Posts tagged office of the future
The Convivial Workplace: What Your Office Could Look Like In 2035

In 20 years, the typical workplace may look less like “The Office” and more like your own living room.

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Today’s offices are noticeably different from a decade ago. Many companies have jettisoned corner offices and tightly packed cubicles in favor of open floor plans. At the same time, more employees are choosing to work from home. But both trends have limitations: The former has been shown to hinder workplace productivity, while the latter can stifle collaboration.

It’s up to the office of the future to fix these issues, says Steve Gale, London head of workplace strategy at M Moser Associates, a Hong Kong-based architecture firm specializing in designing and building offices for global businesses. Gale has a solution he calls the “convivial workplace,” an office that promotes social interaction between employees. When workers socialize, Gale told The Huffington Post, they begin to swap ideas and develop a greater sense of shared purpose.

“The only reason left for going in to work is to interact with other people,” said Gale, pointing out that technology gives most office workers access to the tools they need to do their job from the comfort of home. “But people need to [meet face to face] for a multitude of reasons. And that, I think, is one of the biggest issues we need to address over the next 20 years.”

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Jeanne Meister, a workplace expert and co-author of a book on corporate innovations, notes that progressive tech companies like Google and Facebook use workspaces as a way to establish a corporate identity, more than as a place to get work done. “Space needs to communicate the culture as a way to attract the right employee,” she told HuffPost, adding that flexible working conditions are a key determining factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

“At the end of the day, millennials don’t want to go to a place to do work. They are more interested in having an experience.” said Meister, who envisions a future office space that resembles a living room or even a bar.

“When you want to do the boring stuff like making phone calls, you can do that anywhere,“ Gale said. “But businesses will say, ‘Guys when you come to work, wouldn’t it be nice if you really looked forward to it? And you knew it was going to be entertaining, stimulating, engaging?’”

Experts we spoke to agreed that workplace amenities such as in-house cooks, gyms and health care will become more important than ever. But while Facebook and other companies may already provide some of these perks, few have truly adopted the full change in perspective that Meister and Gale expect to see in the coming years. 

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For example, Gale pointed out, most offices already have common areas where employees can socialize. “But it hasn’t got the ambience that’s actually truly social,” he said. “It’s a wipe-down place that’s a bit echoey. People will use it if there’s nowhere else to go, but it’s not part and parcel of your daily work routine. That’s the shift in the center of gravity to a different way of thinking and working.”

Whatever the workplace of the future turns out to be, it sounds like it’ll be an improvement. Twenty years from now, workers may reflect on the offices of 2015 as “dark satanic mills,” Gale said. “There’s no doubt about it. [They’ll say] ‘did you actually get up in the morning, commute for an hour and half, sit there and then go home again? You’re nuts!’” he added.

“Everyone wants to be open and wants to be collaborative, but when you really do the research, a lot of workers are struggling with being effective and productive in totally open workspaces,” said Meister, digging at modern-day office setups. “How do you enable collaboration without sacrificing a worker’s ability to really focus on the job at hand?”

Originally published on The Huffington Post, February 2015.

8 Secrets of the Modern Workplace

imageTaking down the cubicle walls isn’t enough anymore. Retaining talent now also requires quiet places, work-from-home-flexibility, and an eye on the bottom line, according to panelists at Bisnow’s NY Office of the Future event, held Thursday, June 12.

1) Employees Should Be as Happy as Pharrell Williams

WeWork is one of the office sector’s most innovative players, but co-founder Miguel KcKelvery says the company wasn’t founded to create futuristic office; it was founded for the here and now. The idea was to create a place for companies trying to start something new for the world, companies that could use a spark. Folks working nonstop like that, he says, need to be empowered by their workspace and feel happy when there.

2) Cult of Equality

By the end of the year, 9,000 of Credit Suisse’s 50,000 employees will be working in open workspaces, says Americas Head of Workplace Strategy Phil Kirschner. No exceptions will be made for managers at any level - if you want a corner office, you better bring a protractor and some tape.

