Michelle Ossmann: Hospitality, Welcome, Security, Care | Work 20XX Ep24

Jeff Frick
March 7, 2024
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Michelle Ossmann started her career as a Nurse practitioner, delivering services to patients in need. She saw an opportunity to use design to better support more patients at scale, and just as importantly, the Nurse practitioners and other health care team members who face a storm of beeps, flashes, and technology intersecting with the care and emotions of the hospital ward.

As part of this work, she took a deep dive into the fundamental literature around hospitality, something that is deeply ingrained in human culture, across continents, religions, and time. It’s a set of shared values, fundamental to the human experience, and sharing food and breaking bread is the third of three attributes that define it. 

Please join me in welcoming Michelle Ossmann to Work 20XX

I heard Michelle at another webinar (Thanks Mark Catchglove), and was so excited she accepted the invitation to share her knowledge with the Work 20XX community. The host-guest, hospitality frameworks are generalizable across several applications and a useful framework for those feeling challenged by the evolving workplace landscape.

Episode Transcript

Cold Open
So I will count us down.
All right.
And we will jump into it.
I'm so excited about this.
Me, too.
All right. In three, two, one.

Jeff Frick:
Hey, welcome back, everybody. Jeff Frick here, coming to you from the home studio for another episode of Work 20XX. And I'm really excited about this next episode. I saw this guest. She was giving a presentation in somebody else's webinar, and it really got to some foundational issues around hospitality, and what does hospitality actually mean and where is the deeper meaning and why is it so important and why is it when we have these really meaningful engagements with people that we really feel something different? And so I was really excited to reach out and to invite her on. So joining us through the magic of the internet I think all the way from South Carolina. She's Michelle Ossmann, the Director of Health Research and Insights from MillerKnoll. Michelle, great to see you.

Michelle Ossmann:
Thanks so much, Jeff. It's great to be here with you.

Jeff Frick:
Absolutely. So how did you go from, just a little background, hospitality and kind of social anthro, people stuff, and now you're in design at MillerKnoll? How did that journey kind of come about?

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, I was trained as a nurse practitioner. I was a nurse and NP for about ten years.

Jeff Frick:
Oh, you came at it from nursing.

Michelle Ossmann:
I did, I did. I was a nurse practitioner and a nurse in the emergency department in neurocritical care ICU, Emory University in Atlanta. And I happened to be the client over 20 years ago and thought, my goodness, clinical people should have formal training in design. So I applied to the school of Architecture and got into Georgia Tech and started that program. And then I interned with HKS, the big firm in town, and they said, you know, You’re an NP. We would never have you design the chases in the wall. You should get a Ph.D. and tell us what we should do. Now, I've never told any designer to do anything, to be sure, but I really spent my time trying to demonstrate and measure that design matters to clinical work, and that's why I was brought on to MillerKnoll to specifically work on the health research. And hospitality, of course, is something that health care cares quite a bit about.

Jeff Frick:
You know, it's funny, the history of hospitality, let's just get into it. And I think of Letitia (Baldridge) and manners and you think of the formality, but that's not really what it's about at all. It's much deeper. So I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about the history of it and specifically doing the research, this really odd juxtaposition between someone who's a threat and then now someone who's actually an obligation, morally, ethically, religiously, whatever you think, really that just a slight change in a couple of letters completely change that word.

Michelle Ossmann:
Yeah, I know, It's a fascinating notion. You know, I like you like I think most of us have thought of hospitality as something that the hotel industry owns. You know, they talk about the Holy Trinity food, beverage, accommodation. That is absolutely how I conceptualized it. And most health care institutions and I think other businesses as well, think about it in those terms. You had the hospitality station right there is that person who's responsible for greeting you with at door as if that somehow makes it happen. And I started wondering if that was really all there was to it and started with a concept review going back to the fundamental literature which actually comes out mostly from Europe and found that it is actually deeply ingrained across cultures, across the world, over time as this fundamental set of values that all human beings share. And the interesting part is that, again, in continents with, where people have not seen others for 40,000 years for example, the Aboriginal peoples in Australia, they have those same basic principles of welcoming the stranger, providing for their safety and security. Yes, having food and drink, wanting to hear about who they are and share of themselves too, and the obligation that exists to bring them in. And this crossing of that boundary, bringing them in and what space means there. So there's also this architectural spatial component there to hospitality which I hadn't really quite realized. And so, yes, it's a fascinating subject to think about how hospitality really has been about the management of strangers. You could argue that that's where it derived from. And then the implications for us in the workplace and then in health care.

Jeff Frick:
How do you think it switched, though? Because I was just talking with somebody the other day about kind of the natural kind of birds of a feather and in the context of kind of DE&I. And we just tend to go with things that we're familiar with because it's easy and it's a safety mechanism, and we can we can quickly categorize it and put people in a bucket. And we were talking about, you know, if you're around the watering hole and somebody showed up that you didn't recognize, didn't know, maybe they were dressed a little bit different back in the day, the first assumption would be threat. So how did how did that flip from being hostile hostility to being hospitable and actually feeling, again, not only the need or the desire, but again, the obligation to actually take that person in? And I think in some of the examples I was reading, getting ready for this, even giving them the best bed in the house. And so it's really this this really, this huge reach. What do you think kind of drove that? What are some of the foundations between that suspicion of the unknown versus the we really want to to take them in?

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, I think if we go back historically and anthropologically, it’s both survival and religion. Right. Hotels are a relatively modern contraption. Right. So if you were off in the wilderness somewhere and you stopped, there was no other place except those who happened to take you in. So it was certainly part of that. But also, if you look at any major world religion, there is this core requirement to welcome the guest who comes to the door because they could be an angel or a god, and you never know who they are. And so treating this stranger, you can see how it serves them to assume the best, right of this person. But your point about the danger in bringing them in, there’s this reciprocity that exists in hospitality that everyone deeply understands, which is to say, when a stranger would be invited in, yes, the host would be obligated to care for them, but the guest would be obligated not to harm them. And it's not that this was verbally spoken. It was this understood construct. I will take care of you. You will not harm me. All right, so that's how that works, right? And that's why in literature, for example, Shakespeare used violations of hospitality. When King Duncan was murdered, when he was a guest in Macbeth's house as a way to highlight that treachery, because that audience would have understood as a guest he should have been under the most protection. So that's I think that's how, you know, culturally, anthropologically, we've made sense of it as humans.

