In response to the needs of an ever-changing workforce, employers are constantly monitoring and adapting to new workspace trends in order to attract and retain top talent. Millennials constitute a rapidly growing percentage of the workforce, and their preference towards active, collaborative work spaces is impacting the decisions that corporations must make as they consider future office space needs. A well-designed workspace is an investment that will help attract talent and keep workers engaged and inspired. The appropriate design solution will vary by company, as good design is not one-size fits all. It is the role of the design professional to help companies understand their needs and how their identity can be reinforced by their architecture and environment.
Below are some of the primary considerations as your company looks forward to moving into a space for the future.
New workspace models that emphasize flexibility in work hours and locations also have the potential of blurring the line between life and work. As employees juggle their commitments, they want to work in a central location and have convenient access to services and amenities. Hence, active and transit-friendly locations have become more popular. This can be seen in downtown locations as well as in the growing trend of office projects that are part of larger mixed-used developments. These developments, like Park Place in Leawood, Kan., and 1400 Wewatta in Denver, Colo., create pedestrian friendly communities and bring the amenities of urban locations to non-downtown sites.
A lot has been written about the growing trend of office downsizing. As shared (non-assigned) workspaces and telecommuting become more popular, office space requirements are shrinking. In 2010 the average office had 225 square feet per employee, compared to a projection of 151 square feet per employee for 2017. Space utilization is growing with rates reaching 80%, a big increase from the traditional 40% – 45% average. Does this mean that we will automatically see lease areas cut in half? Not necessarily, as some of the reductions in private work space are being offset by increased interest in shared collaboration areas and increased building amenities. The actual reductions will vary greatly based on company needs and culture.
Given these trends, the question arises: if we are getting smaller, why build new? There is a common perception that reduced space requirements will reduce the need for new office space. Existing space, however, is not always suited for new workspace models. Increasing employee density in an existing facility, for example, may not be feasible because of insufficient infrastructure, such as elevators, bathrooms, parking stalls, cooling loads, etc.
Openness and transparency are common and interrelated themes found in most descriptions of future workspaces. It is generally understood that the new generation of employees requires this kind of environment to be engaged, inspired and productive. We often see these ideas expressed through the lack of traditional cubicles, a reduction in private offices, increasingly open floor plates, extensive use of glass and a growing variety of collaborative shared spaces. There are additional opportunities to consider including higher ceilings for loft-like spaciousness as well as multi-story vertical spaces that allow for connectivity and easier collaboration across multiple floors.
Allowing employees to work where, when and how they want is a growing trend and one of the main reasons why companies are able to downsize their footprint. Not only can this result in space and cost savings, but it can also contribute to employees’ sense of engagement and commitment to the company. It has been reported that an employee allowed a flexible schedule will work harder in return and is less likely to look for a new job. According to a Princeton University report, “Among employees with high access to flexibility, 71% are very unlikely to try to find a new job in the coming year, compared with 61% of those with moderate access and 45% of those with low access.”
Beyond flexible work hours, companies are creating varied workspaces within their new offices, from collaboration areas of multiple layouts and sizes, to heads down areas that allow for focused work (and can be reserved just like a conference room). Rigid use spaces are on their way out, with conference rooms becoming multi-use spaces and reception areas being downsized or downright eliminated. Looking forward, companies should also evaluate the long term adaptability of their space. This may influence early decisions, such as deciding to build with longer structural spans to allow for more column free space.
In addition to the services and amenities that may be available by selecting the right project location, there is a growing trend of including extensive high-end amenities as part of an office or multi-use development. For more on this, please see our blog post on amenities.
Sustainability and Wellness
As sustainable design practices have become widely adopted and workspaces turned more earth-friendly, a new focus on wellness among employees is also emerging. Good design can contribute to employee wellness in endless ways, including the thoughtful incorporation of ample daylight and views, good acoustics, excellent air quality, and access to outdoor spaces and walking paths. Design ideas that encourage activity and movement are gaining traction, such as vertical connections being made through open and attractive stairs that invite regular usage. Comfort is also important, and since its measurement is highly subjective, the incorporation of personalized lighting and temperature controls is on the rise. To be competitive in the future, office space will offer well-lit, active and flexible spaces that will enhance the employee’s sense of wellbeing. Read our blog post on making healthy spaces to learn more about how we’ve incorporated wellness elements into some of our buildings.
At Opus, because we operate as a multidisciplinary team of experts from conception to completion of a project, we engage with you from the very early phases of your project to understand your needs and translate them into a building that will serve your organization’s goals and purpose. You’re not alone when tackling all of these office space considerations; our development, architecture and construction professionals are there with you, walking through each step.
Learn more about office considerations in our white paper – Design: A Perspective on Office Interiors for Today’s Workforce.