The Ideal Workplace Solution: Q&A with Dean Strombom of Gensler

HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) – With a career spanning four decades at Gensler, a global architecture firm, and a portfolio of more than 50 million SF,  Dean Strombom leads the planning and design of corporate campuses, commercial office buildings, workplace interiors and mixed-use developments. He is the south-central region’s strategic advisor to the consulting and real estate practice area.

The COVID-19 pandemic has displaced many Houstonians from office jobs to makeshift work-from-home settings. Gensler is researching methods of re-establishing a base for workers, be it an office, home or a combination. Gensler has unveiled its ReRun program as a pandemic response tool to help offices create workspace layouts for safe social distancing.

Dean Strombom was a guest on THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT, a new podcast produced by Realty News Report.

Here is an excerpt of Strombom’s appearance on THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT:

Ralph: We welcome to the show Dean Strombom, one of the major principals and a strategy leader who has devoted considerable energy to determine what the post-pandemic era workplace will be like, inside and out. What about the workplace of the future, Dean?

Dean: I think the workplace of the future is going to be different for different companies and different individuals. How it all shakes out is yet to be figured out. We have done quite a bit of research over the last 10 years in workplaces and what people like; what their expectations are. That has sort of ramped up a lot during the past 10 months of the pandemic. We’ve been trying to find out what is good about working at home, what is not good about it and ultimately what the future workplace will be like. We have found some people who have been tremendously productive at home, away from the office. Conversely, we have talked to people at the office – whether they never left, or they have gone back, and they submit that they are most productive at the office. It’s kind of a conundrum. It sort of depends on what kind of work you are doing and what your role in the company is, whether you are part of a collaborative team-based project or an employee working in an individual focus mode. We suggest for the future to take a hybrid approach. Ideally, employees should have the choice of working where they feel most productive for the task. This is how we felt before people went way during the pandemic and worked from home. We were strong advocates that people should have the choice and be free to move throughout the office and find the right space for doing the right work. This applies not only in an office, but at home or at a possible third location.

Ralph: You think a lot of companies will go with the hybrid approach?

Dean: I think that would be the ideal solution. Quite honestly, one of the things we found while doing the research is that only 20% of employees feel they really have the choice to work where they want to, in the office or at home. Eighty percent feel that someone else will make that decision about where they will work. I think this speaks to the different corporate cultures and what companies see as the most important decision to the firm. It may not always be good for the individual. For the 20% who have a choice of where to work, they are looking to the hybrid approach.

Ralph: What will a typical office worker see in the future that he or she didn’t see in the past?

Dean: Well, I think it’s been recognized by us and others that the office is highly effective for collaborative needs, for people coming together and working together on projects and building a company culture. These are reasons to come to an office. We also found that new office spaces should, in my mind, have gathering places for meetings and also for socializing. People like to come into the office for these things. I know there are those who say that, well, you should be able to come to an office just for a meeting or other special event, but it doesn’t provide you with the individual space for tasks that could be better done at home. I don’t personally feel that way. The way people work is a very fluid way of getting through the day. Some of us move from collaboration to socialization and to learning and to focusing on work modes through the day. I can’t say that we should only do one kind of work in this area and another kind of work in that area.

Ralph: I keep thinking about the young person who may have graduated from college last May and is just starting out with a new company where they don’t know anyone. It’s a tough road.

Dean: When we first went into this work-from-home mode, I was thinking that the young people – the Millennials and the Gen-Z’ers – would work best in this at-home environment because they are so tech-savvy. In actuality, these are the ones who most want to come back into the office. We were thinking why this might be and found that it’s about building a career. These are the people who entered the work force to build a career. They want to make sure that people know they are capable of doing great things. All the mentoring and supervising, this is what the senior people have to offer them. On the flip side, people like myself want to go back to the office to mentor and help these employees. We found it’s the people in the middle who are comfortable in their careers and know what they are doing, they’re the ones who want to continue working from home.

Ralph: And it eliminates the commute.

Dean: Commuting is a big factor in all of this. If you have a long commute, and you find that can be fairly productive at home, the idea of spending two hours a day driving back and forth to the office isn’t so appealing.


March 1, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021


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