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  • Brian Vanneman

Where We Work – The Changing Face of Office Space

The last decade has seen dramatic changes in consumer preferences for housing and retail, changes that have received plenty of coverage in print and online. Though often less visible, office space is changing significantly too. And the changes in how and where we work have significant implications for corporate tenants, developers, and cities trying to understand the future of their downtowns and neighborhoods.

Drivers of Change Based on work conducted by Leland Consulting Group on behalf of clients, and our review of industry trends, some of the drivers of change in office space include:

• Mobile work, anytime, anywhere. New technology, including smart phones, laptops, wireless internet, and cloud-based computing offer the potential for employees to work effectively from many locations, including the office as well as home and coffee shops.

• Cost pressure. During the recession, most companies and public agencies began looking at office real estate as a potential area where costs could be trimmed.

• More collaboration, flatter organizations. Employees are now collaborating more with staff located in different time zones and different continents. In addition, as employees are increasingly able to do work in multiple locations, the office increasingly becomes the place for interpersonal collaboration, including space for workshops, impromptu brainstorming sessions, and even games. Also, many organizations have become “flatter,” with executives sitting with the rest of the staff rather than in a corner office.

• Environmental values. Companies and public agencies are increasingly looking for ways to express their environmental values through green building design and operation, including LEED and other systems.

The New Office Tech and start-up office spaces embody the new workplace aesthetic, including brighter colors, and an “open office” floor plan in which high, grey cube walls come down and are replaced by spaces where people can easily see and talk with their coworkers. Far lower cube walls also allow significantly more light to penetrate office interiors. Some additional workplace changes include:

• Less total office area. As open floor plans become more popular, and working away from the desk becomes more commonplace, the amount of desk space assigned to individuals shrinks. This (along with the high vacancies in many markets) points to a decreasing amount of demand for major new office development in many markets. In some cases, the amount of space occupied can be cut by 30 to 50 percent. This can often be accompanied by a dramatic cut in real estate expenditures.

• Less personal space, more collaborative space. While personal office space is diminishing, space planners are looking to include spaces that allow for a range of scheduled and unscheduled interactions to occur—from conference rooms to coffee nooks.

• Making the office irresistible. While this may sound like a stretcher, making the workplace more enjoyable is a goal for many organizations, which are competing for the best and brightest employees, and attempting to increase morale and collaboration in the office. This has led some organizations to introduce restaurants and cafeterias, outdoor sports fields, and indoor game rooms.

• RE + IT + HR. The new workplace calls for the close collaboration of real estate, information technology, and human resources staff, and significant investments in IT. More mobility only works when employees have the right technology at their disposal (e.g., secure servers and videoconferencing) and receive the training to manage the interpersonal dynamics of the new workplace.

For more information about modern workplace trends, please get in touch with Brian Vanneman at 503-222-1600 or

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