No. 1 office trend in commercial real estate: identifying your culture

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Earlier this week, JLL’s office tenant representation specialist Matthew Coxhead participated in an Arizona Tech Council Lunch & Learn panel discussing office trends in commercial real estate. Hosted at the Zenefits office in Downtown Tempe, Matthew was joined by:

  • Josh Thompson, Project Manager at Ware Malcomb
  • Aliesha Nichter, New Business Development Manager at Haworth
  • Matthew Blair, President at Immedia Integrated Technologies

As each of the panelists discussed the trends they were seeing in their respective fields, one trend became overwhelmingly clear: it is important for companies to identify their culture in the real estate process. The culture of a company can help inform a variety of decisions including what area in a city to locate an office, what type of furniture to use in an office, and even what type of audio/visual equipment needed in the office.

Using culture to define how much space you need

Matthew Coxhead’s perspective of the discussion focused on using culture to identify what stage of growth a company is in and determining how much space is needed. As a company grows, the typical stages it moves through change the type of real estate needed:

  • Emerging companies usual choose to operate in a coworking environment where costs can be minimal.
  • Growing companies often consider sublease space that offers short-term flexibility.
  • Companies growing into maturity consider direct leasing where spaces of dreams can be built, sometimes considering a building purchase to have full control over space.

Whatever the stage, there are many options for building out a workspace and this is where knowing your culture is extremely important.

  • Is your company culture all about transparency? If so, you might consider an open office floor plan with no private offices so C-suite executives are sitting right next to other employees.
  • Does you culture encourage collaboration? If so, you may want your office space to include casual areas for employees to gather.
  • Do many of your employees work remotely, needing to pop in and out of the office occasionally? If so, you may consider a full mobility plan with unassigned workstations throughout your space.

Each type of floor plan determines the total amount of square footage needed. Knowing the type of build out right for you at the beginning of the real estate process can help narrow down your office options.

Using culture to determine what additional spaces are important

According to Josh Thompson, there is a growing trend to provide non-working areas for employees to enjoy at the office. These may include:

  • Lounges and gamming areas
  • In-office coffee shops or bars
  • Indoor/outdoor combination areas
  • Fitness and wellness areas

These “beyond the workspace” areas are all influenced by a company’s culture. Executives are identifying amenities that are important to their employees and are building them into the spaces. Offering these areas can boost employee productivity and wellness, but only when the areas reinforce the culture. A company who entertains a lot could benefit from an in-office bar area but it wouldn’t be a right decision for a very conservative company where enjoying an alcoholic beverage at the office would never be considered acceptable.

Using culture to plan your furniture purchase

Aliesha Nichter discussed the importance of culture in drilling down to the type of furniture used in an office space. According to Aliesha, it’s important to identify how each team of employees work and what they will use. A marketing team who needs to be able to quickly huddle and collaborate could probably benefit from an open desking area without any partitions but that may not be the best option for your accounting department employees who need quieter places to focus and need storage.

In Aliesha’s world, flexibility is key in solving for a company’s furniture needs. What works for a company today may not work in ten years when the company has grown, but there are ways to plan for that.

  • Raised floors provide technology flexibility which allow companies to move workstations around as needed
  • Moveable walls can ensure a conference room to be easily turned into more open space for workstations
  • Adaptable furniture can do just that, adapt to fit an employee’s needs

When used and planned right, furniture can be a valuable investment that provides great return in employee productivity.

Using culture to identify what technology is needed

Last, but not least, Matthew Blair discussed how culture can help identify the level of technology needed in an office space. According to Matthew, technology investment can go from a Kia to a Ferrari budget in a second but finding the right fit is achieved when a company identifies the functionalities most important to them.

If collaboration is key, a company may consider wireless screen sharing with no user interfaces so employees and clients can share with the touch of a finger to their phone. If face-to-face interaction is valued, a company may want to invest in cloud-based video conferencing where out-of-office employees can easily communicate with those in the office.

Cost of technology can often shock companies but it’s important to know that you may not need the entire spectrum when just a few key functionalities will do.

Planning is also key

Beyond culture, a key trend discussed by all panelists was the importance of planning and bringing all players together at the beginning of the real estate process. When this is done, the players can work with each other to determine the best solutions for the client, ensuring holistic success to your office space and budget.

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