Is The Open-Office Plan Dead?
Tired of hearing other people’s conference calls and weird food smells at work? You are not alone — open-office plans are increasingly taking heat, and the model is shifting.
“Tenants want open floor plans but also a place to collaborate and a place to have a private conversation,” Trinity Partners Director of Office Tenant Representation Ann-Fleming Powell said at Bisnow's Charlotte Office Development conference in Uptown last week. “It's a lot of fun to work with the diversity of users.”
As the Queen City grows and population becomes more dense, industry experts also prioritize location and hospitality because employees demand it.
“Ten to 15 years ago, the employer made all the decisions about where they were going to be. Now they’re letting the future employee drive that decision,” Argos Real Estate Advisors President and founder Greg Pappanastos said. Argos specializes in urban infill and transit-oriented environments and mixed-use projects.
Flexible workspaces benefit employers as well, offering the ability to make internal changes as workforce demands shift over time.
Open-Office Workspaces: Yay Or Nay?
“The open plan concept has been around for decades, but it really started gaining traction in the early 2000s,” WheelHouse Coworking founding partner Craig Loeber said. WheelHouse is a co-working company planning two or three locations in the Charlotte area early next year.
Technology drove this open-office trend, Loeber said: “We started to become untethered from our desks and move more freely around the central office.”
Now, Loeber said, offices are looking for ways to accommodate both collaborative sessions and what he called “head-down” work, increasingly done in isolated or remote locations.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all space layout that works best for everyone,” Loeber said. “I think this combination is the real model for office designs of the future. “
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KDC Real Estate Development & Investments Regional President Larry Wilson said his development company is working with corporate office relocations or consolidations of space. Those potential future tenants care less about location and cost than in the past.
“Clients are kind of neutral as to where they go; they are looking for that environment, that site or that neighborhood that has the ‘wow’ factor; that people want to live in and to work in and to play in,” he said.
“That’s very unusual; 10 or 15 years ago they would go with the low-cost provider,” Wilson said. “That’s not the case anymore.”
Out In The Field, