Article | Evolving Workforces

CBRE’s Lenny Beaudoin explores the secret potential of workplace experience

Understanding the three key areas surrounding the modern-day workplace, its challenges and how to drastically improve it.

November 6, 2023


Lenny Beaudoin isn’t an uncommon name in the world of efficient and effective workplace design. The industry expert and thought leader has featured in countless talks for CoreNet Global as well as being featured in Forbes Magazine, Bloomberg, and The Wall Street Journal. 

More specifically, Beaudoin oversees the delivery of workplace strategy across CBRE globally.  His expertise lies in providing clients with a competitive advantage through actionable workplace strategies, informed occupancy planning, thoughtful design, and superior delivery of the future work environment. 

In his recent visit to Australia last week, Beaudoin sat down for an intimate talk exploring the three key areas surrounding the modern-day workplace, its challenges and how to drastically improve it.  

Why workplace experience matters 

Beaudoin is adamant that workplace experience matters more than people believe.  

“The reality is there were a lot of places people didn't like going to work before the pandemic. What the pandemic did was give trust and accountability to employees to make decisions, and they started to really think about the value proposition of the workplace they were returning to - and many found it lacking.  

“And often it didn't matter how it was provisioned, it mattered what the experience people have with each other in the office. Simply put, the most important amenity of people returning to the office is other people in the office.” 

Based on Beaudoin’s most recent research, there is a lean towards organisations coming back into the office. Despite this, one interesting observation from this is that mandates generally don’t work.  

"We have seen a change certainly towards leaning back to the office. But something you probably haven't seen is where we tracked net job departures or attrition against declared office policy.  

“What we found is when we look at the same rating around organisations that are remote to full time in the office, we see the highest turnover through our labour analytics team around those organisations that are more purely remote.  

“Taking this all into consideration, organisations are setting the posture with some flexibility because they know they're going to see more staff turnover if they don't. But at the same time, those organisations that are providing more remote options compared to those that are coming into the office more frequently, are already seeing that turnover.”  

What this emphasises, according to Beaudoin, is what most executive leaders and companies already believe: coming into the office some of the time really matters in terms of engagement, affiliation and career development.  

It’s a sentiment which follows the popular saying that a person can manage a job remotely, but it's extremely difficult to manage a career in a similar way.  

The state of return to office 

With organisations vying to determine how to get people back into the office more of the time, it’s imperative for office occupiers to know what stands out as the most important features to employees.  

“These are things that we provide well, things that drive convenience and frictionless experiences. Onsite food and beverage, wellness, sustainability rating in spaces or having a sustainable posture, is one of the most significant aspects of what employees are looking for in their future space,” says Beaudoin. “Most spaces don't really provide these amenities and today’s organisations are struggling to keep up with these employee demands.” 

And what are the techniques or strategies organisations are applying that are working right now? 

  1. Taking their message through social media around the benefits of coming into the office 
  2. If mandates aren’t working, educate and empower team leaders to create flow in their teams  
  3. Having a critical mass in the office really matters. When people come to the office and several of their team members aren't working in the office, the entire team defaults to working remotely.  
  4. Think about the way space is being distributed in order to be more effective for the purpose of those people coming in. This can mean a lot more privacy space for focusing and concentration 
  5. Have a scorecard that rationalises the entire employee experience. This can cover attention, sentiment, engagement to the organisational impacts, how people communicate, ESG performance metrics and the speed of decision making to the financial measures which are most common to real estate 

The art of great placemaking 

In Beaudoin’s view, workplace experience is the centre of multiple components - culture and values, places, and shared experiences supporting surfaces that connect that experience. Health and wellbeing as a basic employee benefit and digital enablement also come into play.  

“All of those things have to work effectively to drive a great workplace experience,” he says.   

The notion of vibrancy is a concept that Beaudoin is especially keen to focus on.  

“Understanding what happens from an experience on a daily basis is a way of understanding space utilisation as it correlates directly to what experience individuals might have.  

“When you think about an analogous example, restaurants do most of their business in about 20% of the time they're open. Offices are increasingly starting to look like that. So how do you create peak experiences at times that really matter? We point that the notion of tracking vibrancy as a means to unlocking experience and really be intentional in the way you think about workplace.”  

Beaudoin emphasises that those who want their office to feel vibrant and alive need to design the space to be over capacity sometimes as well. Allowing easy use and flexibility in the space is conducive to the reason that people are coming into the office is to see other people. More importantly, it’s about understanding when their employees are actually using the space.   

“Designing for vibrant and productive experience means understanding the difference between peak days and non-days in how space is used, providing the space, technology and services to accommodate these various demands, and ensuring higher utilisation of the space overall to feel more active, connected, and supported. 

“This is something we can do and give dimension to our clients.”  


Workplace Solutions

Unlock the power of your workplace with user-centred design, delivery and management services that drive business strategy, inspire human performance and increase employee engagement.

The image shows two colleagues conversing on a project as they walk down a staircase in a sunlit open plan office space.