Podcast Ep. 241 recap: Finding happiness at work

In episode 241 of Workplace Innovator, host Mike Petrusky speaks with Dr. Tracy Brower, Vice President of Workplace Insight for Steel Case, who shares insights on the changing nature of work and the workplace, the importance of community, and the role of leaders in the current context.

They explore the value of connections and community and journey through the research and personal experiences related to humans thriving at work. Plus, Tracy offers practical advice for facility management and corporate real estate leaders interested in creating great employee experiences for their organizations.


  • Fundamental changes in the workplace
  • Importance of updating the workplace
  • Role of leaders in setting expectations and providing flexibility
  • Significance of community and connection in work
  • Impact work experience has on work happiness

What you need to know: Workplace takeaways


Takeaway 1: The nature of work has fundamentally changed, requiring updates in the workspace to reflect this shift and maintain employee satisfaction and productivity.

Tracy Brower, Vice President of Workplace Insights at Steelcase, stressed the importance of updating the workplace to reflect the fundamental changes in the nature of work. She mentioned that this not only enhances the workspace but also sends a message of adaptability and responsiveness. She suggested that organizations should adopt practices that offer as much flexibility and choice as possible, creating work environments that people would want to come to.

“One thing that we can do is really make sure that we’re implementing work experiences where collaboration is absolutely prioritized. People want to come in and collaborate and connect,” said Brower. She also emphasized the need for workplaces to provide enough spaces for employees to focus and have privacy, as well as the importance of integrating policies and practices with the physical work environment.

Takeaway 2: Workplace leaders are tasked with providing clear expectations while simultaneously offering their employees the freedom to adapt and express their opinions.

Brower underlined the importance of transparent leadership in the new work environment. She explained that leaders must provide clear expectations and set certain “guardrails” while also allowing for adaptability and giving employees the opportunity to voice their opinions. This balance, according to Brower, is essential in maintaining employee engagement and encouraging better performance.

“Leaders have this sort of new requirement,” she said. “There’s greater emotional labor required of leaders right now. We’re really looking for leaders that provide great direction and vision, but also that give us the opportunity for involvement and feeling like we have a voice.”

Takeaway 3: The value of in-person interaction at work extends beyond task-related communication, contributing to the social well-being of employees.

Brower also emphasized the importance of in-person interaction for employee well-being and happiness. She pointed out that while digital communication has its place, it doesn’t provide the same level of depth and nuance that face-to-face interaction does. Brower mentioned that even incidental connections made at the workplace contribute to an employee’s sense of value and appreciation.

“Inappropriate ways, right? Like, we bump somebody on the elbow, or we touch them on the sleeve, or we lean forward in a meeting. Right. All those physical manifestations of relationships actually build our feelings about how important we are to somebody else or how known or recognized or appreciated we are by somebody else,” she explained.

Takeaway 4: The workplace has a crucial role in fostering community and helping employees form diverse connections.

Brower highlighted the role of the workplace in fostering community and helping employees form connections. She noted that work is a place where people express their talents, feel necessary to others, and create connections. In particular, workplaces tend to facilitate the formation of more diverse friendships than in personal lives, serving to enhance empathy and the ability to think with others.

“81% of people say they make their more diverse friends at work. So evidence would suggest that in our personal lives, we might be more likely to hang around with people who look like us or think like us or sound like us. But at work, we get more of an opportunity to learn from people and be exposed to people who are different,” said Brower.

Workplace insights

  • Work has fundamentally changed and it’s crucial for workplaces to adapt and show they’re not stagnating.
  • Leaders now have a greater emotional labor requirement, expected to provide clear direction, vision, and expectations while also allowing for employee involvement and adaptability.
  • Work has a new and expanded role in our social well-being, especially as we become more disconnected in our personal lives due to technology.
  • The workplace is an important place for developing deeper relationships, which are critical for our sense of contribution and value.
  • It’s important to update the workplace to better suit people’s needs, use pilots and prototypes to test what works best, measure the impact through continuous feedback, prioritize collaboration, and offer flexibility and choice.

The impact of technology in the workplace

Workplace technology is on an exponential curve. It wasn’t long ago we used fax machines and interoffice mail to work — now, even email seems out-of-date. The impact of technology in the workplace is substantial, and it’s changing everything from how we work to what tools we use to do our jobs.  

The breadth of workplace technologies available today takes two forms: workplace-facing and workplace-supporting. Technologies like messaging apps and room booking software are workplace-facing because they’re the tools employees use to do work. Occupancy sensors and Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) represent workplace-supporting tech because they govern the workplace construct, both physical and digital. Together, they represent the technologically powered environment that is the modern workplace.

Why do we need all this tech?

A salesperson or accountant might have the same job description today that they did decades ago, but what that work entails is so much more. The sophisticated evolution of work comes on the heels of workplace technology growth.

Improved interpersonal communication

How has modern technology changed the workplace? The simplest example to look at is interpersonal communication. Over time we’ve sped up the rate at which we communicate and the scope of that communication. This is evident even as recently as the shift from email to messaging apps.

Jim needs to ask Sally a question about a project. He could send an email since Sally is off-site today — or he can instant message her through Slack. Through Slack, she gets the notification immediately and can reply in seconds. Jim’s question sits in the #project channel instead of buried in an inbox, and there’s a historical record of their conversation instead of a growing email chain. Jim gets his answer fast, and the two stay on the same page.

Messaging apps integrate with various other cloud-based apps, which always puts communication front and center. Employees can leave notes in a collaborative file or send a thumbs-up emoji to sign off on a memo. Thanks to modern interpersonal communication tools, employees communicate clearly and more often, with better results. 