Jeff Frick:
Right. Right. It's interesting. And the lead attribute in all this background material I was looking up is safety. And, you know, we talk a lot about psychological safety on Work 20XX especially in the context of encouraging people to take risks so that they can innovate and experiment and fail now and then. Because, you know, by rule, everything is not going to work. You talk about psychological security, which is a little bit different than psychological safety, but it's at the top of all these things and I never really thought about it. And I think some of your notes on the design that, you know, you don't have an open back where someone can sneak up behind you. I mean, I never would really have thought of security and making people feel secure as the number one attribute of hospitality before. Before you get to the other stuff

Michelle Ossmann:
I know, neither would have I. I mean, not till I began this work did I discover that that was the case. You know, to your point about the psychological safety and security, again, over and over in the writings and the literature, it talks about, Yes, providing for that physical safety and guaranteeing that. But also and Henri Nouwen uses this term creating the literal space to be exactly who you are. And that being, again, a core part of that hospitality engagement if you will is where you invite that other person to share their stories. We see that in Indian cultures in how they express hospitality explicitly called out that way. So I think that very much it makes sense. And to your point about I hadn't thought about it until you said it just now that in making sure that no one can walk behind me, you are providing for psychological safety in the modern workplace because if you can walk behind me, you can see what I'm doing on my screen, can you not? Right. My privacy is being violated. You can see whether I'm searching the Internet or if I'm doing my work. So there's something very interesting about the crossing behind you that, yes, has this physical dimension but has psychological implications.

Jeff Frick:
Right. Another thing you talk about is, is kind of the role of the territory. Is it my space or your space? And, you know, we often talk about if you're in a contentious situation, you know, it was good sometimes to meet somebody in a neutral ground. And we understand what kind of neutral ground is. But you talk about this concept of almost concentric circles of host versus guest. It's not this binary thing. And in the context of work where, you know, the employer potentially is the host to the employees and then the employees then are the host to the to the other employees or to the customers or whomever. And you think about that changing in that dynamic between being a host and being a guest. How should the boss, employers think about empowering their people to no longer necessarily be their guests, but really own that the hosting part of it? So because the other thing about it is now suddenly I can't be a host unless I feel some ownership of the space. Yes, physical space. That's right. Which is not you know, it's not the place I go to work now, suddenly I own it. So, you know, the investment that I'm going to make in that space and everything around is completely different. If I feel some type of an ownership, really important piece of management these days.

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, you bring up a lot in those comments. So if I can start to unpack it some, you know, in terms of feeling ownership to be a host, that's a key criteria. If we look at hosting behavior, who is the host is determined by who owns the territory. So you're certainly correct there. Right. The administration, the boss technically is the host of others. But Danny Meyer and others also talk about, you know, in his book ‘Setting the table’ And some scholars also talk about that before one can demonstrate host to guests. For example, true guests like a visitor, if you will, they must demonstrate hospitality to each other. So there is this sort of inter-organizational hosting that can take place. And to your point about, you know, feeling like you belong, you know, at MillerKnoll, I live in South Carolina, right? So I go into the office once a month, right? And when I'm there, yes, I have the right to go wherever I want. I'm an employee. I've been there many, many times. But am I a little bit of a guest? A little bit, Right. Because I'm not there every day and I do find that my colleagues who do go there every day, Right, because they live in town do take on that role to host me will remind me about something that is happening there, will help me find something if I don't quite remember because it's been a while. So you can see where the intra hosting, if you will, between employees can also happen where there's a little bit of a shift of who is a full time owner, if you will, or what do you call it a local who really gets it versus someone who is a little bit of a tourist, maybe a long term tourist. Right. On a nice work visa, but not quite there every single day.

Jeff Frick:
Right. Which kind of brings up this other concept you talk about, too, which is which is the greeter or the concierge. And, you know, obviously, Wal-Mart probably made the biggest news when they introduced greeters sometime back. Maybe they've had them forever, I don’t know. Where it is like a formal role to actually welcome you into the space. And you've talked about kind of the the concierge role being taken, as you just said, by the people that are the locals that recognize that you're not there. How important is that to integrate people and make you know, that investment pay off better because you have someone actually there to help people understand what's available to them?

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, I think if the general folks that are going to an office, for example, tend to be periodically there, then the role of the continuity, if you will that's provided by that, hospitality person becomes really, really important. Right? Because they become responsible for knowing all the things that are collectively distributed within all the other people that come and go. So I think it really depends on the degree to which there is a consistent presence. Right? We certainly see this in health care even where the doctors may come and go, but the nurses tend to be the ones that, you know, work on that unit every single day. And they, if you will, take on more of that hosting ownership role because they're there every day. So again, I think there's a time dimension to it, a comfort dimension, a density dimension to it. To really answer that question. It's a little bit case by case.

Jeff Frick:
Yeah, it's interesting in the health care example. And the thing I think about is when you're in the room and you know, the nurses or whatever are coming in and out and they knock, right? They always knock, knock, knock I’m coming in knock, knock, I'm coming in. So it's almost like this, you know. Have they, in the act of knocking and asking to come in to the to the, not the waiting room but you know the treatment room

Michelle Ossmann:
Patient room

Jeff Frick:
Have they basically transferred ownership, you know, to a degree to the patient by subserviently asking if they can come in?

Michelle Ossmann:
I think so. I certainly think so and that's an active goal I would say you know, in any design meeting I've ever been a part of, there's always the desire to make the patients and family feel like they can own that space and determine what happens. Granted, of course, safety being first, but after that, certainly then them taking that ownership. And it's a core nursing principle. I mean, you'll notice that nurses don't tend to mollycoddle patients because it's it's key that patients can do for themselves as soon as they possibly can. So it's consistent with how we would deliver care. But that knocking moment is critical for saying You own this. May I? Right. And again, that guest - host relationship taking place there.

