R/GA's Unconventional Choices


It was great to support WORKTECH17 Sydney this year. A highlight for me was facilitating a panel about advanced technology for the workplace, featuring Gabrielle McMillan (Equiem), Mark Hansen (DEXUS), Dr. Kristine Dery (MIT CISR), and Rob Chalmers (R/GA).

Equiem, Dexus and MIT’s presence on the panel is fairly obvious, but you might not be aware that R/GA, an advertising agency headquartered in New York, has recently established itself as one of the leading examples of a technology-enabled workspace. R/GA moved into its state-of-the-art New York office last year and you can read an overview of what this workspace is like in Forbes.

There is lots of technology in what R/GA call a "connected space". The entrance level cafe for the office features an impressive array of 30 screens that all work together and can broadcast audio for the videos to people watching via their mobile devices.

The 200,000 square feet space also uses more than 8,000 smart lights that change colour to reflect the time of day and season.

The workspace is augmented by a location aware app, which uses geo-proximity beacons. The app can be used to find people, places and information.

R/GA also use Slack and have created a bot:

RGABot can be used to see who’s working on what projects, and how people are connected. The chatbot is integrated with R/GA’s internal Skills database system and anyone at R/GA can see who is an expert in say, mobile development, figure out which office they work in, what their past projects included, and if they are free to take on new work.

They also pull live data from Slack onto the screens in the cafe.

Source: Workplace: The Connected Space Documentary

The digital aspects of R/GA's connected space also continue to evolve. For example, R/GA Cosmos is a concept for an app and interactive screens:

Sometimes you might not know that the person you work with every day has the same interests as you do and the app is there to identify those. The app can also be controlled by voice so by saying 'I need to find someone who worked for Google' you can be easily redirected to that person's profile. The app is also connected to the two large physical screens in a corner of each floor that can be used to view one's networks, play games, sketch and hopefully encourage friendly collisions and live interaction between people.

You might be left thinking R/GA sets an unachievable high standard, but really they are simply trail blazing in a direction all workplaces are heading. And according to Forbes, one of the important lessons from the R/GA experience is that it is no more expensive that a traditional space, it just requires "unconventional choices".