“There’s a saying: Good design is invisible.”

Peter Feytser, Senior Director of Digital at Industrious, and his team have taken that idea to heart: “It’s really true of how we think about creating tools for the workplace.”

We all want technology to be simple, seamless, and easy to use. Take smartphones. In addition to unlocking new capabilities, touch technology and the minimalist design have arguably made them easier to use than the mobile phones that preceded them.

Similarly, the best kinds of workplace technology are the tools that make your life easier without you having to think about them. So we sat down with Feytser to learn more about the work his team is doing behind the scenes to help create great days for members.

How does technology shape members’ experience at Industrious?

We spend such a large portion of our lives working. Working styles are so personal, and at the same time workplaces are a meaningful expression of how companies think about their employees.

If I’m in an office, how do I know where it’s quiet? Where it’s bustling? Where can I take that private phone call? What the best place is for me to meet with my team, depending on whether we’re brainstorming or presenting?

The really central role for technology in the workplace is removing friction. We try to understand what the universe of work modes is that people need and want — then create technology that helps deliver solutions in the easiest way possible.

Can you give us an example of a tool that creates this kind of frictionless, invisible experience?

As a team we build digital products not only for our external members, but also for our employees. We treat our employees as internal customers. From an operational perspective, there are so many ways to make ourselves more efficient and our customer experience even better.

When I think about the tools that we can create for our own teams working on the ground, it’s really about lightening cognitive load. If I’m a Community Manager, I might be thinking: “Oh, I made coffee at 8:30. It’s 9:30 now. Is the coffee pot still full?” And then, the UPS person is there. At the same time, a member is asking me for help with the HDMI wire in conference room A. Maybe someone else needs help with a printer.”

If we can reduce the cognitive load on our staff so that they will be alerted when they need to make a fresh batch of coffee, for example, that is time and energy that they can spend with our members while also making sure there’s always fresh coffee. So in a hackathon, we created a sensor that lets Units Ops staff know when the coffee needs to be refilled. But it’s really about trying to unlock more meaningful interactions between our staff and our members.

What kinds of workplace technology will be critical as we move into a post-pandemic future?

Mobility is going to be increasingly important. Before the pandemic, people were spending some time at home — maybe a couple days a week, maybe one day. Now, I think that ratio has changed to a certain degree. And how much people are traveling has changed. Where people have moved to is also different, right? People are not concentrated in cities as much as they were before.

So I’m thinking a lot these days about unlocking access to spaces. How do we securely let people into spaces and make it really easy for them to have a workplace that’s down the street from their house or apartment? And then if they’re meeting with their team, to access one a little bit closer to downtown.

Or if I am a sales person meeting my clients in other cities, could I just — without having to worry about it — know that I’ll have a place to meet with them? A place that’s professional and that really has a hospitality layer to it that makes you feel good about being there and meeting clients there.

We’re building booking systems to help create that kind of frictionless experience.

What’s next as we get a little further into the future?

I want to meet my users where they are. That might mean being able to book a room while driving by asking Siri. The more we can centralize these experiences, and make members feel like they don’t have to think about it, the better.

I think voice technology will gradually appear in our environments, until it gets to the point that you’re essentially talking to your room all the time. Anecdotally, we have an Apple HomePod in our kitchen. At first, my husband and I used it while we’re cooking to set timers — that’s everybody’s introduction to one of these machines, right? It was awkward to talk to Siri while my husband was there, because she’s not real.

After a few months, that awkwardness just went away. We’ll be watching a movie and wonder: “Oh, Julianne Moore is so great in this. How old was she in this movie?” We can just ask Siri, “How old was Julianne Moore in 2015?” We pause, we listen, and we move on.

As more comfort and more etiquette develops around voice technology, it’ll become a platform for all the other things you do. Essentially, it’s a smartphone, but for your voice. Your iPhone is really a platform that can connect with your calendar, your gym, your parents — all of those things.

How do you come up with ideas for new tools?

The biggest source of information is our members. We talk to them all the time to understand what their needs are right now.

We also talk to prospective members. We’re in this interesting phase where companies are coming out of the pandemic and thinking about their back-to-office strategies. As a result, people are really talking openly to each other and asking questions about their back-to-office plans. And they’re looking for experts in this space who can help advise them.

So we’re also talking to a lot of prospective members, and really listening to them and what they’re saying their needs are. The needs of a centralized, 10-person office are so different from those of a distributed, 2,000-person team. That’s another source for how we think about what projects to tackle next.