From same-day delivery, free shipping, and hassle-free returns, Amazon has been at the front of many business changes over the last decade, reshaping how we think of buying and selling goods. Now, with its second headquarters (H2Q), Amazon might be trying to reinvent how we envision the workplace.
After some back and forth, Amazon broke ground on HQ2 in Arlington, Va., at the beginning of 2020. The planned acorn-shaped, double-helix structure will feature 2.8 million square feet of office space that will “prioritize areas for collaboration,” Amazon shared in a blog post early this year
. Another focus of the new office will be on providing “a proximity to nature,” including walking paths, nature landscapes, and trees peppered around the building. And for entertainment, Amazon will feature restaurant and retail pavilions and use the open outdoor spaces to host outdoor concerts, farmers’ markets, and movies in the park.
Noting in the blog that employees will be able to choose to work from home or in the office, it’s hard not to see the size of the office — and the project itself — and relate it to the current workplace debate of whether we need a physical office at all. From what it seems, given the sheer investment of $2.5 billion, Amazon is going all-in on the physical office, even as it says it won't be mandating employees to work there.
While few businesses can simply do what Amazon does, workplace strategists can turn to HQ2 for inspiration in their own offices and for affirmation that pre-pandemic workplace trends and best practices will carry forward into the future. One focus area for Amazon is sustainability. At HQ2, which is LEED Platinum certified, renewable energy will power all the electrical-based central heating and cooling systems, Amazon said. This should satisfy a younger generation of workers, which see sustainability as an important aspect of working for a company — a Fast Company survey
found 40% of millennials have chosen a job because of a company's sustainability agenda. Workplace leaders will need to focus on sustainability to attract and retain top talent, if they haven't done so already.
Another element of the HQ2 building is its focus on wellness and a sense of work-life balance, which younger generations are also looking for in prospective employers. For one point of reference, a Flexjobs survey
found that 83% of millennials ranked a work-life balance as the most important factor in evaluating a job prospect. HQ2’s “design promotes well-being and physical exercise, agency, … and a strong connection with the local community,” Amazon said. To better promote the well-being of professionals with children, Amazon has planned a childcare center to bring a sense of work/life balance to these employees.
To Amazon's objective of creating a connection with the local community, workplace leaders might benefit from spending some time with this idea and re-evaluate what they've done in the past and what they might do in the future. While most workplaces can't simply say, "we’re hosting a movie in our backyard; come join us," they can find small and large ways to give back to their communities. Community outreach presents an opportunity to bring HR, IT, and facilities together. HR can work with executive leadership to create a community outreach event, IT can ensure the technology enables the best experience (especially if it’s a virtual-only event), and facility professionals can ensure the building and grounds are ready for the public.
Few workplaces can do what Amazon does, but it doesn’t prevent workplace leaders from thinking like Amazon. As workplaces look to welcome back employees this year and find new ways to innovate, they might take a lesson (or two) from Amazon to how they are looking to the future with sustainability, wellness, and community outreach. Like they say, sometimes “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”