Jeff Frick:
Right. Right. So another piece when you talk about the practice of hospitality. So you got protection, which is first and safety which we've talked about. And the second one is ‘Intellectual Welcome’ which is a really interesting phrase. It speaks to in the notes here a real empathy, a real desire to hear the opinions of the other piece of the other person and it gets back to this reciprocity, bungling my words this morning. So can you have hospitality if you don't have that two way exchange? Or then it just becomes you know, if you just kind of got a one way information flow or you don't have really a two way appreciation of the information flows, is that no longer hospitality? Is that just giving a speech

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, again, if you look at the theoretical models that that explore what hospitality is, that reciprocity is required that it can't be one way. It has to be the host opening up themselves to whatever the guest has to bring and vice versa, recognizing that everyone benefits. There's this mutual mutuality that has to exist there, which again I think makes very much sense for us in the workplace and certainly in health care.

Jeff Frick:
So I end at this last one of these three so I can get down my table of three, which is the ‘Table Fellowship’ which is the piece that most people put at the top. But you've actually got it in third place, which is the actual sharing of a meal or the breaking of bread. And, you know, I’m sorry, I gave you homework before we did this because I wanted you to watch Sean Evans. I'm a huge fan of Hot Ones, which people who watch the show know And I also, I'm a huge fan of the interview format obviously, and the fact that I've seen him describe and I've watched the magic that comes from both sharing a meal together as well as, he adds, the shared pain experience as well, and also he demonstrates care through the knowledge of the investigation of the questions and what I think is so interesting and transformative is you watch two people who don't know each other become best of friends, hugging and tearing up together because the hot sauce, you know, in 20 minutes, it's I think it's a pretty amazing demonstration of the power of breaking bread. I wonder if you can share more from kind of the research. What is it that's so special about sharing a meal together?

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, Woolley and colleagues did some of this work in 2017, and they did about four different experiments looking at this phenomena and found that incidental food so being assigned food, which is exactly what he does, right He gives them, you know, they don’t really have a choice about the hot wings they’re having the hot wings engenders trust and cooperation between strangers. And that's a phenomenon that's been repeated over and over again. There is something about food as opposed to and they test this, wearing the same color shirt. We would have that in common. Now does, would that get you get you there, too? Apparently not. Something about eating the same food, even if it's assigned, does that for people and they hypothesize it. Again, it has to do with breaking bread and this, you know, fundamental trait of what it is to be human that does that. So there's scientific basis to why his work works.

Jeff Frick:
Right. Right. And then the other piece you talked about is it has to happen at the same time there's a temporal component as well, it has to happen concurrently

Michelle Ossmann:

Jeff Frick:
Yeah Which is easy to understand, sharing a meal. But there's two like huge trends right now. That I want to get your take on that are really going against the power that you're offering through this hospitality. One is the increased asynchronous time that we all spend together, whether that's text or email or exchanging messages. Right? So the amount of time that we're together is less as a percentage of the total, even within a work context, right As more and more of the work moves to asynchronous. And then the other piece is digital versus atoms, right? It's electrons versus being together. And I had a really interesting conversation with someone the other day about, you know, what does ‘in real life’ mean? What, are we in real life together now? Are we together now?

Michelle Ossmann:
Philosophical question

Jeff Frick:
And in some ways, we certainly are. In some ways we certainly aren’t. We can't break bread together, but I certainly see you and and I see your expressions and I feel your emotion. So it's really interesting, these two things, this increasing digitization of our our engagements and interactions and then the increasing kind of asynchronous nature of the increasing percentage, how do you see that impacting things and how should people kind of combat that, if that's the right word? Or is there a hospitality flavor where we can reduce, reduce the requirement of actual physical contact of the temporal piece, or is it going to be something completely new or derivation? What do you think?

Michelle Ossmann:
Yeah, well, you know, when scholars approach this question, they argue that the temporal, you know, the contemporaneous nature of the person to person is a key requirement for demonstrating hospitality. Now, what you've described there, you and I here talking that may just not be hospitality, that might be something else. Right. Which is okay. Right, it just may not be what we deeply as humans would understand to be hospitality. Now, I think there's there's power in that, right? There's power in something that is so human. I cannot articulate it or explain it. But every human on the planet feels it right. There's something about that, right, that I don't know that, you know 50 years on, on computers are going to overcome millennia of evolution. Right? So there is that magic that happens when you have the in-person. And I think we all recognize that. And there's data everywhere talking about how the relationships are certainly better when you're in-person, you know, in terms of how we start to anthropomorphize technology, though, I think that's a very interesting question. Right? So traditionally researchers would suggest that it has to be human to human. People are marrying their chat bots, right? They're marrying. I know I heard this crazy podcast, this woman who married him, you know, people, if you ask them, does those who get counseling, for example, will imagine that the A.I. interface has a favorite color you know, has a gender, right? So as humans, as we decide and we anthropomorphize technology and robots, Is that enough? It might be. You know, I don't know if the robot brings me something. Am I experiencing hospitality? I think these are more contemporary notions that we have to think about just because they're not historical and they're not anthropological doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It's just a new way of looking at it. So I think that that question is still open right, as we encounter this new digital world. But again, I'm not sure that that can overpower millennia of a contract that we all deeply understand and feel as human beings.

Jeff Frick:
Yeah, no, and I don't know if it's a replacement or substitute. I just wonder if how it gets integrated in, right. If you know, if you're a digital native in the way that you interact, and you didn't get Letitia Baldrige’s book from your grandma on the right way to set the table and you didn't follow, you know, kind of formal rules and ways and you're used to communicating, say, in more of a digital format that is usually more async, you know, will some of the attributes that have come from that you know deep in our brain socialization you know can those be achieved via or portions of them be achieved via some of these digital means or some of these other these alternative means?

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, I suppose I have a question for you. Do you think digital natives? You know, I think about, you know, my college age children, digital natives are you, you know, are you then supposing that they prefer a digital non in-person contact first?

