everyone is trying to mix together different innovations to find this great secret formula for the future of working. We have not yet, and I don’t think any organisation is going to do it right now, but we have the time, the opportunity and the vehicle for change.

Are you interested in sharing your expertise with the world? Send a message to Andrew Kris.

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