CBRE Managing Director of Workplace Strategiy Lenny says companies spend 75% of their capital on people, so a good workplace can’t be about just efficiency; it has to consider the employees. CBRE’s own Workplace 360 program has already converted 18 of its offices, including its LA HQ, into open spaces with no assigned desks, even for the CEO. Ten years ago, Bloomberg took the bold step to put all employees on trading desks, says Global Head of Real Estate & Facilities Lauren Smith. It was a cultural strategy, she adds, not motivated by real estate.

Culture as a workplace factor is a simple concept but far from mainstream. Moderator, Macro Consultants’ Michael Glatt, did a recent change-management presentation for a 10M SF client that didn’t have an HR rep involved in the process.

3) Working from Home Is a Reality

Considering employees are required to work from anywhere at any time, remote working is a logistical necessity, says Lauren. But Bloomberg also believes it’s important for each employee to have his or her own space, a “home” to come back to. JetBlue Corporate Real Estate VP Richard Smyth says 95% of the company’s Salt Lake City call center employees work from home. The company’s LIC HQs (two-and-a-half years old) offers open, collaborative space with no exterior offices and few interior ones. For all that the company demands of its employees, giving them the ability to work from home makes sense, he notes.

4) Amenities Matter

For the young employees at Twitter, the workplace is their life, says the company’s Facilities Project Manager Rowen Ash. They don’t leave for lunch. Instead, they take their laptops somewhere else in the office to eat and work in a more social environment. For this younger generation, their coworkers are their friends, blending work life with social life. The workplace, then, is like an extension of the college dorms. Twitter takes pains to make the office a pleasant place to work and socialize.

5) Flexible Workplaces Are Long-Term Hedges

Recruitment plays a part in real estate decisions, but corporations do not know for certain what environment employees of the future will find most productive. Consider a company that signs a 10-year lease today. The entry-level employees it will be recruiting by the end of that term are in 8th grade right now. Flexibility means more than just open workspaces, Lenny says. Employees need a place to work solo when they need to concentrate. Without that option, workplace satisfaction drops. Bloomberg made the mistake of going too dense, Lauren says, with 100 SF per person. What she hears from new recruits is that they want the choice of both open and private spaces.

6) Change Is Inevitable

An office in a rectangular, steel building used to signal that a company had arrived, says Colliers Tri-State Region President Michael Cohen. Now, Sony is moving into an 80-year-old Flatiron property that was built for Rose & Rose Actuaries. He cautions that as conversions to office continue and SF per person ratios compress, landlords should be aware of their certificates of occupancy.

7) Experimentation Is the First Step

Sony is completely rethinking its workplace strategy in advance of its early 2016 relocation, says Facilities Project Manager Jennifer Fordham. That includes reducing space by half while increasing amenities and maintaining the same number of employees. GSA Planning & Design Quality Director Mina Wright, who works under tight budget scrutiny, advises those who want to try a new format should pilot-test it, even if on a small scale. Move into closer quarters, and have executives push their desks together. When the benefit is proven, it can be rolled out more broadly. Director of Workplace at Perkins+Will Rachel Casanova agrees, pointing out that design is an art, not a science. She add that designers should not be afraid to test and refine their work. Avison Young Tri-State Region President Arthur Mirante notes that most companies love turnkey office space nowadays for the blank slate it offers.

8) Neighborhood Is Key

RXR Realty’s Bill Elder says the right environment will guarantee a building is a winner, regardless of submarket. David points out that hip locations like RXR’s Starrett-Lehigh Building or others near the High Line often trump proximity to transit. Meanwhile, Philippe Visser of Related is counting on the combination of Hudson Yards’ retail (three times as much as at Time Warner Center) amid millions of SF of office to attract tenants.

Adapted from Bisnow, originally published June 16, 2014.