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4xiInsights: Navigating the Labyrinth of Global Amenity Design

For many organizations, now is a time of uncertainty, especially when understanding the future of the workplace, and how to design a work experience proposition for the future.

Navigating that labyrinth can be a headache, here are some musings for consideration:

The Pandemic has been an accelerator of existing issues

During the past two years, many issues that already existed have risen to the top. The pressure on retail and commercial real estate, the need to provide safe and comfortable environments. The need to deliver an amenities-set that magnetizes the physical workplace and turns spaces into places where people choose to be.

Here's what's top of mind for many:

The issues of the commute, safety, convenience, and greater flexibility have all risen to the top of priorities but so have loneliness and isolation, anxiety, mental health, wellness, and wellbeing.

Subsidies are on the rise due to smaller populations, and companies are trying to figure out how to adjust and create the right solutions that still enhance the workplace experience. Smaller, more nimble experience solutions are on the increase.

Eliminating the Haves and the Have Nots has a different take with more dispersed workforces than ever before. Remote working is growing in popularity, while real estate footprints are shrinking.

"There's a greater demand than ever before to focus on a broader set of employee amenities way beyond the cubicle, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a gold watch on retirement."
"Employees' attitudes have changed and the focus and priorities around amenities have shifted - flexibility is the greatest shift - not just where people work, but how, and when."

The Pandemic has changed many priorities, and in some cases, employees have moved away from often expensive metro areas to make the best of remote working and to the benefit of their lifestyles, and wallets - just one of many of the changing dynamics experienced today.

As organizations consider their Return-to-Work strategies and amenity design, these issues are accentuated more than ever before:

  • Health, wellbeing, safety, and workplace confidence

  • Greater flexibility, work/life integration, and convenience

  • The sense of belonging and belief in the mission

  • Eliminating the Have's and the Have Nots

  • Connectivity, collaboration, and community

"The pandemic has been an accelerator to many things that were already happening. Many companies were already focused on their amenities and foodservice as a way to attract and retain talent. The ‘Great Resignation’ and labor shortages have compounded the need to revisit these offerings and make a more compelling proposition."

Is your organization a Great Place to Work?

For many, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and there is no greater test to that than data and feedback.

The 2021 FORTUNE 100 Best Places to Work, the Glassdoor 100 Best Places to Work, and the Top 50 from LinkedIn looks at these assessments from three different perspectives:

  1. FORTUNE: A company led application process including employee surveys

  2. GLASSDOOR: Actual feedback from either employees or former employees

  3. LINKEDIN: Data from the largest professional social media platform

As you scour through the who's who of the best places to work, there is of course a focus on the overall benefits but also the importance of employee amenities in the drive for a better work experience, and in turn, attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent, increasing engagement, productivity, and yes, overall topline and bottom-line performance too!

So, what are the amenities that can make a great place to work?

Every business, every location, even every department is different and has different needs - there is no 'one hat, fits all' when designing an optimum employee experience program.

Here are the top groupings of amenities, summarized from a pre-pandemic report from FORTUNE:

  • Salary, performance bonuses, retirement, and savings

  • Benefits, and health insurance

  • Technology, and enablement to do work anywhere

  • Mute the commute, alternatives, commuter assistance

  • Food & Beverage as a means to attract people to the physical workplace

  • Vacation, time off, paid time off, sick leave, parental leave

  • Flexible schedules, shorter working weeks, home-working, co-working

  • Health, wellness, and wellbeing (including mental health)

  • Onsite amenities: cafe, gym, social areas, games room, coffee shop, childcare, etc.

  • Fitness, on-site facilities, gym membership, classes

  • Leisure, sports passes, sponsored sports

  • Employee development, subsidized education, student loan assistance

  • Employee Resource Groups, PTO for volunteering

  • Pet-friendly workplaces, cycle programs, meal delivery, concierge programs

"A true test of a great place to work is do employees talk about it with friends and family. An even more powerful test is, do they bring friends and family into the workplace to see it first hand? That's what we call the 'bragworthy' effect."

But what are other organizations doing as they plan for a post COVID world?

According to the WORKTECH Academy report: Office Return Radar (September 2021), there's a lot of different approaches as organizations navigate the future, from a "reasonable commute" to "work from home indefinitely", to more rigorous return to work mandates and everywhere in between.

So, the conclusion of what the future workplace looks like is anything but conclusive. What is clear is that every organization is different, has different needs, and therefore an employee amenity strategy by nature needs to be tailored to each individual organization.

With all this uncertainty, where do I start?

In order to build a long-term sustainable strategy rather than a short-term interim fix, there's deep self-reflection and certain considerations that need to be undertaken to be able to build your plans for the future:

  • What do your employees really want, desire, need?

  • What does your business actually need to thrive?

  • What is the culture you want to maintain, nurture, or create?

  • What is your real estate plan for the coming 5 or 10 years?

  • Where will your employees actually be working in the future?

  • How will you engage with your workforce?

These are just some of the questions you need to ask your organization and agree on the overarching strategy in order to build your plan for the future.

"Post pandemic, employers need to work out not only their return-to-work strategies but also how they magnetize the work experience and transform spaces into places where people choose to be. Food plays an important part and has been central to connectivity, collaboration, creativity, and community since the beginning of humankind."

Then, what are the outcomes and measurements of success?

Rather than design first, think about the destination and what are the outcomes and measurements of success you want to attain. Again, these are different for each organization, however, these should be some common considerations.

Most would agree that it's probably a healthy thing to aspire to be recognized as a Top 10 Great Place to Work - supporting an employment brand of choice, attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent in your sector and geographies in which you operate.

