Topics Discussed and Key Points:
● How workspaces change as people’s work change
● Efficient communication with clients in the design space
● Redefining the purpose of the office
● Differences in the work environment in China versus the West
● The impact of COVID-19 on the way work is done in China
● Commercial architecture in China
Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Nabil Sabet, Group Director at global workplace design firm M Moser Associates in North America and Greater China. The company “has specialized in the design and delivery of workplace environments since 1981, with clients from the corporate, private healthcare and education sectors.” Nabil’s experience in the China market goes back to 2006 when he worked as a space manager at M+W Group in Shanghai.
Nabil shares his thoughts on evolving work environments as the nature of work itself changes. He also discusses how different sectors vary in their understanding and appreciation for workspaces that are appropriate to what they do. Ownership of space in the tech sector, for example, is relatively low because there is a lot of sharing of spaces. Legal work, on the other hand, is done in more segmented, even hierarchical, spaces.
However, Nabil says that the COVID crisis has put the office space in “an existential crisis”. Due to the many uncertainties that most businesses continue to face moving forward into 2021, Nabil and his team are spending a lot of time “redefining the purpose of the office altogether.” He also explains how China in many respects was able to rebound relatively quickly in spite of the pandemic.
Nabil gives his observations on the differences between how Westerners and the Chinese approach work, and how these differences impact the design of their respective work environments. He says that the workforce in China “really has a strong sense of obligation” to the country, the company, the team, and their leaders. This collective attitude makes work incredibly fast and efficient. In the West, there is “a stronger sense of rights and individuality”, meaning organizations spend more time creating consensus among their people.
M Moser owes its effectiveness as a design firm to its complete focus on environments to which people go to work, including research centers, office spaces, innovation centers, and so on. This narrow focus allows them to collect an abundance of data and a thorough understanding of both “the hard stuff and the soft stuff”.
There are many factors that go into an office that is totally dependent on the nature of the work to be done, and M Moser positions itself as a company that “owns the entire problem”.
“When people’s work changes, then the environments that support that work also need to change.”
“The office is a gathering place for the team. The real purpose of the office is for people to come together. Yes, there’s an element of focus: You go to the office and you focus and you work. But, largely, the reason we will be going to the office is for human connection. It’s for connecting to other team members; corralling around a common purpose; getting inspired about our work and seeing our contributions as part of a team.”
“Depending on where you live in the world and the culture, the home setting can be more conducive or less conducive to remote work.”