The Future of Workspaces with TD Bank

As part of our Future of Work feature focus, innovationcultures took a real world look at implementing the work place of the future at TD Bank.

We interviewed Mike Loftus, former VP Workspaces at TD Bank’s Information Technology group. He is an energetic and innovative leader that ran Workspace Services where he was responsible for the technologies that TD employees use to communicate, collaborate and be productive. He was also deeply involved in Flex Workplace, which is a real estate led program that is changing TD’s physical Workplace.

“Ultimately, the Workspace Services program is trying to drive standardization, flexibility and efficiency in the tools, and our technologies are there to help staff really exploit the new real estate capabilities and enable the future of work,” says Mike Loftus.

As I prepared for the interview, a few things came to mind. First, we are dealing with a large bank here and probably as traditional an organization as they come. Secondly, along with the iconic buildings and other physical artifacts that communicate trust, there must be a certain baggage that comes with the work culture. So how does a traditional employer such as a bank become a trend setter in work spaces? The answers came from three areas – the concept of the future of work itself (part real estate/space design and part HR), the enabling technologies and social business architectures, as well as the evolving styles of work and leadership.

How does an organization like the TD bank embark on the future of workspaces as a major initiative?

While we are a traditional employer, we are not independent of workplace trends. And yes, the iconic structure is there to exude trust, but employees worked – for the most part in cubicles somewhere. We are looking at supporting the future of work spaces in two ways - B2E (business to employee) and B2C (business to consumer). Exploring the future of work for B2E is about consciously thinking of making employees better able to collaborate. The B2C area is really about creating the branch of the future. My area of focus is B2E.

How did this idea of the Workplace of the Future begin at TD Bank and why?

We are in year two of a multi-year program, currently mostly active in Toronto (Canada). It is a corporate initiative that grew around an employee retention program and is a partnership with corporate real estate and information technology.

It is really about informed space design. Technology is no longer an inhibitor. Work spaces now evolve around the employee experience and involve universal access, multi-screens as well as the use of hoteling concepts for office space.

Is the Future of Work more like an overall philosophy?

It’s really both a philosophy and a scope. There are specific projects that will transform a certain number of floors and there are design patterns that include more meeting rooms, more technology and more light/air.

So are the benefits around savings in real estate costs?

I wouldn’t say that was the total benefit. While there are better densities in terms of space because flex space allows for more employees per floor, but perhaps the more significant benefits are around employee engagement.

Speaking of scope, how many people do you have to support?

We oversee the personal productivity requirements for the bank for about 89,000 employees. This includes end-user computing applications, collaboration tools and communications technologies.

Wow, that’s a big number! What kind of new use cases to you have to support from a technology perspective, for the workplace of the future?

With the focus on interaction, we need to support more access and the ability to roam. Both the technology and the spaces are reflecting the reality of a more mobile work environment. TD has also gone large on Social Business – including online collaboration, communities, blogging, video and telepresence. And getting the right tools is non-trivial.

Does this also mean a paperless work environment?

I think “paperless” is a much bigger idea than either new WorkPlaces (the TD physical locations) or Workspace (the tools and software). We are driving a print rationalization project that includes some key concepts like “cloud printing”, which the industry would call “secure or pull printing”.

People issue print jobs, and then go to the closest printer, swipe their access card, and receive their print. This approach allows us to reduce the overall number of printers, prevents wasted print that never gets picked up from the printer, and actually protects confidential information.

We are definitely deploying this approach on all new WorkPlace floors. But TD has a much broader digitization agenda which looks to eliminate the core source of print in business processes.

What were some of the more significant technologies that TD bank settled on?

The technologies we’re using in Workspace to enable better collaboration, and make the new WorkPlace more effective would include video conferencing via Cisco Telepresence and Jabber, Presence Management, Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing via Microsoft Lync, and the wide use of Wi-Fi too enable collaboration from anywhere. As well Lotus Connections is how we are moving into the Social Business/Social Media World.

