Shoptalk/Commentary: As Media Companies Evolve, So Too Should Their Workplace
Posted: 1/21/2013  |  By: Stuart Harris
While today’s newspaper operations have evolved into multifaceted media companies with an ever-growing digital presence, many workplaces remain mired in settings more suited for bulky desks and typewriters.

When the print edition was the only product newspapers offered, workplace design wasn’t a top priority. Every reporter and editor had a desk, sometimes on different floors, while the publisher and other executives were tucked away in private, secluded offices, and back-office functions were set up everywhere in between.

The workflow? Well, it “just happened.”

Today, many media companies are fighting for survival by seeking new ways to reinvent themselves and remain relevant. Newspapers are now multimedia companies, and the print edition is just one outlet. This more dynamic business model needs a more dynamic environment. The values of teamwork and collaboration, proven to increase efficiency and attract top talent, are gaining traction as media companies evaluate how the workplace can help them succeed as a digital media business.

Consider new workplace settings found in non-media environments. Gone are the days of isolating people and their intellectual capital in private offices. Instead, leading businesses have come to realize the value of getting people out of their office and organized in a collaborative environment where they have greater access to information and an easier path to share knowledge, develop solutions, and respond to time-sensitive matters. These environments integrate technology and multimedia tools to enhance the work process and collaboration.

Essential to establishing a collaborative setting is the concept of magnetism — using the embodied energy of the workplace to draw people together and amplify the work product.

A magnet can be a refreshment center or coffee bar, a casual work setting or team space, a touchdown area, or a community zone. But there are also some less obvious forms of magnets. An area equipped with specialized technology can serve as a magnet, and even someone with a specific expertise or deep knowledge base can magnetize people to a single place. The key is understanding where the energy is, where the work happens, and where people naturally come together to exchange thoughts and ideas.

Take for example a media company located in the Midwest that, after decades, is moving to a new headquarters designed for a mobile, digital workforce with a variety of work settings for individual and collaborative work. Designed by Planning Design Research, the new workplace will create a team environment that helps the work flow from one team or individual to the next.

Collaborative space where reporters can come together will be placed in the middle of the newsroom, surrounded by rings of space for more focused work where reporters can isolate themselves while still being part of the newsroom activity. At the nucleus, an information control center with a large meeting table will reside in the open, surrounded by newsroom staff and enhanced with data display technology to provide workers with updates on assignments, deadlines, and feeds to other news sources.

Hoteling and hot-desking, the practices of providing space to employees on an as-needed basis rather than assigning a single desk to each individual, will be utilized by staff members who spend more time in the field than the newsroom. These seats are embedded in the newsroom so when mobile workers are present, they are fully integrated into the team and workflow.

The newsroom will also be designed to accommodate press conferences and visits by dignitaries such as presidential candidates and other high-level spokespeople. The improved look and feel will offer a cleaner, more sophisticated setting for videos produced for television and the Web.

At this particular media company, the entire workforce will now be located on one single floor, fully connected rather than split across a dozen small and segregated levels. Coffee stations, community spaces, and other magnets will be used to bring people together from different groups in a way that fosters collaboration, cross-talk between departments, and greater appreciation for one another’s contributions. Even the publisher’s office will be located in a highly visible place adjacent to the newsroom, thereby reinforcing the publisher’s goal to be more connected to the workforce.

The media industry is changing and so too must the workplace that houses its work. A media company can have a dynamic, high-performance workplace, provided that management is dedicated to a new way of thinking about the way work gets done.


Stuart Harris, sharris@pdrcorp.com, is a principal with PDR (pdrcorp.com), a workplace design firm that creates high-performance work environments for organizations of all sizes.