Emerging technology and changing preferences by the next generation of workers are driving a wholesale shift in the way people work. Employees are demanding new kinds of amenities, experiences and flexibility from their workplaces. With “place” being the operative word.
The next generation of workers is demanding more than just a cubical, break room, and coffee machine from their offices. They want to work in real places that facilitate community, connection, and wellness; that give them options on when, where, and with whom they can work. The impact of shifting preferences towards more walkable, amenity rich areas with lots of “3rd places” is not just isolated to the residential market, but is impacting the future of office space too.
Employees are Demanding More Flexibility
In a 2011 study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, they found that for the next generation of workers, personal development and work/life balance would be more important than financial reward. The most essential benefit they wanted from employers was personal learning and development, followed by flexible working arrangements, with the traditional benefit of cash bonuses coming in third. Further, 67% of respondents expected some level of flexible working arrangements at their future place of employment.
And flexible working is already here. A Forrester Research found in a June 2012 study that 56% of surveyed employees work outside the office regularly. The rise of flexible working speaks to a potential reduction in the amount of square feet per employee future tenants will need.
Will the growing demand for flexible off-site working arrangements combined with increasingly effective remote working technology doom the modern office building to irrelevance?
Hardly. But these changing currents will force building owners and managers to think differently about their facilities and services, especially their common areas. The most savvy owners, managers, and leasing agents will utilize a placemaking approach to capitalize on these shifts to create experiences and environments that make tenants actually want to come to work at the office every day.
Placemaking Common Areas as an Adaptive Approach to Changing Trends
While creating fun, flexible spaces is common within single user corporate campuses (Google-plex, Target Plaza, etc.) across the country, it’s rare to find these in multi-tenant buildings. The reasons are obvious, multi-tenant buildings are shared, often open to the public, and don’t have as much space for these amenities and experiences. That said, buildings of all types – class A, B, and C – often have relatively large indoor and outdoor common areas spaces that are used as little more than glorified hallways.
By utilizing a placemaking approach within these common areas, building owners and managers can create the sorts of experiences that tenants and their employees are craving without breaking the bank.
What is Placemaking?
Placemaking is a people-centered approach to improve the every-day experience of users in any given space; combining design, management, marketing, and events to do so. Placemaking is also an ongoing and iterative process that utilizes loops of affordable, small-scale experiments and feedback loops. This approach allows owners and managers to try new concepts without breaking down a wall (or the bank) and being able to involve the tenants in the process. The latter creates a sense of ownership over the space by tenants, increasing their usage of the space and retention within the building when their lease is up for renewal.
Musicant Group Project Examples and Results
The first of note is 333 S. 7th Street, formally known as the Accenture tower, which is managed and leased by CBRE. The building has an attractive outdoor lawn/common area. Prior to 2014, that space was not creating much value for tenants (and thus building ownership), as no one was using it. In the summer of 2014 The Musicant Group was retained to launch the “333 Turf Club” was launched, an activation strategy that added new furniture, games, and activities to the space. Post project evaluation found that:
The Musicant Group utilizes the new physical features to produce regular events, installations, and programs for tenants and guests. These new physical features and amenities create a dynamic experience for tenants and guests to get away from the office, while still being productive; a space for connections, creating, and collaboration. The renovation represents the largest move yet within the regional market to capitalize on aforementioned trends. While only open a few weeks, the space is already full of creative events, tenants having meetings, eating lunch, and working on laptops.
As the office market continues to evolve, these projects will likely prove to be just the tip of the iceberg as the next evolution of the workplace emerges. Stay tuned!
This article was written by Max Musicant, Principal and Founder of The Musicant Group and originally printed by the Building Owners and Management Association of Minneapolis.
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