A few years ago, Neiman Marcus poured hundreds of millions of dollars into renovating his stores to make the experience more appealing to customers who were used to shopping from home.
Now the company is following the same approach with its headquarters.
Neiman Marcus’s new headquarters, expected to open in a skyscraper in Dallas early next year, represents a roughly $100 million bet that in the post-pandemic world, you can’t just expect people to show up, you have to give them a reason. .
The new space will not have private offices or assigned workspaces to free up more space for conference rooms, couches, and other sitting areas intended to accommodate groups of people. The department store operator dedicates about 70 percent of its 85,000 square feet of floor space to such collaborative areas, compared to 30 percent for individual workstations. Those proportions were reversed in the company’s old offices, a series of suites just above the Dallas flagship store, which it still owns.
The new office is built to reflect a landscape where many corporate jobs can be performed anywhere. Rather than places where people have to come to do (and keep) their jobs, employers like Neiman Marcus increasingly see the office as a space to exchange ideas and share unique experiences that cannot be matched anywhere else.
The company is moving beyond many fashion companies towards a hybrid work model, where employees can coordinate with their colleagues to meet in person if necessary, rather than on a set schedule.
“Bringing people together in a single physical space requires a lot of coordination of people’s schedules and lives,” said Eric Severson, Chief People and Associate Officer of the Neiman Marcus Group. “So you should only do that if that is the best way to build something together or gain an experience together.”
Not every company is that flexible. After two years of drafting on-the-fly remote work policies, employers and professional workers everywhere are negotiating what permanent work arrangements will look like. Apple this week told employees near its headquarters in Cupertino, California to report to the office three days a week beginning in September. Nike and Adidas have been letting many of their corporate staffers come in at least a few days a week for months.
More than ever, the office is a powerful recruitment and retention tool. Everything from design and layout to a company’s requirements for the days and times people need to get in determines whether employees view their organization as a desirable place to work. Even companies with the strictest office attendance policies need to consider this, whether that means more meeting rooms or investing in ergonomic sofas and chairs or other benefits that can match the comfort of a home office.
“The biggest thing you can do wrong is go back to what you were doing before the pandemic,” said Craig Rowley, senior client partner in hiring consultancy Korn Ferry. “You need such an iterative process for your people to get them back to the office.”
For real Estate
Even before the pandemic made remote work the norm, Neiman Marcus had already decided to move to a hybrid model, where corporate teams would only use offices when needed. That gave the company a head start in planning its new hub, which will include research “that crosses sociology, social anthropology and industrial engineering,” Severson said.
The biggest learning point was that offices were the most useful for collaboration and that the other needs of employees – privacy and moments of rest and rejuvenation, for example – could be better met elsewhere. It also learned – from its meetings with global architecture firm Gensler and ‘people-oriented’ design firm IDEO plus the furniture companies it employed – that the most attractive modern offices work just like home.
“It’s a combination of developing an open concept, but also allowing people to choose where they want on any given day during the day,” Severson said. “So they will move like they would at home; they get up, sit at their desks, they go from the kitchen to the bathroom and to the couch.”
To achieve this, the company will bring in “ancillary furniture” or casual office equipment and fixtures intended to support a range of postures such as sitting, perching and lounging. It also emerged for a space with “many amenities” such as a conference center and entertainment area on the building’s 42nd floor, where it can host “fashion shows and recognition events,” Severson said.
When it comes to office design, fashion creatives need spaces that inspire them to imagine their most innovative ideas — but the decor elements have to make sense and be on-brand, said Melissa Gonzalez, director of architectural firm MG2 and founder of The Lionesque Group. .
“It’s about creating that multi-sensory environment where the interior conveys the brand’s personality and stimulates energy and well-being,” she said.
On, the Zurich, Switzerland-based running shoe brand, opened its new 17-storey office space earlier this year, equipped with a central staircase, dubbed “The Trail”, designed to mimic the walk the brand’s three founders walked through. the Engadin Valley in Switzerland in 2009 when they first started building the business.
Employees are encouraged to use the stairs whenever possible as a source of motivation and as a reminder of the company’s journey to scale. They are also organized into ‘villages’, similar to the founders the founders encountered when climbing the mountain, rather than into separate sections, to encourage collaboration.
Nike’s New York headquarters features a swimming pool, multiple gyms, a basketball court, and eateries with complimentary meals and drinks, including coffee made by its in-house barista. Adidas’ recently expanded headquarters in Portland, Oregon has a fitness center, rooftop lounge, cafeteria, juice bar, and a “green roof” covered in vegetation.
For brands looking to inspire without breaking the bank, simple additions like green plants can add a “naturally therapeutic” feel to an office, Gonzalez said. Rearranging existing furniture to make a space more inviting and collaborative is another cost-effective solution, Rowley said.
“It’s immediately important to reconsider how you are classified,” he said. “For example, if you have four booths that are emptying, can you turn them around and buy some bean bags and make a space where people can work together?”
People are important
It is true that many corporate employees have come to appreciate remote working. But more than the ability to answer emails in their pajamas, what they seek most is the flexibility to use the office — and their work hours — in a way that makes sense to them, Gonzalez said.
One of the things corporate employees love most about working from home is that they no longer have to deal with the lost time and stress of a round trip. But in the two years since the pandemic began, many workers have been conditioned to fill what used to be their commutes with extra work, Rowley said.
Companies that force a predominantly remote corporate workforce to come back to the office (even just a few days a week) need to be aware of the new trade-offs they are making and adjust people’s responsibilities and outcomes in a way that is beneficial and rewarding for both sides, experts say.
For example, on the days an employee comes in, their responsibilities may need to shift from hard results like preparing a powerpoint presentation or spreadsheet to a softer task like attending a one-on-one meeting with a manager.
While they aren’t new offerings, perks like (good) coffee and a free meal every now and then plus facetime with team members — especially senior leaders — still go a long way, experts say.
“You can order bagels once a week or have a midweek coffee as a perk for the team,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve discussed bringing in a masseuse to give people a massage every quarter — it depends on how far you want to go.”
More important than what’s in the office is who’s there. Topping the list are managers, directors and senior executives who must lead the way and make themselves available to mentor younger talent, as well as other team members who have missed important workplace rituals due to the pandemic, Rowley said.
“If you want people to come to the office and use it together, there has to be a reason,” Severson said. “When they leave, they should feel like ‘wow, I just did something that I could only do here with other people in this physical space’.”