Jeff Frick:
No, no, not at all. And again, it's not a prioritization of digital over physical in terms of which is better, but it's more just that digital is an increasing percentage of the total time in our relationships. So you can see some of that goodness of the physical, you know, come across in the digital. And I do think that there's a lot more intimate connection available in digital than most people would think who haven't experienced it. And my favorite stat there is from a Stanford study, which is when I met my spouse in like 1985, there was no Internet, there was no online dating. It wasn't an option, right? So the choices were at work, your friends, church, social, blah, blah, blah. There's like ten, 10 choices on the study. Now, online dating represents over 50% of new marriages.

Michelle Ossmann:
Wow, really?

Jeff Frick:
They met on online dating, so to me with that is just a slap in the face in terms of the context of like return to office and work and communications is that younger people can reach a level of intimacy via an online application that didn't even exist when I was in that frame of mind. So how can I possibly kind of really understand that? And I think that's a really illustrative thing that that if you're comfortable with the technology, there is a level of intimacy that you can't get via digital means that maybe those of us that didn't grew up that way don't necessarily appreciate and the people marrying their bots is another you know, that's kind of a twisted example because that's also the, you know, the Anthropomorphization I always forget the extra syllable of the technology, which is a whole different kettle of fish. But I do think I do think right, the digital tools are here and it's just interesting how those get incorporated in a positive way to provide the warmth and provide the connection and provide the kind of support that we're trying to do as organizations.

Michelle Ossmann:
Yeah, you know, I suppose I wonder when I think about young people, is that those who are in college or those who are out in the workforce because those I’m finding in college, they want internships that are in-person? Right. They don't want that remote internship. I'm finding that they aren't bringing phones to parties anymore. They're actually trying to buy cameras and actually use cameras because the phone implies I'm not here with you. I can still capture everything, but I'm doing it with a camera so that we're here together. I do wonder if there's going to be this pushback, if you will to recognizing that there is something valuable about the in-person. And, you know, as far as people meeting online, yes, that's true. But they eventually come together in person, right?

Jeff Frick:
Oh for sure, no and again, it’s not a substitute

Michelle Ossmann:
Right, they do. So eventually, Right. I mean, I think the digital can be great for starting for continuity. But there is still a requirement, I think, for the in-person if you really wish to spend time and know someone. And simply for all the in between moments, you know, in design and architecture, we spend so much time thinking about the rooms but not the corridors. And so much happens in those corridors, and so I wonder in that same sort of way, what is the corridor of human interaction, if it's only digital? Right, there's the I get up and I move around. There's all sorts of things that you would never know about me just seeing me like this. And so, you know, I do think that there's something special there and perhaps technology will be such that it does come with me in the corridor at some point and I'll buy the Apple Glasses.

Jeff Frick:
I just think it's an increasingly important piece. I think that’s the piece that we have to kind of appreciate and in the context of remote work, in the context of hybrid work and in the context of distributed teams. You know, it's an important piece in an increasingly an increasingly percentage of your engagement, right? It's just, of your actual interactions of your actual behaviors are just more and more and more digital, digital, digital and asynchronous.

Michelle Ossmann:
I'm a remote worker, right? So, you know, I go in periodically and that's always been the case for me. I really wish someone would do a study where they would check engagements scores like the day after someone comes to the office. I bet you, I have a suspicion they would be significantly higher.

Jeff Frick:
Oh for sure. Brian, you know Brian Elliott. He likes to say, you know, distributed is not never together. I just had Dom Price on from Atlassian and they get together like four times a year, his team so you know, you definitely have to get together but let's shift gears a little bit in the context of work and workplace. So you've you specialize in design and trying to think about the the design things that are going to make a difference. But I'm also thinking in terms of these mandates that we're hearing and just that is not a host inviting their guests back. No and it's certainly not a host who's trying to encourage his people to take ownership so that they could be the hosts and own it. It's so contrary to all the things that you talk about. So how, you know, how should people approach getting people back to the office and getting back together from a more traditional kind of hosting guest point of view?

Michelle Ossmann:
Yeah, you know, I love how Danny Meyer puts this. He talks about treating all his employees as if they're volunteers because they have choices. Right? And so I think if you approach your workforce as a set of volunteers who decide to spend their time with you and give you a portion of their lives, I think it changes a little bit of your perspective. And of course, when we think about volunteerism, we often have much more joy in our work when we're choosing to do it right. So there is the responsibility, I think on the behalf of the staff of the worker to imagine, or I am choosing to give my time here, How best might I do that? Sometimes it might be best for me to work from home so that I can pick up my son from school and my employer would care about that. Right? So there is this flexibility notion, but I know it's challenging to then go to an office and nobody's there, Right.

Jeff Frick:
That’s terrible, too.

Michelle Ossmann:
And that's where I wonder how technology is going to help us start to orchestrate some of that a little bit better. You know, I've been a remote worker for ten years, and so whenever I would go into the office, I have a schedule. I know who's going to be there because I make appointments with them. Right. And so you can see how that can work. But it takes more effort, right? I think going to the office every single day and everybody doing that, you don't have to work so hard. It's easy right, because everyone's going to be there. So there takes more forethought, more planning. And again, I'm not sure that's a bad thing if we are more intentional with our time, you know, how many articles do we read about being more mindful and intentional with our time and doing things with purpose? Perhaps we can start to approach that as an opportunity to go into the office with purpose rather than just showing up because you have to. right But the mandates are tricky.

Jeff Frick:
On site‘s the new offsite, right? That's what they say

Michelle Ossmann:

Jeff Frick:
Well because the intentionality. And you've got an agenda when you go to when you go up to Michigan, you've got, you know, people you want to see and things you want to get accomplished.

Michelle Ossmann:

Jeff Frick:
So why not do that every day? There was another part, and I think a lot of it in terms of like restaurants versus eating at home and working at the office versus working at home. And why do people go to restaurants? They go to restaurants for an experience that they can't get at home, even if they can cook, cook the meal. And, you know, there's a real opportunity, I think, in offices and in space. And, you know, you've been very involved to create things that aren't available at home to create different experiences. But you've made an interesting comment that ‘No Jeff’ your wrong it's not really the experiences, it's really the relationship. It's about finding relationship and building a relationship within the experience. The experience is almost it’s almost like an overlay or an excuse, if you will.

