Pictured above: Ogilvy’s Washington D.C. Office Designed by HOK (Photographer: Robert Benson Photography)

As organizations continue to compete for talent and against global competition, the need for a more dynamic workplace is becoming apparent. But the shift requires a new way of thinking about the workplace. Engagement is a very real driver for retention, attraction and productivity.  As such, centralized real estate decisions must balance standardization with this need to engage employees at the local level.

It’s important for organizations to step back and take stock of how they are planning to move forward with workplace decisions. This turbulent global business environment leaves little room for error. We had the opportunity to speak with Kay Sargent, Senior Principal and Director of Workplace at HOK to gain insights into how organizations can adapt under pressure to create strategies that look at not only real estate, but the people who make a workplace what it is.


Kay brings over 30 years of expertise and experience in the interiors industry. Her work has taken her to multiple continents where she has worked with Fortune 500 companies on their global real estate strategies and designed workplaces of the future. She will be speaking sharing her more of her expert insights at CoreNet’s “The Bigger Picture” Summit in Philadelphia next week and Bisnow’s “Workplace of the Future and Adaptive Reuse Revolution” later this month in Toronto.

1. What is in store for a global workplace of the future?

As change continues at an exponential rate, the office as we know it needs to evolve to stay relevant. We need workplaces that are agile and can adapt. Work environments will have to transform to be more engaging and empower people with choice and options. We need to create environments that support well-being and enable innovation and productivity. And we need to accept that we can not only design a space once every 10 years and think it will remain a powerful business tool.

We need to embrace that living in a time of change means we must change the way we design space, and the frequency at which we adjust it.

2. What other big changes have an increasingly global business environment had on the workplace?

We live in a globally connected world. With a heightened awareness of the cultural aspects of various countries we are seeing a ripple effect on how we design the environments in which we live and work. As recently as 10 years ago, most corporate real estate companies followed a decentralized model, where real estate decisions were made regionally.

In recent years, as companies are looking to expand globally and centralize the management of their real estate holding, the CRE model has shifted to one where real estate is viewed through a global lens, with many companies looking to establish a template for standardizing their offices around the world.

3. What challenges exist with the shift to more centralized workplace planning? 

The challenge facing many companies today is figuring out how to strike a balance between establishing global standards and addressing regional influences. Work styles differ from country to country, making standardization problematic.

Today, many companies realize that culture, legislative issues, and style nuances vary from region to region and it’s important for the businesses to be – and be seen as – good local citizens. Savvier companies have shifted their focus to creating “guidelines” rather than “standards” to allow for more latitude from regions to region where they can be used as they see fit within a regional context.

4. The other big global workplace trend right now is wellness and the WELL Building Standard. Can you tell us more about the recent partnership between HOK and Delos?

We know that sitting stagnantly at a desk staring at a computer all day is killing us faster than whatever the walls may be off-gassing. Overly sedentary work environments create a myriad of unintended consequences, not the least of which is decreased productivity. Getting people up and moving is not only essential for their own personal health and well-being, but studies also show that active workers are happy, healthier, more engaged, and more productive.

To that end, HOK is partnering with Delos to advance the concepts and principles of health and well-being in the workplace. Through our partnership, HOK has direct access to the Delos and IWBI team and their knowledge on project delivery and implementation and partners to capture data to advance the research on well-being.  HOK also has staff that are trained as WELL Faculty and our design teams serve as subject matter expertise and partners on pilot projects to evolve the Standard going forward.

Delos and HOK are also partnering to conduct ongoing research related to health and well-being. We are proud to note that we recently completed the first WELL-certified project in Canada with TD Bank and are actively engaged on several other WELL projects both in the US and aboard.