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It's working: Early feedback on the San Jose satellite pilot

A group of employees using a conference room at WeWork
Averley Mayo, administrative assistant in the Department of Dermatology, takes advantage of a break out room at WeWork in San Jose.

Participants of the pilot worksite in San Jose have experienced a dramatic reduction in commute time, increased productivity and integrated virtual tools into their workflow.

In an effort to mitigate critical workforce issues such as affordable housing near campus and commuting woes, the university is experimenting with a short-term lease at WeWork, a co-working space in downtown San Jose. The 13-month pilot, sponsored by the Provost and Business Affairs, enables employees in interested schools and units to experience the satellite worksite for two-months. With two rotations complete, Business Affairs has shared some of the early insights from the participant survey.

 

 

The trip is shorter


Taking public transportation
to the WeWork site

WeWork participants realize a dream shared by many across the Bay Area: a shorter commute. Seventy five percent of respondents report their commute time is cut in half going to WeWork—from an average of 60 minutes down to 30 minutes or less. The reprieve is particularly appreciated by the 10 percent of participants who typically spend two or more hours commuting to their primary Stanford location. Another perk: more than half of all respondents skip the drive altogether and take the VTA light rail, bus or Caltrain, which are all a short walk away.

Those extra minutes go a long way

What a difference an extra hour makes; participants report they have re-captured time in their mornings and evenings to spend it with family, cooking dinner and exercising.

The short commute and the lively downtown location translate to 74 percent of participants feeling more energized during their rotation. One participant says, "Because I didn't have to spend hours on the freeway, I felt I had more energy to start my work day and still had energy after work to go to the gym."

A new approach to work

Ellen Torres at WeWork office
Ellen Torres, special projects coordinator
at the GSE and WeWork participant

Some participants say they've experienced an overall attitude-shift when it comes to working. "The motto I use now is 'work anywhere,'" says Ellen Torres, special projects coordinator at the Graduate School of Education. "Before the pilot, I felt tied to my desk on campus or the conference room—now, I take my laptop and work outside or in the building lobby for a change of scenery."

The WeWork space is an open, flexible environment. Depending on your project needs, you can hop into a phone booth to connect on a Zoom meeting, join colleagues in a conference room or grab a booth in the shared kitchen space.

As one of the few pilot participants assigned to use the space full time during her rotation, Ellen also says her daily interactions with her manager have transformed. "While on campus, I would pop into her office throughout the day to share ideas or check in. Now, we use chat programs like Jabber or Slack for many of those 'hallway' conversations and can collaborate all day, wherever we are."

Miesha working on laptop in WeWork phone booth
A 'work anywhere' mindset 
is emerging for some who
tried the WeWork pilot

A split decision: working from home versus a satellite office

From the survey results, it's not clear if WeWork is preferred over working from home. Most participants have done both, and respondents are divided evenly among those who feel their productivity at WeWork is increased, decreased or unchanged. Those who feel productivity has stalled or declined cite three key reasons: the open office suite, lack of ergonomic setup and the planning required to work in multiple locations during the week. On the other hand, those who experience increased productivity like that the space is away from home-life distractions and feel energized being around colleagues who are focusing on their work.

Ellen, who prefers the WeWork option to working from home, likes the energy of the workspace and the startup atmosphere. "While I like working from home, I enjoy being around people and networking too," she says. "It's great to be a part of this exciting thing that Stanford is doing and I appreciate that they are exploring these kinds of options for employees."

What managers think

Managers are also being asked to share their experience when an employee participates. Most managers didn't notice a change in their employee's productivity level during the rotation, but of those who did notice a difference, more noticed an increase rather than decline. In addition, managers say employees are more energized and engaged while at WeWork compared to their primary Stanford location. Managers attribute this to the shorter commute, which is improving morale and increasing work-life balance.

Although managers note amenities such as high network speed, printers and monitors make the pilot workspace an ideal alternative to employees working from home, some miss the face-to-face interaction with their employees. "There are challenges relating to working offsite," one manager says. "I wouldn't categorize that as a downside but instead an opportunity to think about how we work."

The experiment continues

Colleagues in WeWork in shared kitchen space
Colleagues enjoy the versatility of the seating areas
in the community kitchen at WeWork

Business Affairs uses participant feedback to continually improve the WeWork experience; for example, more display monitors for laptop users are being added and seating in the space is now unassigned.

The third rotation in the space began in March and concludes in May, and includes employees from School of Medicine and Land, Buildings & Real Estate. The fourth rotation from May to June includes Athletics, Office of Development and the School of Humanities & Sciences.

Space is still available for the final rotations from July through October. Schools or units interested in participating should consult their HR Manager or email wework-interest-waitlist@lists.stanford.edu for information.

At the conclusion of the pilot, this feedback and other data about alternative work location usage will be used to inform and support Long Range Planning efforts, particularly in regard to issues of affordability and connecting people everywhere.

Categories: 
Connect, WorkLife