Creative Office Isn't What You Think It Is
Creative offices mean more than being trendy. They’re about giving employees a reason to stay. Talking with people who know how to do that is why we're excited about Bisnow’s Austin Office of the Future event on Feb. 26 (7:30am start) at the Hyatt Regency Austin. (Sign up today!)
In Austin, both older buildings and traditional office buildings are being transformed into cool places to work, says HPI managing director Jeff Pace (here, in a family selfie). The idea is to reinforce the company culture and set a distinct mood and tone for the office, Jeff says: “This type of inspiring environment can stimulate creativity, especially with the younger employees who like the edgier work environment.”
Tenants are looking for a more open floor plan, with additional rooms and private spaces created for breakout sessions or relaxation, Jeff says. The same goes for bright colors with a lot of natural light and even props in the office (look closely and you'll see View-Masters on the tables). Jeff says having an architect who understands your company’s vision can help find simple ways to modernize the office (even on a budget), even if it’s just getting rid of the Sheetrock to expose brick or pulling out the ceiling tiles.
An open environment also means more people per square foot, Jeff says--bringing a lower occupancy cost. One of Jeff’s clients, RetailMeNot, offices in 301 Congress (an '80s vintage building downtown) and transformed the space, including a barista, juice bar and meals brought in for staff daily. One of his favorite features in the RMN offices is the tailgating section. Complete with a cooler loaded with adult beverages. (When Jeff isn’t at the office, he likes to enjoy the local music scene and hit the Longhorn athletic events.)
RetailMeNot global facilities director Jeanne McNeil has seen the company grow (as the fourth employee) from having no chairs in the office to now occupying 100k SF across five floors at 301 Congress. As the company grew (500 employees worldwide and 380 in Austin), Jeanne says the executive leadership wanted an open concept that would set the firm apart from other high-tech companies. When guests arrive at the office on the sixth floor, there is a barista serving a special blend of RetailMeNot branded coffee, leading to a two-story welcome area.
There’s a 3k SF patio on the side of the high-rise to work outdoors, relax or host a happy hour event, Jeanne tells us. It's the most outstanding feature of the office, she tells us. WiFi, lighting and a sound system are featured in the outdoor area, and the plants are maintained year round so something is always in bloom. On the next floor up is a fresh juice bar with daily deliveries from The Daily Juice. On the fourth floor, when the elevator doors open, there is a lifesize postcard with some of Austin's favorite spots to greet them.
RMN also caters lunch every day but Wednesday and breakfast on Mondays and Fridays. For late nights, the caterers can make them a to-go box for dinner, too. Even the CEO and legal team are in the middle of the open workspace. To offset the noise in large open areas, RMN gives every employee state-of-the-art headphones and there are one-man offices (with different themes, of course) that serve as phone rooms for privacy.
Avison Young principal Burke Kennedy (right, with CBRE VP Katie Ekstrom) sees more war rooms and meeting rooms to facilitate collaboration. Collaborative interactions can happen while you’re walking to the breakroom to get coffee or in a meeting room. Burke believes the creative environment is about providing a level of privacy and space for individuals to feel comfortable sharing information freely without 1,000 ears listening in, and without disturbing others.
Some other open office advice from Burke: Don’t put the sales team next to developers. You lose some creativity and collaboration if everyone is moving away from their desk to find a quiet room to concentrate. Away from the office, Burke has joined the board of directors for the Texas Advocacy Project, which provides free legal support for victims of domestic violence. To save your spot at Bisnow’s Austin Office of the Future event on Feb. 26, at the Hyatt Regency Austin, sign up here to also hear from Matthew Shampine at WeWork (one of their creative office spaces pictured.)