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, you know, I don't know that you can detach the two, right? You know, I'm a scholar of environmental psychology, so I don't believe that you can pull the being out of the environment that they are in. So I look at those as as inextricably linked. Right. So within the experience relationship happens, I don't know that you can pull them apart. You know, I do think, though, that there is a requirement now that we make coming in superlative. We talk about this in health care, right? For example, so much of what we do can happen in your home, right? So then when you come to the office, there has to be something really special that you're there for. Otherwise, why? Right. So perhaps that's just coming to the office in the same way that it's been that way for health care for quite some time, that there is this obligation to make it something special, something I cannot do otherwise. Right. And I think organizations could even have rules around this. Certain things should only be done in person. We do that in health care, in part because of the physicality. Right. You can't get something out of someone's ear necessarily remotely, right Unless you're especially skilled. But that same sort of rules, I wonder about that rather than allowing folks to, you know, settle for second best, recognize when you need to convert and come in. We talk about that, it's called conversion in health care you have to convert from the video visit and come in because something has happened that means that we can no longer do this well, safely with you at home. What is that for workplace, right? That we can no longer do this well to the benefit of the organization, the benefit of the person that they come in for that purpose. And the restaurant example, I think is a nice one. We use that in health care too, but, you know, going to the hospital or going to the office, I don't know that it's like a restaurant. I don't get cocktails well I guess you do now in offices. But sometimes but you know you don't have that sort of social imbibing that happens at a restaurant. There's a bit of an obligation there right a desire to perform, which doesn't quite exist in a workplace or in health care, where it's a sort of work associated thing. So, you know, I think considering that notion as what should and could happen are two very different things.

Jeff Frick:
Unfortunately, we see that over and over. So, I mean, what would your advice be then in terms of an approach for back to office if someone is is struggling as a senior manager and, you know, health care's a little bit different cause there’s just some things that you have to be in, which is you know, kind of in general from a leadership perspective, using the concepts of hospitality and thinking through of of host and guest, What should be the tone? What are some of the messages? What is the way you structure your even though you talk about kind of what's your real motivation, even if your real motivation is just to get people back, you know, how would you structure that conversation to help people see it as you're being invited back as a guest, or I'm inviting you back because I want you to be the host and have pride and be proud of the space as opposed to ‘Come in Now!’ you know, we're watching your badge swipes. Were watching your badge swipes or your keystrokes or whatever. right, right.

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, you know, again, because hospitality is relationship based, there has to be this in-person component. I think it needs to be replicated by the leadership. If they want you there, they need to be there to welcome you, right Because that's required. You have to be in the space. If we're really thinking about hospitality in its fundamental terms. And then I think being careful about the curation and making it an open place where you feel like you can be yourself, that may mean that it's okay to leave at 3:00 for an appointment because I'm being who I am without fear of retribution. There's a culture and a space thing there that move together where I think hospitality can set the tone and can be a bit of a blueprint, if you will, for are we meeting these criteria and if we're violating one right, If I, you know, you have to be in your desk. Well, then I'm not really meeting you where you are, am I? I'm imposing my rules upon you. And I can do that because I'm the host. I’m not really being hospitable, am I? Right, so I do think it's a nice way, a relationship-based way, a human-based way to think about how to encourage people to come into the office because of the benefit that's there and recognize that there are differences. You know, we talk about patient-centered care because the whole notion is that you think about what the patient needs and what about having worker-centered care, which is to say, yes, there is a job that needs to be done, but we will account for an individual need. Right. And allow flexibility there. It's a whole lot more work to do that. And I think an organization has to be open to the work that is going to be involved because it is a whole lot easier to say ‘You got to come in’ and I want to use technology to know whether you've showed up using accelerometers in the chairs. That's easy. What's hard is to really spend the time to get to know your people and be able to trust them and know what they need and want that relationship. It's a different kind of organization.

Jeff Frick:
Right Right. I want to get your take as a nurse and being in health care because nurses have like, I don't know, the hardest job in the world? It's certainly got to be up in the top five if it's not one of the top. And it's a really interesting place where there's this kind of crashing between technology and high stakes engagements and still really human. I mean, as human as it can be. And nurses are the ones that are really kind of at that intersection point. And you see kind of this influx of technology and all this change. And but then you've got the design. How have you seen technology help to stop burnout, slow burnout, to make the life of the nurse much better so that they can then provide, you know, better care to their patients because, you know, as they always say, put your own mask on first before you help the one beside you. And, you know, nurses are busy, busy, busy people.

Michelle Ossmann:
Well, you know, I think you wouldn't find a single health care provider that would say technology has necessarily made it better. Right? It certainly arguably made it safer because we have this continuous medical record that is fantastic. And we have the monitors and what have you. But there's a lot of work on the fatigue associated with constantly hearing beeps and, you know, not being able to rely on this natural perceptual apparatus we have on our bodies called eyes and ears. Right. That allow you to naturally appreciate what's happening around you. So technology is both a burden and a gift I think in that case you know, for burnout. I'm doing work right now with Dr. Deborah Wingler at HKS and we’re exploring burnout in nurses and adding or going back to a different conceptual model for burnout, which includes fatigue. Maslach’s, Christina Maslach’s method of viewing burnout doesn't include this physicality to it. And you know, right when you're tired because you haven't slept and you're hungry and you've been walking a whole lot, you don't have a lot of emotional wherewithal. Right, so I do think it's a nice way, a relationship-based way, a human-based way to think about how to encourage people to come into the office because of the benefit that's there and recognize that there are differences. You know, we talk about patient-centered care and what about having worker-centered care, which is to say, yes, there is a job that needs to be done, but we will account for an individual need. Right. And allow flexibility there. It's a whole lot more work to do that. And I think an organization has to be open to the work that is going to be involved because it is a whole lot easier to say ‘You got to come in’ and I want to use technology to know whether you've showed up using accelerometers in the chairs. That's easy. What's hard is to really spend the time to get to know your people and be able to trust them and know what they need and want that relationship. It's a different kind of organization. For nurses, certainly there's this physicality component that exists there and I would imagine that also exists for workers of all kinds, right, offices or anywhere. If you're tired, if you're hungry. I mean, the reason why memes like that exist are because they are true, right? So, you know, there is this need to care for the body that we have. We are not floating around creatures without this biological component there that has this need. So I think the burnout question is challenging with technology. And there are, there is a movement within the industry to try to decrease the number of beeps and to make the technology less obvious, because it does create another distraction in the room, with because what the patient really wants and we know that patient satisfaction is linked primarily to the quality of the conversation with the nurses. It's not technology, it's not doctors even it's it's nurses. right So and the face-to-face because it has to be face-to-face. So I do think again, that that comes down to who we are as human beings desiring the face to face that someone sat with you, listened to you, helped you workplace, health care, anywhere.

