Escaping the Grays

Hyphn’s people enjoy multiple different collaboration spaces and technologies throughout their own space.

Brand Story – Hyphn designs workspaces to reflect company values and unleash creativity.

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Hyphn utilizes cutting-edge research and emerging technologies to create thriving, dynamic workspaces.

Originally, all office desks faced a supervisor. Years later, managers moved into private offices while employees worked in “bullpens.” Then came the cubicle, which reigned supreme for twenty years, and was eventually replaced by the open office. Now, with employees desiring freedom in how they work, the workspace is evolving once again.

“In the past, [office design] was about the bottom line—finding the cheapest rent and furniture you can,” said Matt Newstrom, co-principal of Hyphn, a Portland-based company specializing in workplace strategy and office furniture solutions (with another office in Bend). “Now, company leaders are realizing: physical space matters, and it needs to reflect the business vision, the culture, and must encompass its workers’ needs.”

hyphen002The engagement of employees depends on choice in their daily workplace.

Hyphn believes that, much like technology, tools, and processes, the physical space itself is an enabler of a company’s success. “Behavior creates culture,” said Newstrom. “Your workspace is an enabler of inspired behavior.” Thus, Hyphn dives deep with companies to understand core culture, long-term goals, and what empowers its employees; then, it designs and outfits the workspace accordingly.

For 75 years, Hyphn operated as Smith/CFI, primarily selling office furniture and dabbling in workplace strategy. Once Newstrom and co-principal Shastan Jee bought the company in 2017, they rebranded to Hyphn and shifted the company focus towards workplace strategy, design planning, and change management (while still offering office furniture).

Workplace strategy, according to Wikipedia, is “the aligning of an organization’s work styles with its work environment to enable peak performance and reduce costs.” In other words, “It’s about understanding: what do your people need to perform at their best?” said Jee. It’s gained popularity as the effects of disengaged employees become more apparent; a Gallup report estimated U.S. businesses lose $450-$550 billion in productivity annually due to disengaged employees (not to mention, the added costs of replacing a disgruntled worker). The same report revealed 70% of U.S. workers are disengaged at work—with 18% being “actively disengaged.”

hyphen005Hyphn’s team works with clients to create the perfect space for their culture.

Beyond retention and productivity, an effectively designed workspace helps recruit and retain new talent. “The newer generation wants to feel creative and inspired at work,” said Jee. “They see the workspace as a destination—they want to be happy to go there.”

Enter the modern office—a dynamic selection of working eco-systems, customized conference rooms, vibrant colors, natural lighting, and collaborative meeting spaces, all modeled off a company’s unique needs.  

Early adopters included mostly technology companies, such as Amazon, Google, and LinkedIn. Other companies tried to replicate these designs but failed. “This isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. You can’t just buy a ping pong table and make everyone happy,” said Jee. “For this to work, you must truly understand your culture and work patterns, without just taking it at face value.”

Thus we enter Hyphn’s rigorous discovery process, which can span one week or an entire year (depending on the size and complexity of the organization). First comes qualitative research, which includes observing interpersonal intricacies, interviewing employees on personal work styles, and understanding business vision and goals. Then, quantitative research is gathered through surveys, benchmarking, and in-depth analytics (one example: Hyphn installs sensors that track room utilization, such as average occupancy and length of meetings; the data is stored anonymously). Then, Hyphn takes all it’s findings and translates them into designa plan.

Herein Hyphn’s 75-year history comes into play. With the longest-tenured workplace furnishings team in Oregon, the company can control construction costs and ensure efficient installation. “We’re a one-stop shop for how a workspace is delivered,” said Newstrom.

After design and furnishing, a third yet often overlooked component exists: communication. “People are very sensitive to change,” said Newstrom. “If you don’t properly share what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, you can have a mutiny on your hands.” Hyphn’s change management services help companies prepare for said changes and also train employees how to best leverage the new space (thus preventing loss of productivity after a move or redesign).

hyphen016Adjusting to a clients culture is key to making sure their people have what they need.

Hyphn also practices what it preaches. On one wall, a poll asks employees to vote on their most immediate needs to work effectively; a monitor reveals real-time analytics for conference room utilization; employees choose from various working ecosystems, such as desk clusters, treadmill desks, and insulated privacy spots; speakers inconspicuously pipe white noise around conversation hotspots, ensuring privacy and preventing distraction.

However, the Hyphn of today could look drastically different by, say, next year. According to Newstrom, just how technology evolves and needs updating, the workspace is no different. As such, Hyphn offers subscription services, including utilization analyses and ongoing evaluations.

On a bigger scale, this current model may eventually yield to an entirely new phase of workspaces; Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality, and other emerging technologies can ensure this. Yet given Hyphn’s eagerness to embrace innovation and ability to respond to ongoing changes, companies can trust they’ll have a helping hand in whatever the future brings.

Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.