Commercial office spaces has seen huge changes in recent years and the changes look like they are set to continue. Businesses need to follow and adapt to any trends within their chosen market and the ever-changing demands of their client base: so it is, too, with the spaces it all happens in. By examining emerging trends, progress in sustainability efforts, and upcoming amenities, we can continue to create newer models of what the perfect office space should be.
Emerging trends in commercial real estate shows us how far office space has progressed.
The move toward what is called the “open plan” office design really took root several decades ago. Incredible to believe now, but at the time there was a very real opposition to the concept of working in a communal area. People liked the security of ‘their own’ unshared area, and they did not like the idea of their bosses being able to see at a sweeping glance who was working hard, who was taking a break, who was relying on others’ input, and so on.
Now of course we appreciate the space, the “water-cooler” culture of being able to share ideas and solve problems collaboratively, and, not least, being able to appreciate the modern design and architecture of our working space. Work is no longer the silent, secretive thing that it used to be, and productivity and creativity is up as a direct result. Designing an open plan space is a basic key to success.
Then we have hot-desking. This is a technology-facilitated development that builds on from the provision of open spaces. With ‘paperwork’ (remember overflowing ‘in/out’ trays?) now no longer so much a feature of the worker’s own desk, employees can move around and work in any space they prefer. As long as there’s wifi, there’s productivity and interaction, and it’s great in the more temperate months to take your ‘desk’ outside!
Formal meeting rooms do still exist. However, more and more now, meetings are far less formal and have even taken on a bit of a ‘pop-up’ style. “Oh look, while we’re all here, why don’t we get our heads together on how to take this project forward?” Open spaces are, once again, key to this happening. Basically, “open plan” has now come to incorporate the concept of accessing a “common space”. Sometimes these common spaces might have a designated use or purpose, and it these instances they become “functional spaces”.
Conference room in a Workstyle space at 1322 Space Park Dr, Houston, TX.
More and more, perhaps rather counter-intuitively given our focus so far, these functional spaces need to have walls put around them, and then they become “functional buildings”! If your employees’ lifestyle needs and choices are catered for within the company’s complex/campus then he or she is going to be happier and will spend longer at work. Even in the gym, restaurant, café, or library – spaces hitherto separate from work – workers are going to be networking rather than just simply socializing.
Finally in regard to this introductory overview, any business’s attempts to be “green” are going to impact design. And it’s not because “sustainability” happens to be a statement in a firm’s business development plan. The millennial generation are going to be put off any environment that does not have the right environmental credentials.
Sustainability in Office Design
Sustainability and “green” offices are becoming a major topic in today’s commercial real estate.
It’s an exciting time right now to be focusing on how business spaces can contribute to making the country greener. As you might expect a great deal of the impetus regarding environmental building comes from central government. Statistics are clear on this, and as they are government-based there are plenty of them! It’s estimated that by 2018, 50% of office buildings will have “green features”. That might not sound so great (only half?) until you think deeper: think about all the areas densely-packed with old, historical buildings, not to mention the newer ones that just didn’t take the environment into consideration.
Since 2000, greener offices will reward the company with LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), but it’s not just about certificates. The brightest young minds are going to want to work in environmentally-low-impact buildings. Rooftop planting, wind turbines, solar paneling (all of which are visible) are going to attract forward-thinking, passionate employees. Environment has to be part of your mission statement.
Over two years ago, with these concerns in mind, we introduced “BEST” (Boxer Energy and Sustainability Tracking) and the tracking and reporting that’s been done confirms that there are huge financial, as well as green, incentives for modifications to existing practice such as lighting retrofits, the renegotiation of utility contracts, capacitor bank installation to improve power factor adjustments, the list goes on both from an infrastructure angle and with regard to strategy and project management (Boxer Property, 2016).
The EPA predict that by 2035, 75% of all buildings will be new or environmentally green. No company wants to be left behind, either morally, ethically, or strategically.
Office space of the future: it’s all about you
Today’s office spaces cater to tenant’s various lifestyles with never before seen amenities.
It’s an exciting time to be planning a new building. There’s almost nothing an architect would baulk at in terms of requests a company could make. We are now getting used to seeing gyms and fitness centers incorporated within commercial buildings. There was a time when jobs would be advertized that would promise a “laptop” or an “ipod” as part of their program of perks! Now, millennials (and lots of “oldies” too) want crèches, dog-friendly spaces, sushi bars, even dry-cleaning equipment.
In fact these lifestyle elements are now considered much more important than the specific organization of the desks and internal walls! Just as in school everyone has a different “learning style”, so at work these same people perform better in different spaces. An open plan area might suit a kinaesthetic-oriented employee, where a comfy little “nook” would be much more enticing to a one with a more introverted, studious approach.
You could say that a lot of these changes have been brought about through development in HR training! In the sense that there has been a lot of pressure on firms to address issues such as work-life balance. This is no longer just a generic add-on policy but an embedded way of thinking. People need to be happy at work. The intensive approach, or we could call it a mentality, of “living to work” was proved unconducive to overall health and output. But it has not been a pendulum move toward “working to live” either thank goodness. No, what we now have is the recognition that living and working are not mutually exclusive pursuits, and the modern commercial spaces make provision for this overlap.
Overall, then, the answer appears to be that of “choice”. The modern, generation Y worker envisages a career within a company that provides the spaces and the facilities that will allow him or her to thrive on site, working and playing hard, after traditional office hours have finished. However when it comes to “building green”, there is only one choice. Employees, stakeholders, government agencies, and even the international community, require you to design and build in a sustainable manner.