Melissa Marsh

As someone who follows workplace strategies and social trends, Melissa Marsh sees huge advantages and increasing popularity in mixed-use developments.

“More experience-centric environments are now cropping up across the spaces in which we live, work, and play,” she says. “A higher level of service and a focus on creating a great experience is being rewarded and expected in all of these places.”

While Marsh is not advocating the notion that people should live, work, and play in the same space, she says the concept “would certainly confer benefits in terms of transportation and environmental issues.”

Marsh will be the keynote speaker at the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce on Friday, April 26, at 7:30 a.m. at the Springdale Golf Club, 1895 Clubhouse Drive, Princeton. Mitchell Weitz, head of real estate & workplace service for Bristol-Myers Squibb, will give opening remarks. Tickets are $40, $30 for members. For more information, visit www.princetonmercerchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.

Marsh is the founder and executive director of PLASTARC, a New York-based social research and design consulting company, that among other things, partners with developers, realtors, and designers to integrate workplace design through social metrics. She is also a senior managing director at Savills Studley, a multinational real estate services provider. A transplanted New Yorker, Marsh has lived in many places — Boston, Santa Fe, San Francisco, and Washington DC, however, she says she has never really left the Big Apple nor has it left her. Marsh says she arrived in New York City from Central Florida a decade or so ago with, “Two duffel bags, got on a bus and rode wide-eyed along 125th Street on a summer weekend afternoon,” and never looked back.

Today she is married and has three children. She earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and an master’s degree in architecture from the Massachusetts of Technology.

Changes in social integration are driving a need to create buildings and infrastructure that benefit residents as well as the environment. Real estate trends are shifting with emphasis on providing more human-focused spaces for residential and workplace environments. A cubicle in an office is not the only place work gets done. Any space that generates and creates value is a workplace.

“Strategic and organizational guidelines to achieve a specific business purpose have a large impact on the success or demise of an organization and the ultimate experience of an employee,” Marsh says. “Our focus is on human-centric design, which includes how companies function and includes people-based research and focus on human factors.” She added that mobile devices have already drastically extend the hours of work into what have been traditionally non-work hours.

Marsh says designers, planners, realtors, and others should perhaps, be looking for trends and inspiration in non-traditional sources. For example, broader changes to the urban environment often transcend to the work place and the consumerization of the workplace that has been brought on by app-based purchasing and office customization technology. “There is a push toward accommodating a wider range of preferences and work styles and habits like activity-based working,” she says. The concept and subsequent technology is designed to enable individuals to move from space to space throughout the day as needed. She adds, “People are now designing offices to look more like homes.”

Lastly, Marsh says, solving the work-life integration conundrum can be daunting. However, flexibility in when, how, and where one works is the common thread. “People at different stages of life have different expectations — from youth who want flexible hours to pre-retirees seeking to taper down,” she says. “We spend too much of our lives at work, and these experiences should be awesome and enrich the other parts of our life — expect more and demand more from your workplace.”

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