Navigating The Future of Work: From Generational Shifts to Technological Innovations

Insightful Workspace Summit Advisory Board hybrid meeting sets the stage for June event

The annual meeting of the Workspace Summit Advisory Board took place on Thursday, March 7th, in Dubai Design District, setting the stage for the much-anticipated Workspace Summit, scheduled from June 4-6 at the Dubai World Trade Center. The meeting, hosted by dmg events and global furniture manufacturer Haworth, took place in a hybrid format, which brought together leading professionals from HR, corporate real estate, interior design and fit-out, to discuss what’s currently shaping the workplace environment across the region.

The Advisory Board, comprised of experts, included: Iain Hird from HSBC, Savas Cizmeci from Microsoft, Marcela Munoz from Gensler, Marina Mrdjen of Intelier as the chairperson of the Summit, Stuart Allen from AAID, Allon Van Den Bergh from CBRE, Chris Barnes of Broadway Interiors, Pallavi Dean of Roar, Emma Davies from Evolve People Network, Darren Taylor from INC Solutions, Scott Armstrong from Mentl, and Rita Estephan of Motif Interiors, dedicated their collective knowledge and insights towards enhancing the forthcoming Workspace Summit.

The members engaged in in-depth discussions on current trends, key challenges, and the changing workplace dynamics that influence the industry today. The advisory board’s dialogue centred around the critical insights and positive outcomes from last year’s conference, aiming to elevate the overall experience for speakers and attendees at this year’s summit.

“The Workspace Summit is a vital platform for extensive dialogue among various industry professionals, offering a unique opportunity to address current trends and challenges. The board members made some insightful suggestions, including creating more engaging and educational content for young interior designers and discussing technology in depth,” explained Shuchita Gupta, Senior Conference Manager at dmg events.

In light of last year’s success, the Advisory Board further pinpointed key enhancements for the forthcoming Workspace Summit. Last year’s panels, particularly those addressing mental health and wellbeing, received high reviews. This year’s event will see a refined exhibitor arrangement, creating a seamless flow and connectivity within the exhibition space. Furthermore, the exhibit will extend into the realms of technology and AI, adopting a ‘tech-first’ mentality to align with
themes of employee wellbeing.

“Addressing the post-pandemic shift in workplace dynamics, the summit will delve into re-engaging staff with office life, tackling change management, and the psychological aspects shaping the modern workspace. Additionally, some of the topics that we will be addressing also include the challenges of managing four generations in the workplace, the nuances of hybrid working in the Middle East compared to the rest of the world,” said Marina Mrdjen, founder of Intelier and a chairperson of the Workspace Summit.

The board’s discussions were instrumental in identifying ways to integrate these trends into the agenda, ensuring it remains a relevant event for all participants.

Meet Advisory Board members

Iain Hird, HSBC
A globally experienced Corporate manager, Iain has worked in Real Estate and Workplace for almost two decades. Much of this time has been spent in the Financial Services sector, working with Lehman Brothers, Nomura, and HSBC. He has held roles on both the client and consultant sides, delivering complex, large-scale projects, leading change, and working with senior leadership to develop strategy. In his current role Iain is responsible for Workspace and Capital Management for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, with a focus on design and experience. As a client, Hird noted that understanding an organisation’s WHY and data is crucial before thinking about workspace spaces from an interior design perspective. He said:

“Delivering a space that meets people’s needs requires an understanding of where and how they work, what they do, and what they need from their workplace.” Stuart Allen, AAID

Bringing over a decade of experience in the Middle East, Stuart has specialised in commercial and hospitality projects, earning a stellar reputation in the market. Stuart’s track record includes opening offices across the UAE, KSA, and Doha, showcasing the trust these blue-chip clients place in his capabilities. As a pioneer in commercial and hospitality design, Stuart, Managing Director at AAID, continues leading his team and clients to new heights through collaborative design processes and attention to detail.

With multiple governmental projects across the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Allen said that the public sector is driving the change in the workplace. “We see more drive and more initiative from governmental projects to take the lead, almost competing against each other as to how far they can take innovation and workplace strategies,” he explained.

Chris Barnes, Broadway Interiors
In the dynamic realm of the Middle East’s interior design, Chris Barnes stands out as a formidable figure. As the founder of Broadway Interiors, he marks a significant milestone next year – celebrating 25 years of shaping spaces in Dubai. The creative force behind Broadway’s success, Chris won Index, Interior Design Leader of the Year 2022. Additionally, his consistent presence in the Power 50 and repeated nominations for Interior Designer of the Year cement his status in the industry. Moreover, Barnes revealed that his Broadway team will design the Summit’s forum, which will allow visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the topics at hand and the latest office trends.

“The Summit has always been a great forum for the exchange of ideas. I just hope it reflects the workspace a little more, which is what Broadway Interiors will do for this year’s Workspace Summit,” he added.

