Gone are the rows upon rows of cubes and filing cabinets and the abundance of private offices. Today’s corporate office takes on the shape of an interactive, collaborative space.   The challenge that corporations, and those that deliver commercial real estate office space, are faced with includes accommodating as many as four different workforce generations in one building.  With the baby boomer generation readying to retire or phase out and the millennials at the beginning of their careers, there is a need to deliver space that is flexible enough to accommodate the shift in workplace preferences.  What should today’s commercial office space look and feel like?  A flexible design that incorporates moveable partitions and modular furniture allows for the private offices required by the baby boomers, whereas upon their retirement these systems can be moved to fulfill the open space and collaborative meeting areas deemed necessary by the millennials.

This is not a trend to ignore, with the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 – 1964) totaling about 76 million and the millennials (those born between 1980 – 2000) over 77 million, the multi-generational workspace demands will continue to redefine the country’s commercial real estate hardscape.  Add to that the increasing popularity of urban living among both generations, office deliverers and occupiers must conduct an analysis of their current space to take into account if it is a space that will continue to work for all of its occupants while attracting and retaining talent.

The goal is to create spaces that make work a better place for the employee or tenant.  This goes beyond a roof and four walls.  The millennial generation calls for more – a vibrant location, a short commute, amenities for everyone, multifunctional working/learning/social space, access to technology, and sustainability.  What happens when these so-called necessities are unobtainable?  What it comes down to says Jerry Jacquet, Principal of Meissner Jacquet, is that the work space “be an enjoyable environment that allow employees to be empowered and productive.”

Existing suburban office buildings must learn how to compete with urban locations.  When it’s impossible to offer walkability, easy access to mass transit, or a short commute, the emphasis can be placed on amenities.  By shifting the focus from private spaces to public areas, such as fitness centers, modern eateries, and designated outdoor gathering areas, employees feel that their wellness is valued.  A workforce with an increased feeling of value can translate into increased productivity.  Kevin Tagle, Meissner Jacquet’s Vice President, enlists the help of the company’s Employee Advisory Committee to reimagine a space within their office headquarters that is “inviting so that team members have an opportunity to collaborate in a relaxing atmosphere.”  The popularity of workstations with low or no wall dividers and glass inserts further enforces the collaborative, flexible feel and allows more natural light to infiltrate and be delivered to a larger amount of employees, versus to only those with offices located along exterior-facing walls.

Does this workplace trend call for more or less space?  Even though the workspace per capita is decreasing to give way to collaborative space, the overall occupancy of space remains the same.  This is good news for developers, property owners, and corporations who are looking to incorporate these realities into their current buildings and prospective developments.

Sources:

  • NAIOP Development Magazine Spring 2014:
    • The Next Generation of Corporate Offices
    • Back to the City: Déjà Vu All Over Again
    • Co-working Centers Revolutionize the Workplace
    • Eight Steps Toward More Functional Office Space