HONG KONG – Tatiana Gomez is a workplace strategist, creative designer and enthusiastic social entrepreneur with Herman Miller, one of the world’s most renowned office furniture companies. Having worked in Asia for the past 11 years, Tatiana is well-versed in the region’s needs, and has gained plenty of experience in fields such as design and consultancy for urban planning, workplace design, and more.
We spoke to Tatiana, and found out more about how Herman Miller has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, the new normal of working from home, how it has remained at the forefront of creativity, and the philosophy that has led Herman Miller to be the success it is today. Tatiana will also be featured as part of Hong Kong’s annual Knowledge of Design Week. Read the interview in full below:
Bakchormeeboy: Your talk will involve discussing the new normal of working from home. Do you personally see this as something workplaces should continue doing even once the pandemic ends?
Tatiana: Absolutely, the key for companies is understanding the concept of flexibility at work and autonomy in the workplace. Data unveiled that people are more productive when working at home, and when given autonomy and choices are more engaged with their companies and engage with their workplace.
Bakchormeeboy: The idea of working from home essentially deconstructs the idea of a common office space, and how we communicate with each other in a common virtual space instead. How do you see this affecting the way we think or conceptualise physical space in the future?
Tatiana: The office is not going away, however we all will come to the agreement that the experience of work will be a hybrid between working at home, working remotely and working in the workspace. When we say remotely, there is a distinction between your home and other multiple array of spaces where you can work from Ex. Workcafes, satellite offices, co-working spaces, restaurants, and so forth. The size and offer in the workspace have been evolving and will evolve even faster post-COVID-19. Prior to this pandemic the trend in workspaces was around the “hospitalization” of spaces, with a wider variety of choices in settings, furniture and sizes as well as an element of well-being reflected in the food / beverages & general amenities offered by companies.
We saw in the past 5 years in APAC there was boom on spaces providing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, bar / workcafe area, in-house gym, etc. In the latest surveys conducted globally, we are able to identified that we are missing from working at the office from the social aspect: collaboration spaces, face to face interaction & scrum meetings, as well as office equipment: printers, scanners, internet bandwidth and intranet access.
Bakchormeeboy: One of the most common pieces of advice people receive about work is how there has to be a clear work life balance, and that the work space should be distinct from the home space. How can people continue to maintain that distinction even while working from home?
Tatiana: At Herman Miller our Ergonomics and well-being has worked together developing the WARM program to help people create routines and a division between work and daily life. WARM Stands for Define Workspace, Include Physical Activity, Create a Routine, and Take time to Meditate– Relax- Destress. We have also developed an online free 5 minutes assessment linked here which helps you understand your current experience of working from home and provides you a report on how you can improve your current space with easily applicable tips and insights.
Bakchormeeboy: In the media preview, you talked about working in a holistic way. How can this be done, and how we can all find a way to work from home yet still make it our own?
Tatiana: We shall find where we are more comfortable working at, and the environment which brings out the best in each one of us. We always say “one size does not fit all”, and that applies not only to workspaces but to life in general. The considerations and choices you make, shall be based on the nature of your job first of all, the job itself and the company you work for. When working remotely comfort comes from two principal tools: tech tools and furniture / space settings. When at home, make sure you got a dedicate space(location) where you work from, when working elsewhere make sure you have the tech tools to stay connected and linked to your company. Is also good to re-iterate this is a joint effort between company & employees, company establishing clear policies, trainings and effective communication across the organization, company shall set-up clear expectations, employees shall be given the tools to communicate with what is working well and which things are challenging for you as an individual when working at home or not in the workspace.
Bakchormeeboy: As a representative for Herman Miller, how does the furniture industry become affected by this shift in work environment, and how has Herman Miller adapted to it?
Tatiana: I would say is a great opportunity for every manufacturer to look at its pre-covid-19 strategy and re-evaluated the relevant products and materials moving forward. At HM We are in constant evolution not only of our catalogue product offering but our strategy and added consultancy services. Herman Miller is a family of brands spread across Retail, workplace, education, healthcare, hospitality and residential furniture, as well as Ergonomic accessories from ColeBrook Bosson Saunders and antibacterial fabrics from Maharam and Nemschoff.
Regarding furniture we have created a Work from home programme tailored made to existing clients with direct access to selected products, as well as giving discounts for home furnishing across the globe. We are also accompanying companies in the process of identifying and creating work from home policies and programmes with experts from the Workplace Consultancy Team, consulting services available in North America, Latin America and APAC. We have also made available in our website Free resources such as Insights sessions, webinars and videos on Ergonomics, Healthcare design, workplace consultancy, workplace design and well-being.
Bakchormeeboy: What would you say is the core design philosophy behind Herman Miller that allows it to stay relevant?
Tatiana: Innovation and people management. The company from its beginnings more than 100 years ago, is committed to research and investigation which led to great innovation and interior design iconic pieces of the 20th century. Probably young peeps might not know that the very first office modular “cubicle desk” was designed by Herman Miller inventor and designer Robert Propst with the idea of promoting productivity, privacy, and health; this project series was called “The Action Office system”. I invite you all to read one of our latest published books of Herman Miller history, “A way of living”.
KODW 2020 takes place online from 26th to 29th August 2020. Register for free on their website here