Jeff Frick:
That’s great. So we’re getting to the end of our time. I wanted you to share, you know, from a design perspective, the impacts that design can have for people that aren't quite sure and don't really understand it, you know, both both conscious design elements as well as unconscious design elements I was talking to somebody the other day, we're talking about sound and soundscapes and you talk about scapes, different type of scapes, landscapes, the different rooms and how design can really have a positive impact. And maybe a couple of examples where, you know, you can make a difference, through intentional, intentional design and intentional setups to make the workplace a better place.

Michelle Ossmann:
Oh certainly. I mean, there's those ones we're all familiar with, right? Natural light, temperature. You know, the overall service scape, if you will, I think is the term that you service scape. A lot of evidence and research behind that. I'm a big supporter of where it exists, using research to demonstrate and back up whatever you're doing from design. But aside from the service scape components, there's a lot that again goes back to who we are as humans. And a basic one is access and exposure, right? Being able to stand on the mountain and survey who's out there, who could potentially get you and not having anyone behind you. Right. Those are very basic concepts, but serve veterans who are taught never to allow someone to move behind you. So you would never put seating on an open corridor or as we talked earlier, having your screen be to the corridor. We were doing some observation some time ago. The administration could not figure out why no one would use this particular glassed in spot. Well, because your screen was facing the corridor. Everyone could see what you were doing when you were walking past. So some things are very much about privacy, about what we call architectural privacy, which is the visual, the acoustic, what have you, informational. And we can design for things like that. We can use something called space syntax, which essentially tessellates a floor plan and allows us to use graph theory to measure the likelihood of finding other people, seeing and being seen. And that can all be done with a 2D floor plan. And you can start to anticipate what your layout is going to provide for you. Again, all very science based. So I just think that, yes, design can be delightful. And there is this, you know, intuitive sense of beauty that we should bring to design. But there's also a great deal of science behind what we do in design that can make a demonstrable difference in the outcomes we're looking for in the workplace. We just have to work with people who know how to measure it. I do think that badge swipes are, you know, the the basest of ways that we can measure success. There are other more complex ways that I think might get closer to what we're looking for.

Jeff Frick:
When you walk into a space and it feels good, is that tied to something else? Is there functional concrete things that generally correlate to the feeling of it feels like a great space. I'm not quite sure why, but it you know, this feels like a either a warm space, an inviting space, a comforting space, you know, does that correlate 1 to 1 or, you know, is there some obviously not causal but correlated relationship between that?

Michelle Ossmann:
Yeah, you know, I hate to say that so often it is individual to the person, but yes, I mean, generally speaking, being able to see what is available to you, having what we would call an intelligible building layout so that the building naturally communicates This is the way to main things, right, on the way. I mean, you can make layouts that are like rabbit holes and you will never find your way in or out. And casinos are like that, right? And they do that on purpose. If you want to talk about science and building design, look at a casino. That is exactly how they are created. Right? So I do think that there are ways now there is this wonderful notion called ‘ambient belonging’ comes out of Stanford, where they were looking at students and whether or not they wanted to be part of a computer science academic program. And they had two different layouts, one that was overtly masculine and they right, you can you can disagree with what they chose to be overtly masculine, but things like Star Wars and now my girls would be offended by that because, you know, girls can like Guardians of the Galaxy too and Star Wars too but overtly masculine and ones that were more neutral. And overall the girls chose to be in the computer program that did not was not overtly masculine. And the whole notion there, I’m simplifying the story, but the whole notion there was that the more neutral environment communicated to them ‘There are others like me here’ They didn't see anybody else. This isn't having women walking around, women faculty, nothing that this is the environment communicating. ‘There are others like me here.’ And so I do wonder where when we think about pattern and color, which is very cultural, when we think about affordances, like whether or not there's a chair that can hold me or one I can get up from easily or a height that works for me, right? Is it communicating ‘This is made for me.’ The belonging part, I think is a big part there, and we're starting to develop measures for that. It's very much the science in its infancy, at its beginning. But definitely there is something there, right? You walk in and you're like, huh I can be at home here. And I think we're working on the science behind that.

Jeff Frick:
Awesome. Well, Michelle, what a treat. Thank you for spending some time with me today. It's such an interesting concept and I think it's so, so powerful because, you know, we're emotional beings. These are these are the deep seeded things in deep in the brain that you don't take a lot of conscious effort to think about. But like you said, they've been in there cooking for thousands and millions and generations and generations of people developing. So love to tap into that.

Michelle Ossmann:
Oh yeah, no, they are you. Jacques Derrida in 2002 said that culture is hospitality itself or that there is no culture without a culture of hospitality, right? It is who we are as humans. And I think if we remember that, then I think it sets the tone for everything else we create. You could argue if that's true that everything should be based on hospitality, especially in the workplace.

Jeff Frick:
Interesting, interesting challenge for the leadership going forward. All right. Well, I think we'll leave it there. We’ll leave that big challenge for them. Michelle, thank you again for spending the time. We'll continue to follow your work online and really appreciate it.

Michelle Ossmann:
Thank you, Jeff. Likewise. I love seeing what you put out there. Super interesting. Always.

Jeff Frick:
Thanks a lot. All right. Well, she's Michelle I’m Jeff You're watching Work 20XX Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening to podcasts. We'll see you next time. Take care.