Marcela Munoz, Gensler
With a background encompassing interior and exhibition design and visual merchandising, Munoz brings a multi faceted approach to her work, allowing her to deliver creative, award-winning design solutions successfully. With ten years experience in hospitality, commercial and residential projects and exhibition design, she has proven performance in concept, schematic design, and design development, making her a great asset to Gensler Middle East’s Workspace Studio. During the meeting, Munoz highlighted that some clients do not fully understand the value of workplace consultancy and often do not dedicate sufficient time to working with consultants before progressing to the design stages. She added,

“A predominant issue in this region is bringing everyone back to the office. The persisting challenge, however, lies in convincing them of the benefits.”

Marina Mrdjen, Intelier and the chairperson of the Workspace Summit
As a founder of Intelier, a Dubai-based marketing agency for the construction, architecture and interior design industries, Marina’s career spans more than 20 years in digital, social and traditional media, as well as in the B2B marketing and communications. She has successfully organised multiple design conferences and events in Dubai, presented gala awards events, and moderated panel discussions and roundtables, regularly collaborating with key interior designers, architects and brands in the region and globally.

“It’s my third year chairing the Workspace Summit, and each year we continue to improve the platform of dialogue, and exchange of ideas, but we always hope that such discussion can lead to more tangible changes in the workspace. As a result of our meeting, we’ve heard a lot of great ideas for improving the Summit. We hope that everything we discussed will be implemented, including a very interesting forum design,” she said and added that Intelier will be this year’s Summit media partner.

Darren Taylor | INC Solutions
Darren is the Global Head of Accounts and Strategy for INC, a market leader in the design-and-build industry. He is also responsible for providing insight on complex issues, such as the workplace of the future, technology, and innovation, as well as the company’s drive towards sustainability. While addressing current workplace challenges, Taylor also delved into generational issues, spanning from Baby Boomers and Millennials to Generation Z, highlighting that by 2030, Generation Z is projected to comprise 30% of the workforce. He commented:

“We’ve got four generations working in the same building simultaneously. How do we fit the workspace for each generation so they can co-exist and be productive and creative simultaneously?”

Pallavi Dean, Roar
Pallavi plays at the intersection of design and entrepreneurship, she founded her design firm Roar in 2013. A trained architect and sustainability specialist, she has won multiple awards for work across various sectors, including commercial, hospitality and residential. Her work has been profiled in some of the world’s leading international media including the Financial times, the BBC, Monocle , Wallpaper and the Architectural Digest. She was named Architectural Digest Middle East designer of the year in 2020 and Designer of the year globally by Interior Design Magazine in the 2021.

Savas Cizmeci, Microsoft
Savas is heading Real Estate operations for Microsoft’s real estate portfolio in the Middle East since June 2021. He is responsible for delivering the full life cycle of real estate activities (plan, design, build/lease, operate, maintain). Savas has 15 years’ work experience in construction, project management & real estate portfolio management in the emerging and developed markets of Middle East, Africa, Russia, and Turkey. He has shown leadership skills to execute diverse portfolio management which includes offices, branches and data centres equalling to 1MM sqft area. Savas contributed Citi’s ESG agenda by certifying 12 premises with LEED.

Tim Martin, Gensler
Tim does not believe in a ‘factory’ of design but rather collaborating, providing winning solutions, and helping his clients achieve synergy between culture and brand with the ultimate aim of augmenting overall business success. With an established set of technical and business skills, Tim focuses on oversight of multi-disciplinary design projects including hospitality, workplace, retail, and residential.

Allon Van Den Bergh, CBRE
Allon is vice president for CBRE GWS Europe and a board member for the CBRE KSA business. He has over 25 years’ experience in various leadership positions in real estate advisory, services and occupier enterprises, in both mature and emerging markets across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Emma Davies, Evolve People Network
With an impressive background spanning FMCG, construction, real estate, investment banking, retail, automotive, healthcare, and education, Emma brings a wealth of experience to the table. Emma’s expertise as a strategic and operational HR leader has driven transformative change across multibillion-dollar organisations, emphasizing people development initiatives and cultural shifts.

Rita Estephan, Motif Interiors
Rita Estephan is the chief operating officer and a leading force behind Motif Interior’s design and build projects. With her extensive experience and leadership in design, Rita has overseen the successful completion of over 800 projects at Motif Interiors. Holding a master’s degree in Interior Architecture from Holy Spirit University of Kaslik USEK, she’s a true expert in her field.

Scott Armstrong, Mentl
Scott Armstrong is CEO and founder of mentl, a new platform aimed at tackling the stigma of mental health head on. He believes that the future of work is empathetic and empowering. An award-winning journalist and communications strategist, Scott has been a storyteller for more than three decades, heading up titles such as Arabian Business and Times of Oman as editor-in-chief, and holding roles at the UAE’s The National as well as a number of UK titles.

For more information about the Workspace Summit and to register your interest, please visit