Establish your amenity philosophy and gain leadership buy-in

Once you've asked the tough questions and carefully crafted your amenity philosophy, it's critical to ensure that your CEO and leadership team are on board - not just to the aspirational outcomes but to the level of investment, the outcomes associated, and a commitment to the long-term journey.

Materiality is a critical consideration

Few, if any CEOs, deny the advantages of creating the best place to work and all that comes with that, but individuals in organizations often get hung up on the cost of investment. When doing so, consider what is an investment per employee of $1, $2, $5, $10, or more each day, and how material this is to the overall business in the context of the outcomes it will deliver.

Although notoriously difficult to prove hard and fast, tangible ROI, here are some things for you to consider:

  • What does employee turnover cost your business?

  • What if you could improve productivity by just 1%?

  • Improve health and wellness, reduce absenteeism, even healthcare costs?

  • What impact would more engaged employees have on your organization?

Design for Life

Once you have an agreed philosophy and buy-in from leadership along with a commitment to overall program spending, then you can start to prepare and plan.

Analyzing your organization either in the current state or if you have a defined longer-term outlook, then what is the future state you want to get to:

  1. Create a global map of operations identifying where, populations, and work types.

  2. The local context of each location (culture, local conditions, and regulations).

  3. Create amenity sets by work types in the context of each location.

Now you can create an amenities map of your portfolio identifying the amenity-set available for each employee work type, by location, by building, even by department, however here are some tips to ultra focus and maximize your return on investment :

WORK-TYPE EXAMPLE: You may have a building or campus with multiple work types. For example, there may be software engineers, call center personnel, administrative, and manufacturing in the same building, all with different needs, wants, aspirations but also differing work requirements, flexibility, and available wallet share.
GEOGRAPHIC EXAMPLE: Providing the same amenity set in San Francisco as you do in Sau Paulo, Stuttgart, Shanghai, and Sunderland will likely not work as well as tailoring to the local cultural needs and local conditions and regulations.
DEMOGRAPHIC EXAMPLE: For some workplaces there are distinct demographic differences. For example, in Silicon Valley there may exist large populations of engineers originating from India whose cultural expectations are quite distinct. 

There is little point in providing childcare as an amenity in some of the tech start-ups where the average age is in the mid-twenties.

The cultures of nations are very different and the workplace proposition needs to reflect that to have the most success.
TARGETED INVESTMENT EXAMPLE: Healthy eating and education is important to factor to your workforce's overall health and wellbeing. If your objective is to improve health outcomes as a result of promoting or subsidizing healthy eating, then targeted investments should be used to encourage such behaviors.

For example, discounted healthy food items in a headquarters with leadership may be far less necessary than perhaps the need for even more heavily subsidized healthy eating programs in a call center, or manufacturing environment.

Think about how these targeted investments can drive satisfaction but behaviors too:  

INNOVATION LAB: Do you want to create a collaborative, social environment. 
PRODUCTION LINE: Highly efficient and time-sensitive.
SECURE AREAS: Accommodate personnel to remain in an environment.
CALL CENTER: High levels of transactional productivity. 
INDUSTRIAL: Transform environments into attractive places to work.

Taking a global versus a local approach

For some, dispersed organizations with multiple locations across multiple regions or even countries, local approaches have sometimes evolved creating localized and siloed decisions as opposed to an overall strategic approach.

One of many symptoms of this approach is a double-down of the Have's and Have Nots syndrome and the lack of data to measure the amenity program as a whole, thus being able to deliver meaningful enterprise-wide performance data and ensure that investments are equalized and maximized across your entire portfolio.

The following grid takes you through the different paradigms of Cost, Value, and Purpose and what each means for Real Estate, Companies, and arguably most importantly their workforce?

A global approach across our portfolio allows you to have clear visibility and structure. Utilizing the same measurement tools, mechanisms, and metrics, then the power of the data allows you to not only know and analyze the data but to make portfolio-wide decisions and see the impact on the business as a whole.

Track Employee Engagement & Satisfaction, Attracting & Retaining Talent, Quality, Compliance, Safety, Continuous Improvement, Innovation, and Environmental, Sustainability & Governance Goals (ESG's) across your entire business.

So, you have a signed-off philosophy, commitment to investment, you have your carefully crafted enterprise-wide amenities framework - now all is left for you to implement it!

The 4xi team has decades of experience designing and implementing such frameworks and strategies - please reach out to us if we can be of assistance in any way.

To learn more about Design for Life, email us at:

Inspiring and designing the future, together.

Simon Elliot is Managing Partner & Co-founder at 4xi. He has worked with many global corporations in planning and designing their global amenities strategies and approaches.


The 4xi Global Amenities, Design & Operations Subject Matter Experts:

Barbara Boden is Managing Partner & Co-founder at 4xi. She was formerly the head of global amenities at one of the world's largest financial institutions and creator of the amenities strategy and execution.

Ann McNally is Consultant, Amenities, Design & Operations at 4xi. She has worked both client-side for large global corporations and as VP Growth for one of the Big 3 amenities service providers.

Melanie Corey-Ferrini is 4xi's Design for Life lead, a qualified architect, and Design Strategy & Innovation Consulting. She has worked on projects across all sectors from retail to real estate to foodservice, designing for experience, designs for life.

Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help you navigate the labyrinth of employee experience, for the future of tomorrow.

4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side creating an impact in the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.

We believe in a people-first, experience-led philosophy, whether client, employee or guest – their experience is the fundamental foundation of success.

We work with corporations, service providers, and innovators:

  • Strategic Advisory

  • Amenities, Design & Operations

  • Customer Experience (CX)

  • Training & Development

  • Strategic Partnership & Growth

  • Innovation

  • Solutions & Support

Our Strength is in the Power of Our Collective.

4xi is proud to be Chair of WORKTECH Academy for North America and a member of its Leadership Advisory Board. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy.

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