Cold Close
That was great Michelle
Oh my gosh.
Anyway, you ask very good questions.
Thank you.


Michelle Ossmann

Director, Health Research and Insights


LinkedIn Profile - https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-ossmann/ 

MillerKnoll Profile - https://news.millerknoll.com/Michelle-Ossmann 

Research Gate Profile - https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michelle-Ossmann 

Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design (NIHD) Profile - https://nursingihd.com/michelle-ossmann-bio-workshop 

Select MillerKnoll Publications

Michelle Ossmann, PhD, MSN JULY 2023 

Intersection of Hospitality and Healthcare CEU,
Michelle Ossmann, PhD, MSN January 2024

Select Publications & Research

Hospitality in healthcare: Going beyond food, drink, and accommodation to deliver safe, comfortable and inclusive spaces, MillerKnoll

R.A.I.S.E. the Bar for Healthcare Design through Research and Evidence, Bill Hercules, Kathleen Valentine, Michelle Ossmann, Jennie Evans, Lynn Aguilera, Sara Gally, Healthcare Design Conference + Expo - HCD 

On the Restorative Break: Understanding the Role of Break Room Design on Nurse Engagement and Satisfaction, On the Restorative Break: Understanding the Role of Break Room Design on Nurse Engagement and Satisfaction, Lesa Lorusso, Michelle Ossmann, Tatiana Orozco, Linda Lawson
Workplace Health & Safety

Measuring Potential Visual Exposure of Physicians During Shift-End Handoffs and Its Impact on Interruptions, Privacy, and Collaboration, Rutali Joshi, Michelle Ossmann, Anjali Joseph, HERD Health Environments Research & Design Journal

Using Architectural Mapping to Understand Behavior and Space Utilization in a Surgical Waiting Room of a Safety Net Hospital, Elizabeth N. Liao, Lara Chehab, Michelle Ossmann, Benjamin Alpers, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH)

Pillow: The patient and the reciprocal view, Julie Zook, Michelle Ossmann, George Tingwald
Book: The Covert Life of Hospital Architecture, Chapter 2, University College London Press

Emergency Physicians’ Workstation Design: An Observational Study of Interruptions and Perception of Collaboration During Shift-End Handoffs, Rutali Joshi, Anjali Joseph, Michelle Ossmann, Kevin Taaffe, HERD Health Environments Research & Design Journal

Isovist Connectivity: Measuring the Potential for Concurrent Targeted Surveillance and General Awareness, Michelle Ossmann, Sonit Bafna, Craig Zimring, David Murphy, Conference: 12th International Space Syntax Symposium, Beijing China

Preserving Wayfinding Intelligibility in Growing Healthcare Facilities, Mahshad Kazem Zadeh, Julie Zook, Michelle Ossmann
Conference: Healthcare Design Conference, Orlando, FL

Patient Visibility and ICU Mortality: A Conceptual Replication, Yi Lu, Michelle Ossmann, David Leaf, Phil Factor
HERD Health Environments Research & Design Journal

Nursing’s Contributions to Innovative Hospital Design, Gerri Lamb, June Connor, Michelle Ossmann 
JONA The Journal of Nursing Administration

Select Writings 

Designing For the Future: Nursing intuition begets health design intuition. I believed with design training, I could be at the front end of patient care, co-creating the structure that frames our processes and outcomes., Michelle Ossmann, American Nurses Association (ANA) Innovation,

Notes from mentions in the interview 

Hostis (enemy) Hostile to Hospes (guest, host, friend) Hospitality  - Latin root  

Hostile (hostis) to Hospitality (hospes)

Threat to Obligation

‘Sobre la mesa’ - Over the table


Shared believe across many religions 

They might be an angel or a god, you never know, assume the best, reciprocity applies to 

Hinduism - Offering food and shelter to strangers is fundamental to beliefs and culture. The unexpected guest is Especially honored.

Judaism - Showing hospitality to guests is considered a mitzvah. When one knows of strangers who are hungry or need a place to stay, it becomes a legal obligation.

Buddhism - Hospitality is providing food, Accommodation, and help to Guests, strangers, and travelers.

Christianity - Hospitality is practicing the gospel, with meals and resources extended to all, without expectation of return.

Islam - A true believer offers hospitality to strangers to honor God. Guests are typically served food and drink as soon as they arrive, Often given the best accommodations available.

Source: Hospitality in Workplace Design: More than just Food and Drink, Michelle Ossman, MillerKnoll, 2023-July, Slide 11 - History of Hospitality  

Henri Nouwen

Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Live, Henri J.M. Nouwen, Image Publishing, 1986-Aug

Hospitality, Henri Nouwen Society, 2024-Feb-18

Create space in your innermost self, Henri Nouwen Society, 2023-April-29

Hot Ones with Sean Evans

Find a name you like, and watch an episode

Setting the table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
By Danny Meyer, Ecco Publishing

“We have to think about (staff respite) in different ways,” said Deborah Wingler, PhD, HKS Principal and Research Practice Director, Health & Experience. “It’s not just a room with a plant in the window. It’s about helping health care workers connect to wellness for themselves in a new way.”
Excerpt from - How Staff Respite Space Can Help Address the Health Care Staffing Crisis, Amy Eagle, HKS 2023-Nov-16

I’ve Been Chatfished: I fell in love & married my AI chatbot after my wife left me - she’s the one who proposed and is just like a human, Taryn Kaur Pedler, The Sun, US Edition, 2023-Apr-02

Virtual Vows: I fell in love with & married my AI chatbot - he doesn’t have any baggage and doesn’t judge. Taryn Kaur Pedler, The Sun, UK Edition, 2023-Jun-04

Love in the time of AI: Woman creates and ‘marries’ AI-powered chatbot boyfriend, Sarah Palmer, EuroNews.net, 2023-July-06 -

Meeting online has become the most popular way US couples connect, Stanford Sociologist finds, Alex Shashkevich, Stanford News, 2019-Aug-21 

Disintermediating your friends: How Online Dating in the Unites States displaces other ways of meeting, Michael Rosenfeld, Stanford University; Reuben J. Thomas, University of New Mexico; Sonia Hausen, Stanford University - 2019-Jul-15

