Corporate Users speakers

How are Corporate Users Changing Office Space Utilization?

Some generations are characterized as living to work (Baby Boomers) while others work to live (Gen X) or have blurred lines between work and life (Millennials). As the younger generations make up an ever-larger percentage of the U.S. workforce, how do their expectations shape which priorities take precedence in office space usage and amenities offered? What must a modern developer consider in terms of office space usage and amenities?

Our multi-disciplined panel at O.CON ’15 delving into evolving office space use: Rick Collins, President/SouthWest, Ryan Companies US, Inc.; Emily Allen, Director/Licensed Interior Designer, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini; Restor Johnson, Vice President-Real Estate Services, UnitedHealth Group; and Mark O’Donnell, Executive Vice President and Co-Brand Manager, Savills Studley.

Top trends driving workplace strategy:

  • Currently: to attract and motivate talent, manage cost, leverage brand, and optimize portfolio.
  • Near: embrace mobility, provide a variety of work spaces, enhance teamwork and collaboration, and increase density.
  • Far: increase portfolio flexibility, adapt to demographic changes (where we work, how we work), promote wellness, more sustainable design and operation.

Wellness features are increasingly factoring into office design, said Allen. She referred to the WELL Building Standard, described as “an evidence-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring the performance of building features that impact health and wellbeing,” saying it is to the occupants as LEED is to the environment.On average, Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors so it’s beneficial for everyone to make thoughtful office space decisions to create healthy, productive work environments by utilising companies like to add green, tranquil spaces.

Johnson described the new campus for Optum, a unit within the UnitedHealthcare Group in Minnetonka, Minnesota as efficient, flexible and humble – with phenomenal parking. The campus provides abundant wellness amenities including a fitness center, a cafeteria, two coffee shops and a clinic.

Flexibility is key, said Allen. The different generations “are a lot more similar than we would like to believe we are” in terms of what we need or want in office space. She noted a huge pendulum swing from having all employees in open, collaborative space to now also carving out private space for focused work or training.

O’Donnell said that an old standard old oil and gas floor typical floor plan would have 69 closed offices and 0 open workstations with 362 sf per employee seat. The new standard, meanwhile, is 104 open workstations with 1 closed office, and 201 sf per employee seat. This provides abundant collaboration space to encourage interacting, while providing privacy when needed.

It’s a complex algorithm to address optimal mobility, according to our panel.

It scares people to think about not having 1:1 assigned seating for employees, said O’Donnell. When there’s appropriate buy-in, however, a denser environment can generate more energy – and more productivity. Consulting firms have led the charge with having a flexible, adaptive approach to office use, he added, with employees not tied to the same office space every day but shifting around as required by their schedules and space availability.

With technology changes today, there are so many more ways to measure how employees are utilizing office space, said O’Donnell. Workplace strategists can observe where the people are throughout the day to make conscious choices about how to structure the space. Consultants can monitor badge swiping on an office campus to track who goes in or out of buildings and how many times a day. This can change how space is configured based on how often the spaces are used; someone who travels or has frequent meetings might only be in the office 40 percent of the time, while others are present 90-95 percent of the time.

A major takeaway from our panel: as office space use continues to evolve, flexibility – the ability to configure and reconfigure your space to reflect the changing business – and employee buy-in are essential factors to consider.

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