In terms of collaboration tools, are you able to get beyond document-sharing to a more embedded social business approach?
I think it’s probably a little early to tell. People would say we have had great success in establishing communities, which grew for the most part, organically - but I am not sure we would argue that it has radically changed the way people do business yet.

Once the communications infrastructure is established, would you agree that if we are to replace the social glue of the physical workplace, then establishing social business approaches and technologies is key?

You would like to think so. But for some people that means simply instant messaging and telepresence, for others the social media community is key. Employees will find the technologies that work for them.

What do you think the benefit of newer collaboration tools has been?

For the time being we are really focused on adoption, so no real metrics at this point. The real benefit is agility and cadence – they help you move faster. With social business tools you also get alignment because of easier sharing.

How is the TD Bank dealing with the BYOD trend?

We are exploring our options here but it may be conceivable that in two or three years, many firms may not provide the devices. It’s the Carpenter’s Syndrome – the carpenter shows up for work with his own tools.

What about the data?

Data is going to leave the devices and go to the data center or the cloud. The device is becoming the access tool.

How do you deal with the security challenges of this new work environment?

There are clear design patterns emerging to protect data in a mobile, BYOD world. These revolve around two core approaches. The first approach is to keep data off the access device by using browser based applications that do not allow data downloads. We are also using virtual desktops so that all of the applications and data remain in the data centre, and are accessed via specialized protocols from the access device.

The second is to create a secure, encrypted “container” on the access device, where the firm can control access to enterprise application and data, but not impact the employee’s personal data and applications.

In your experience, what has been the generational impact of these work place and technology changes? Gen Y vs. Boomers?

My observation is that it has been less generational and more one of preferred working style when it comes to technology – some older folks are quite comfortable with the new model. Now regardless of generation, with flex space the non-assigned work stations require you to hit our kiosk and book your station. People that tend to be in the same place 4 or 5 day a week are struggling to get assigned work stations vs. mobile, so we trying to increase the awareness of the value of mobility.

But is every job made better by mobility?

While we do have an objective that a certain percentage of the floor is for mobile workers, that objective is based on a number of factors which includes reaching our cost targets but also on surveys and behaviors of workers. So the reality is that we based it on some pretty standardized facts about our workforce.

Have you seen a change in leadership style with the work spaces, for example in folks that report to you?

Our team is poster children for this. We used to be spread over many buildings and now we all congregate in the same floor with meeting spaces and can collaborate more. While we still move around a lot, the flex floor gives us the chance to still bump into each other and have ad hoc meetings. My staff and I love it.

I can see that this would likely be better than telecommuting where you have more extreme decentralization without the serendipity of physically connecting.

Absolutely and another aspect that is great is that the floors are beautifully done in terms of color and light.

Any adoption of a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE)?

Interesting thought but I find it would difficult to implement in non-revenue areas where the results and targets are more ambiguous. In areas like sales, revenue, customer services it could work but if you think of the average work of an IT architect or engineer, it would more difficult to view the results.While it is part of the dialogue, we live in a complex corporate structure, so a strict ROWE approach would be difficult and your physical presence still counts.

Finally, is there a Work-Life balance in an always on, always connected world and does the bank keep any policies or implicit work norms?

I don’t know that we have any hard guidelines on this. We may have an aspirational stance that we provide the technologies that provide the flexibility of working from anywhere and they can manage it. On a personal note, the modern world is such that we don’t turn off our brains at 5pm – and that doesn’t mean you have to stay at work or pound on a keyboard all night. I like to think of it more like work-life integration.

On a lighter note

What is your favorite way to start your work day: Coffee, Tea, Latte or Espresso?

Where do you do your best work?
On the patio with a glass of wine. If you need to think freely, you need to relax.

What is your favorite tech gadget?

What is the best thing about being the ‘work space of the future’ guy?
That we are on the front lines of something that does not have a consensus view. And there is no right answer - people will evolve a working style that fits them and they will use whatever part of the technologies and facilities that work for them

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