What You Need to Know About the New Office Paradigm
The new creative office is more than walls, floors and ceilings. It’s about more than making a living in a cool space. It’s about environments that help people make a life, says WeWork EVP Luca Gualco. That's why we're excited to hear more from Luca and other experts at Bisnow’s Boston Office of the Future event on May 28, starting at 7:30am at the Boston Sheraton.
People rent space at WeWork offices in South Station and Fort Point to build a community and relationships as they build their business. Of course, WeWork provides all the amenities of today’s open plan offices: desks, expansive sight lines, quiet places for heads-down work and a library. There are plenty of common areas furnished with tables and leather couches; play stations, ping pong and foosball. At the community bar—open 24/7 with free coffee and beer—members (please don’t call them tenants although they rent their space) can peruse a daily menu of events that aim to bring WeWork members closer to each other and to infuse their energy into the outside community, Luca tells us.
In addition to networking and events, WeWork tries to transmit energy to its members by celebrating the successes of their businesses. When growing firms can expand right there, it makes the WeWork community “more meaningful”, Luca says. Of its 25,000 members worldwide, 65% have grown in place, he tells us. Boston, where the 5-year-old company has nearly 3,000 members, is an important place for the company to have a foothold. It’s a center of innovation, thanks in some measure to the area's profusion of colleges and universities. The Hub is undergoing the transition from a corporate-dominated economy to a more entrepreneurial one and WeWork settled in an “emerging” neighborhood to help shape the city’s new countenance.
All types of tenants, from small tech startups to big corporate users, want the space they lease to boost the productivity of the staff and help attract top talent, says Rubenstein Partners director Deke Schultze, a panelist at our event. Now that technology has unchained employees from workstations, they often come into the office for the type of tasks that call for collaboration, says Deke (above at Rubenstein’s Centerpoint Office Park in Waltham near the Watertown line). The staff needs space that allows them to huddle with colleagues, easily, quickly and frequently. Their bosses want them to live in the office and therefore demand from landlords like Rubenstein access to mass transit and a full palate of amenities with urban flair.
As an investor, Deke looks for buildings that can be redeveloped into an open plan layout with exposed mechanicals (above interior is at Rubenstein’s 495 Business Center in Tewksbury near Rte 495). Assets that just a few years ago were considered Class-A may no longer rate so high. They may need an investor like Rubenstein to come in and do a capital intensive overhaul: rip out enclosed perimeter offices, tear out the drywall, pull down the ceiling and install more robust technology. That’s fine for Deke; it spells opportunity.
For assets to acquire, Deke says one place to be is the infill band between downtown Boston and Rte 128 that once was a hotspot for manufacturing, light industrial and R&D, not historically an office node. A top consideration for him: residential and retail are abundant or being developed. For big corporate users, farther out locations and properties can work, including Rte 495. They offer value conscious tenants more savings given the significantly higher rents of closer-in addresses. When he finds an expansive property at the right price, he can invest to differentiate the asset, e.g. on-campus retail-style amenities like those found in urban environments.
Many tenants are looking for offices that maximize open space, minimize columns and provide access to daylight, says ADD Inc now with Stantec senior principal Lisa Killaby, who will be speaking at the event. But they also want flexibility to be part of the package so their space can reflect their specific culture and change with it. That means furniture systems that can be easily moved and rearranged without going for a tool box. But tenant requirements differ: lawyers need privacy for visual confidentiality; software engineers want a quiet place to think.
Lisa’s team designed space for Adobe (above) that gave each employee a smaller private area (about 8 x 10) but more square feet between the areas as a buffer from the next person, Lisa says. The office also has a greater variety of spaces so people can choose the right space for the work of the moment. Some existing buildings lend themselves to renovations, others don’t. In reimagining their properties, Boston Properties has done a great deal of research to determine how a given tenant’s staff works and what amenities would stoke their creative juices. Join us at Bisnow’s Boston Office of the Future event on May 28 starting at 7:30am at the Boston Sheraton. (Register here.)