• Laura Maidment

Hospitality, Experience and Neurodiversity: A Deeper Consideration of Workplace Hospitality

Updated: Jul 1

The 'OCCUPEERS' – a SPACE+ global peer group of corporate occupiers - met virtually to discuss the blending of hospitality and real estate. This article is an excerpt from their conversation. Led by Steven Skinner, UK CEO of HB Reavis, focusing on defining hospitality in the workplace, a deeper consideration of workplace hospitality, and concerns around culture.

Defining Hospitality in the Workplace

Sonya Simmonds, Spotify's Head of Design and Build for Global Workplace Services, opened the discussion with the statement that "hospitality in the office is linked to the experiences we have", which would become a common theme of the discussion.

Spotify, Sonya explains, use physical space to embody values; reflecting who they are as a company. They want to help employees to "feel like they are in a healthy and safe space" and to be able to connect in new spaces for focus and collaboration. This is essential, she says, for Spotify to achieve its primary goals.

Employees must feel "well informed and well treated". The experience, Simmonds says, must go beyond the payroll; to visitors and to the talent they want to attract.

Jessica Rentzos van Rozen, GSK's Director for Real Estate EMEA, adds that hospitality is about that "journey and employee experience", not just about amenity, design and facilities.

"It's now about the total package", she says. Hospitality should start even before you step foot into the office. It needs to include what Jessica calls “the workday journey”.

Claudia Bastiani, Mastercard's Director of Real Estate Services, spoke about how, before the pandemic, lots of progressive companies focused on good food and dinner offers as well as consumer services. But now, the pandemic, she says, has prompted a "deeper consideration for hospitality might be".


Claudia raised the issue of "neurodiversity" as an example of that "deeper consideration" of hospitality, This being the need for workplace design to accommodate and inspire different types of thinkers; such as introverts and extroverts.

Sonya describes this as “designing with a neurodiverse lens”.

‘Health and Wellness’ can't be integrated half-heartedly. Spaces need to be dedicated specifically to wellness, rather than "two hours for yoga", Bastiani says.

"We're focusing just as much the joyous plaful areas as we are on the retreat areas." - Sonya Simmonds

Culture at Risk

Microsoft's Jeff Schumacher says that Microsoft see hospitality and workplace experience as "a manifestation of our culture". It's the same reason you go to a great restaurant; "Yeah, the food's great, but the experience and the environment is great as well".

Microsoft are now thinking about how to be pivot to a post-pandemic "hybrid workplace", which raises questions about the fragility of 'company culture' if so intrinsically linked to physical space. "It's not just within the physical building", Jeff adds, "but across the entire campus".

Sheridan Perkins, Standard Chartered's Programme Director for 'Future of Work Now', echoed the importance of company culture. As a financial institution, Sheridan describes the historical context of an “entitlement culture”, with the concept of 'hospitality' as previously "foreign to us".

With so many people out of the office, he was seeing a lot of "sentiment drift".

Sheridan brings another key element of workplace to the table: learning.

"If you look at the younger generations, the office is a place of learning and building their knowledge base for their future careers. So hospitality is about drawing them in to allow those connections to occur."

Sheridan says that the challenge now, due to the pandemic, is how they "provide hospitality for 100,000 workplaces; the 100,000 staff homes from which they work?”

If companies do not offer some differentiation to employees, Sheridan says, it is inevitable that they will lose a cultural connection to the company in which they work.

"We're now competing with 100,000 workplaces: the homes of our employees." - Sheridan Perkins

Sonya agrees; "We have to make the office more comfortable and the home work better as an office". She echoes that it's important to understand every generation in the office.

It is about making people "feel proud to be in the office", Sonya says, and more importantly, "to want to be there". Offices need a plethora of spaces which are diverse, she says, in order to meet the needs of different types of people.

In Summary

  • Hospitality is primarily about the experience we provide, which evolves over time.

  • If physical space and company culture are intrinsically linked, there is significant business risk during and post-Covid. New strategies must be put in place to create a sense of belonging in hybrid working environments.

Watch or read the full conversation On-Demand here.

About the Host

Steve Skinner is the UK CEO of HB Reavis.

HB Reavis create business ecosystems by providing a variety of workspace offerings to cater to your business.

"By combining the magic of our workspace as a service offering, each brand has its own field of expertise and they all together bring in exceptional office space solutions.

In HB Reavis, we go far beyond the simple promise of making people happy following the wellbeing approach in real estate development.

The synergies of our sub-brands and people-centric way of thinking in mind allow us to approach all of our projects holistically and shift us from the role of a classical developer to international workspace as a service provider operating on several European markets.

We not only build spaces, we transform them into lively environments supporting communities of any kind and becoming vivid societies themselves. Our buildings are not only shaping the landscape of cities, they bring real value."

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