Speedier workflows

Quicker, better communication has spilled over into other areas of workplace transformation. One of the most notable positive effects of technology in the workplace is quicker workflows. It’s not only communication technology behind this agility — it also involves workplace planning and coordination software.

IWMS and Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) platforms quicken workplace management. It no longer takes days or weeks to repurpose a workspace or change the dynamic of an office. Facility managers can adapt the workplace in minutes to shave hours or days off project timelines and tasks. Moreover, there are fewer barriers and overlaps between employees.

Bob and John don’t need to wait for Michelle and Patricia to finish using a meeting space — they can find (or make) an alternative space in seconds. Steve can look at his calendar for the day, pop online, and reserve a suitable workspace.

Worktech simplifies the complexities of an agile environment so that employees can do more faster. Work gets done quicker and more efficiently.

Broad asset accessibility

The business cloud is arguably the most influential workplace technology of the last two decades. Think about what the cloud offers; broad access to any digital assets, anytime, anywhere. This level of accessibility is so ingrained in what we do we often take it for granted.

Mike saves his PowerPoint presentation at his desk on the fourth floor, then pulls it up from the cloud for his meeting on the ninth floor a few minutes later. Then, Lily accesses the entire folder of digital project assets from her home office to make last-minute adjustments before the big rollout.

As much as the business cloud has changed the traditional workplace, it’s also the biggest catalyst for antiquating it. This level of accessibility allows people to work from anywhere — which is extremely common today. In fact, this tech is still growing more powerful today through innovations in edge computing and decentralized server networks.

More productive environments

Finally, we need to ask, how does technology affect productivity? If it’s not evident already, technology has been the most significant stimulus for improving employee productivity and efficiency. Try to do your job without a computer or email.

Without messaging apps or cloud storage. Without the ability to reserve a workspace or contribute to a shared document. It’s likely impossible to work without technology in today’s climate. Even if you could manage it, you’d be light years behind.

Technology touches every aspect of work — how, where, and even when we accomplish it. The result of ever-increasing advancements in technological tools is evident in everything from how we communicate to the scope of the work we do daily.

Above all, today’s profound flexibility in work habits shows the importance of technology. Thanks to workplace technologies, we’re ever-moving, constantly communicating, and consistently accomplishing, no matter where or what we’re doing.

Learn how Eptura’s software can help your business thrive. Check out our plans.

Podcast Ep. 264 recap: Exploring workplace technologies for the new ways of work

In episode 264 of Workplace Innovator, host Mike Petrusky speaks with Michael Prischula, Managing Director for Intelligent Digital Workplaces at Accenture. Together, they explore the intersection of facility management, real estate, and workplace strategy for helping organizations transform their work — including technology’s role. 


  • Discuss the purpose of the workplace and why it matters for effective management and innovation. 
  • Examine the role technology plays in facility management and the workplace. 
  • How integrating tools and data makes for better decision-making. 
  • Modern office design with emphasis on creating spaces that serve people and their needs. 

What you need to know: Workplace takeaways  


Takeaway 1: Technology has a crucial role in redefining how people will work in the future 

During the webinar, Prischula highlighted the importance of technology in transforming workplace norms. He emphasized that the current situation presents a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redefine how people will work in the future. 

“The strategic one that I’m seeing right now a lot is help me understand what’s actually going on in the spaces that I’ve got right. Who’s coming back? When are they coming back? How are they using spaces? Why are they coming back?” said Prischula. He stressed the need for understanding these factors to make strategic decisions about the workspace portfolio.  

Prischula also pointed out the need for improving conference room experiences to ensure productivity in a hybrid environment. “Investments in how do we improve conference room experience, that experience of coming into the office for a specific purpose, for a specific meeting and making sure that that activity is as productive, if not more productive, than you can do when you’re sitting at home in the office.” 

Takeaway 2: The purpose of the office in the future relies on understanding its current role 

Prischula urged the audience to consider the purpose of the office and how it serves the employees and the organization. By understanding its role, companies can rebuild the vision for what the office needs to do and how it functions.  

“One thing that I challenge all of our clients to do is ask themselves this one question. It’s like, what’s the purpose of your office? And I don’t mean that at a superficial level,” said Prischula. He further emphasized that understanding the purpose of the workspace is key to providing the necessary services and capabilities for the team and the people using the space. 

“We have this once in a lifetime opportunity to define the way that people work, possibly for many generations to come. And so my question to your audience, or my challenge to your audience, really, Mike, is will they take the opportunity?” Prischula concluded. 

Takeaway 3: Tools and technologies should be integrated to provide a better workplace experience 

Prischula pointed out the abundance of tools available in the market and the challenge of having too many silos between these tools. He emphasized the need for understanding why these tools exist and how they contribute to the purpose of the workspace.  

“I think that’s where many organizations are missing, and, quite honestly, where we get asked by a lot of our clients to help them bring these different either tools together. Bring data from different toolsets together to help them make decisions about either how they’re operating a space or how they need to change the space,” said Prischula. He suggested combining and leveraging the information and automation these tools provide to operate spaces more efficiently and improve the experience of people consuming it. 

Workplace insights 

  • Organizations seek to understand how their spaces are used to make informed decisions about their portfolio.  
  • Collaboration spaces are becoming more critical as people return to the office for specific purposes, and these spaces need to be made hybrid-ready.  
  • There is a need to understand the purpose of the workplace, the tools used within it, and how these align with the needs of the employees and the organization.  
  • The future of the workplace is about creating spaces that serve people and meet their needs, contributing to productivity, community, and brand communication.  
  • There is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to define how people work, and organizations are challenged to seize this opportunity. 

Listen to the podcast