April 03, 2023 by Liza Mash Levin
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If you take an inside look at 100 different companies, chances are you’ll see 100 different workplace strategies. The workplace now has the power to be custom-designed for the needs of each company and its employees, making it easy to innovate and iterate.
On our quest to find and uncover great leaders and forward-thinking organizations, we hosted Simantinee Roy, Head of Global Workplace, Real Estate & Travel at Imperva on the Coffee with Gable webinar series.
This article is a recap of what Simi and I spoke about, and you can watch the full webinar below 👇
Imperva’s team is the perfect illustration of what we call a distributed workforce: they have employees across the globe, spanning from Tel Aviv to Belfast, Singapore, Dubai, Munich, Vancouver, and several U.S. cities, with headquarters in San Mateo, California, and supporting employees who prefer to work from home.
It would be impossible — and costly — to have long-term office leases in all these locations, and tethering themselves to these expensive buildings would also impact their hiring efforts, which are now global and emphasize the best talent, not the most convenient location.
Imperva’s strategy is to offer flexibility to employees and make sure everyone has a space to go to for a meeting, business trip, offsite, or just a day of work with their team. In some locations they have offices, and in all others, they rely on local flex space providers to fulfill the needs of their team.
Want to reduce your workspace spending and stay flexible? Read our 5 tips for reducing corporate real estate costs >>>
In a global and distributed setting, workplace initiatives need to be intentional. Having a workplace strategy that is 100% based on long-term offices is no longer a guarantee your team will be productive, happy, or engaged — because it’s no longer about the physical space at all.
For employees, the needle has shifted towards connecting with their team, building meaningful relationships at work, gaining a sense of purpose, and measuring the day-to-day hard work with a spoonful of work-life balance.
In an environment like that, every company and Workplace leader is in a position to design and build a bespoke strategy that is unique to their team, organizational culture, and business goals. For Imperva, the intentionality of wanting to get people together and help them feel engaged is front and center for all workplace initiatives.
For Simantinee’s team, providing workplace services to employees and ensuring they can meet in any location worldwide and foster those human connections is a logistically challenging task, but one she sees as essential and rewarding.
Imperva’s workplace is built on three core values: flexibility, trust, and empowerment. For Simantinee, trust is an essential element for success in a global, flexible workplace. Recognizing that people in different places have diverse work styles and needs makes the company readier to provide them with tools and resources to succeed.
For working parents, caregivers, and all other employees juggling personal lives and careers, flexibility is a tool of empowerment and well-being, and the organization’s role in their experience is critical.
Not being bound to a physical space or even fixed working hours goes a long way in showing employees they are valued, building trust, and empowering them to do their best work regardless of where they live and what their schedule is like. It’s a tectonic mindset shift from a culture where productivity is measured by hours spent online or in an office chair.
For Simantinee, the impact of in-person connections on a company’s culture, engagement, retention, and overall organizational health is more indirect. For her, attracting the best people to a company and retaining them goes beyond the physical workplace experience.
It has to do with the company’s vision, leadership, and workplace culture, and that’s why people stay at a company. So if you foster a toxic workplace culture or a stressful work environment prone to burnout, no amount of office perks will help you keep people motivated.
On top of that, doing meaningful work is essential for retaining employees and keeping them engaged. If they’re doing a fulfilling job, that trumps the importance of the office.
But on the other hand, workplace experience programs can help showcase the culture and double down on what fulfilling work means. For some employees, it’s vital to have regular check-ins with their leadership and management, because that improves their career development, mentorship opportunities, and growth.
So while it may not be a direct impact on retention, facilitating in-person connections with team members, managers, and leaders in a globally distributed workplace does help keep employees motivated.
Just a few years ago, when attracting job candidates, companies were selling them office perks: beer on tap, ping pong tables, elaborate meals, and all-day snacks. The office perks were used as a kind of crutch that showcased the company culture.
Today, Workplace and People leaders know that this tactic no longer works. Office perks are no longer a reason to join the company, and they have little to no impact on the employees’ decision to come into an office to work. What attracts people to both a company and a physical workspace are the company values and culture.
It’s a challenging transformation, but one that leaves companies stronger: their employees are there because they believe in their mission because they want to be part of it and because the workplace culture is something they can identify with.
The Workplace function itself had to grow and evolve rapidly in the past few years to become what we now see as the pillar of the fulfilling workplace we’re all striving for. For Simantinee, her 18 years of experience as a Workplace and Real Estate expert in North America have always been followed by change.
From a focus on real estate and facilities where seats in the office were essential to various changes in office design, many things have evolved over time to reach a point where the function is no longer solely focused on facilities, but on experiences.
Workplace leaders now often work alongside People and Human Resources teams, sometimes even as part of a single department. The two verticals are intertwined, as the workplace shifts to an experience-driven mindset, and companies adopt distributed, remote, or hybrid work models.
For Simantinee, proving the ROI of the workplace has tangible and intangible parts. For the tangible one, it always comes down to numbers. As much as the workplace evolves, numbers and financial metrics that matter to a company’s CFO stay the same.
To stay on top of metrics like the run rate and CapEx, Simantinee looks at the space utilization and vacancy rate and other office use metrics that help her see how effective her portfolio is and how well it’s performing against the investment. For her, a good utilization number is somewhere between 70% and 80% and to get that data, six months is a great evaluation period.
Imperva and Simantinee don’t like the traditional commitment models. They prefer having a flexible mindset and a streamlined portfolio that leaves them enough space to maneuver, act quickly, and make data-driven and informed decisions about their workplace strategy.
It’s no longer out of reach to design and implement a workplace driven by trust and empowerment while staying on top of utilization rates and real estate budgets. If you adopt a flexible mindset and agility as Simantinee and Imperva do, you’ll be able to make quick and informed decisions, streamline spending, and design a fulfilling workplace for all stakeholders, from your CFO to your employees.
Steer the ship of your distributed workplace.
Tailor your modern work culture, empower employees, and help them stay engaged, all while staying in control of workspace usage and spending.
Liza Mash Levin