PENN1 Lessons Learned
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Establish a sustainable, employee-first design approach

The design started by aligning with our overall enterprise goals, one of which was to consolidate real estate.

Prior to the retrofit, we had two floors in PENN1—mostly individual workspaces—where utilization was only 60%. Our goal was to consolidate into a single floor, rebalance the use of space, and increase utilization by 20–30%.


Here are the key design principles we established to meet our goal.

  • Replace "me" space with "we" space

    The original office was a place people came to do individual work. The retrofit is considered a hybrid work hub designed to be a center for talent and collaboration.

  • Create inclusive and equitable experiences

    Before the retrofit, 18% of the workforce was 100% remote. Post-retrofit, we expected almost all employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which meant the design must consider that all meetings would include at least one remote attendee.

  • Understand utilization

    The tri-state area serves about 1,700 Cisco employees, of which 500 regularly use the office.

  • Reduce power consumption

    Power consumption needed to be radically optimized and reduced.

  • Anticipate technology transformation

    Our expectation was that there would be two more technology lifecycle upgrades over the “life of the space” that should be accommodated without the need for a remodel.

  • Prioritize health and wellness

    We sought to maximize natural daylight and fresh air.

  • Apply data-informed design

    Spaces should be designed for meetings with fewer than five people to facilitate more frequent, smaller groups. Data sourced from existing Cisco video endpoints from PENN1 revealed that the average meeting size was 3.7 people in-person and 2.5 when remote.

  • Employee movement

    We expected employees would move around during the day, with 5–6 different touchpoints within the office.

With physical distancing an expected norm for the near future, we must spend less time thinking about density and more time asking what we are using the space for.”

Christian Bigsby
Senior Vice President, Workplace Resources

The design strategy was fueled by aligning to outcomes. This chart shows how the design principals mapped to the specific outcomes of user experience, well-being, space behavior And sustainability.

User experience
Space behavior data
LEED alignment Checkmark
WELL building standard alignment Checkmark
Consistent end user experience Checkmark
Touchless room control Checkmark Checkmark
Integrated base building control Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
People count and density monitoring Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
People count data to Building Management System Checkmark Checkmark
Air quality monitoring and display Checkmark Checkmark
Information Technology and Facilities Management ops model reinvention Checkmark
USB-C adoption Checkmark Checkmark
Low voltage connected desk Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
Flexibility technology swap out Checkmark

Once the design approach was finalized, we could plan for the outcomes, summarized below.

70% of the space was designed for individual workspaces, with 30% for collaboration.
30% of the space is designed for individual work, with 70% for collaboration.
100% of workstations were assigned to an individual.
0% of workstations are assigned to individuals. All workspaces are unassigned and designed as hot desks and flexible seating.
Few spaces were video-enabled, which was the pre-pandemic industry trend.
100% of the spaces are video enabled, which will be the norm in the hybrid work era.
A "booking culture" led to inefficiencies and booked rooms going unused.
An "on-demand" model leads to a 50% improvement in space efficiency.
Employees were limited to just a few locations during the workday.
Employees easily move between 5–6 touch points in an average day.
High volumes of siloed data were unable to be used for real time optimization.
The fully connected office generates over 5,000 data points, which are gathered and analyzed daily, leading to continuous optimization.
Devices were driven by a touch interface.
Devices are touch- and voice-enabled.
Automation was limited.
Automation is maximized.