How Couples Meet and Stay Together (HCMST), Social Sciences Data Collection, Stanford Libraries, 

The online dating effect: Where a couple meets predicts the quality of their marriage, Liesel L. Sharabi; Elizabeth Dorrance-Hall, 2024-Jan

Acts of Religion, Jacques Derrida, translated by Gil Anidjar, Routledge, 2002

Safeguarding the Stranger: An Abrahamic Theology and Ethic of Protective Hospitality, Jayme Reaves, Pickwick Publications, 2016

Christina Maslach, Professor of Psychology (Emerita), Healthy Workplaces Center, University of California, Berkeley 
Berkeley Profile

The Practice of hospitality is 

  • Protection
    • Physical Safety, security, culture of security 
    • Psychological security (psychological safety), trauma-informed design, 
    • designed fo respite, 
    • designated for team or function - ‘space to ‘own’’

  • Intellectual Welcome
    • Design for micro-territories where employees can be hosts
    • Design for exchange of ideas
    • Design for diverse people and families
    • Design for neurodiversity
  • Table Fellowship 
    • Design for sharing a meal, a beverage – same table, same level
    • Design for ‘sobremesa’ - Sobremesa is a Spanish word that means "on the table" a

Hospitality is NOT just hospitable intent 

Hospitality is Protection 
Safe, safety, culture of security 
Psychological security (vs psychological safety)
Open stairwells, lines of sight, no one can sneak up 

Hospitality is Human Interaction 

Five Critical Components of Hospitality
Hospitality is a relationship between hosts and guests. The following must happen at the same time to be considered hospitality (Brotherton, 1999)

  • Human Interaction -There must be human-to-human, back-and-forth,  exchange (atoms vs electrons)
  • Contemporaneous - There must be a close, temporal sharing of space where hospitality takes place. - happening or existing at the same period (how does this jive with async)
  • Voluntary -  A sense of duty and generosity and to do so joyfully.. A moral imperative, choosing to give 
  • Mutually Beneficial -  The guest is open to what the host has to offer and vice versa. - motive can heighten or taint exchange, presence 
  • Provision - The host has an obligation to protect and provide security. In turn, the guest, has an obligation not to harm the host. Provision of protection, physical and psychological 

Ossmann 2023

Woolley and Fishbach (2017)
A Recipe for Friendship: Similar Food Consumption Promotes Trust and Cooperation, Journal of Consumer Psychology 27(1) 1-10 , Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach

Dunbar (2017):
Breaking Bread: the Functions of Social Eating, Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
3(3), Robin Dunbar 

Reeves (2016): https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv1131g92.6
Hospitality is… Contemporaneous. With a close, temporal and spatial relationship. Hospitality welcomes others into a shared space with shared presence. Space is inextricably linked to hospitality

The Practice of Hospitality must solve for 

  • Protection - Create spaces that communicate, cue, and afford physical and psychological safety and security to help lower stress and anxiety. 
  • Intellectual welcome. Use inclusive design principles to guide space planning so that people from all backgrounds might experience belonging
  • Open table. Promote cross-role, same-level human interaction, especially with a shared meal or beverage, to encourage sharing and trust. 

Losekoot & Wright-St Clair, (2016): https://scholarsarchive.jwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1024&context=hosp_graduate

Hospitality is… Mutually Beneficial. And tangible and/or intangible. The host is open to what the guest has to offer. Motive can heighten or taint the exchange. ’Presence’ emerged in 1960s from existentialism (Heidegger), giving the gift of self 

Ambient Belonging: How Stereotypical Cues Impact Gender Participation in Computer Science -  Sapna Cheryan, Paul Davies, Victoria Plant and Claude Steele, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2009, Vol 97, No. 6, 1045-1060

Telfer (2000)
A process concerning the management of strangers

Brotherton (1999): https://sk.sagepub.com/books/key-concepts-in-hospitality-management/i497.xml
Poorly defined, overlaps with similar domains. Is it a product, a process, and experience? The tendency to take a commercial, economic POV, focus on hoteliers and caterers

Towards a definitive view of the nature of hospitality and hospitality management, Bob Brotherton, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 11, no4 (1999): 165-173

Five Critical components of hospitality
Hospitality is a relationship between hosts and guests. The following must happen at the same time to be considered hospitality (Brotherton, 1999)

  • Human Interaction -there must be human-to-human, back-and-forth,  exchange (atoms vs electrons)
  • Contemporaneous - There must be a close, temporal sharing of space where hospitality takes place. - happening or existing at the same period (how does this jive with async)
  • Voluntary -  A sense of duty and generosity and to do so joyfully.. A moral imperative, choosing to give 
  • Mutually Beneficial -  The guest is open to what the host has to offer and vice versa. - motive can heighten or taint exchange, presence 
  • Provision - The host has an obligation to protect and provide security. In turn, the guest has an obligation not to harm the host. Provision of protection, physical and psychological 

It is important to note that hospitality is not just hospitable intent.

Leed, 1991: https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Traveler-Eric-J-Leed/dp/0465046215

Hepple, Kipps, & Thompson (1990) : - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1096348009338675
From host to guest away from home, interactive, tangible and intangible, where the host provides security and psychological and physical comfort

Heal, 1990: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/hospitality-in-early-modern-england-9780198217633?lang=3n&cc=bd

Reuland (1985): https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0278431985900519?via%3Dihub
An exchange process, with one-way transaction involving products, employee behaviors, and the environment

Hillier & Hanson, 1984: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/social-logic-of-space/6B0A078C79A74F0CC615ACD8B250A985

Cassee (1983) and Others
A harmonized mix of the tangible and intangible: food, beverage, bed, ambiance, environment, and staff behavior

Burgess (1982)
Classified as private, public, or institutional, with social or economic motives

Reuland (1982)
An exchange process, with one-way transaction involving products, employee behaviors, and the environment


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Jeff Frick
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Menlo Creek Media

Jeff Frick has helped literally tens of thousands of executives share their stories. In his latest show, Work 20XX, Jeff is sharpening the focus on the future of work, and all that it entails.