Executive Insight: Workplace Design at Telemundo Center
Featuring Ashaki Rucker, SVP of HR, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises

A person in a white shirt  Description automatically generatedOne year ago, Telemundo unveiled its new global headquarters in Miami. The three-story, 476,000 square foot building called Telemundo Center enabled the Spanish language media company to bring divisions and departments together (creative, news and corporate), integrate cutting-edge technology and create operational efficiencies, which were at the heart of the planning process.

We asked Ashaki Rucker, SVP of HR, to share her insight into the design and functionality of Telemundo’s modern workspace. In addition to having a Master of Arts in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University, Ashaki has 25 years of HR experience. No stranger to our industry, Ashaki has held leadership positions at NBCUniversal Media, The Walt Disney Studios and Time Warner.

How did you integrate technology to meet the everchanging world of media?
From a workplace technology standpoint, our SVP, Technology and Operations, Jeff Mayzurk, had two guiding principles in his approach: simplification and consumer-grade user experience.  Simplification was important because we had diverse populations with different technical needs and inconsistent standards for end-user devices.  In the end we gave every employee a smartphone and a laptop, which was a crucial enabler for our agile seating strategy. In terms of the user experience, we ultimately eliminated any below-standard apps and simplified our overall application portfolio.  We also shifted away from traditional on-premise IT applications and data storage and moved to cloud-based storage and collaboration tools.  

The resulting Telemundo Center features 13 highly adaptive studios, two digital labs, virtual and augmented-reality sets, and a state-of-the-art news hub that gives our company unrivaled flexibility to respond to market demand and deliver content across all platforms instantaneously.

Data analytics (such as sensors to assess the use of collaborative space) are increasingly used to improve workspace design. How did data and technology factor into your design?
Occupancy data and utilization surveys from our prior facilities informed the design of Telemundo Center. For example, we learned that in our older facilities, most conference rooms were too large for the size of our typical meetings, so we responded by increasing the number of small conference rooms and informal collaboration spaces.

In the new facility, nearly all building systems are instrumented and “on the network” which means we have the ability to collect data from them.  We can track the number of mobile devices associated with Wi-Fi access points around the building so we know how many people are using the various spaces throughout the day. At present, these data sources tell us where but not how people are using space; for the latter we rely on employee feedback and survey responses.

Were there any specific design trends that Telemundo followed?
We placed significant emphasis on establishing an agile environment and today offer our employees 1,544 activity-based spaces. Our new facility allows our employees the ability to move freely about the building throughout their day to work in spaces that best fit their needs at any given time. Fifty percent of the workstations in the facility are sit/stand enabled. We also included four dedicated wellness rooms where employees can schedule time to recharge in a private space.

In addition, we visited numerous facilities across multiple industries during the research phase of our design process, so we drew influences from a variety of sources. One trend we saw clearly was an emphasis on unassigned, shared collaboration space over assigned offices. Our design didn’t completely eliminate offices, but we did add a variety of collaboration spaces at relatively high ratio to individual workspaces. Our intent was to offer flexibility and freedom of choice for employees at all levels, which we learned was particularly appealing to millennials.

How do you handle scheduling, logistics and planning for the use of shared spaces and activity-based working?
Generally speaking, we don’t except for larger conference rooms.  Most spaces are self-service and not reserved.  We built enough open collaboration spaces that reservations are not necessary, and conditions of activity-based working are at the discretion of employees and their managers.  Not having a fixed work location has certainly been a major adjustment for some—but as with any change, the receptivity has significantly improved over time. Collaboration and messaging tools are consistently leveraged to allow teams to stay connected regardless of location.

How did HR help 1,200 employees transition to the new space?
HR led numerous information and feedback sessions to educate and prepare employees for the move. Those sessions enabled us to address concerns and collect feedback firsthand which was then used to build the framework for an Employee Experience team to help usher our teams into the new space.  It was vital to collect information throughout the process and keep our teams engaged. Given that, we partnered very closely with our internal clients to review workflows in advance of the move to ensure we were going to take full advantage of our new agile environment.  

Another critical element of success was the launch of our “Change Ambassador Program.”  A full year before the move, we engaged employees in numerous committees to establish buy-in and a sense of ownership for the new building.

Although the planning for this facility was years in the making, we worked against an aggressive timeline to move over 1,200 employees in less than five months.  We moved our first wave of employees into Telemundo Center in February 2018. Hot desking was a relatively new concept to the majority of our workforce and it was difficult for some of our staff to get comfortable with the idea.  In order to ease them into the transition, we outfitted an area in our old offices a few months prior to the move with the new technology and desk and office configurations, so employees could spend time in the space working with the new equipment and getting a feel for what our new agile work environment would look like.  Employees were then able to experience what their new atmosphere would look like, as well as troubleshoot the new technology that would be introduced at Telemundo Center.

Telemundo Center is green-friendly and can sustain hurricane-force winds, as is necessary in Florida. What other environmental factors were important to consider in your planning?
While we are not fully LEED-certified, we did design to LEED-standards since sustainability and our impact on the environment was central to building out Telemundo Center.  We implemented energy saving 100% LED lighting throughout the building and studios. Another major design element was bringing in as much natural light as possible to our work areas. We also made a commitment to refrain from using plastic within the facility. Our commissary only sells beverages that are bottled with recycled glass or aluminum and we provide glassware in pantries.  Another conscientious perk offered at Telemundo Center includes numerous car charging stations for employees and guests alike.

Since you’ve been in the new space, what positive changes have you seen? Any surprises?
It’s been great to observe how our teams have adapted to our new environment and how much they are enjoying the space.  There has been a significant increase in collaboration and internal networking/relationship building that we strongly believe translates to improved business results.  We see synergies form more organically across our shows which led to more creative and impactful on-air content. Our new state of the art facility has also become a key lever for recruiting and retention purposes.

We were surprised to learn that we are now the most popular location within NBCU to host “on-site” meetings and seminars for employees and teams.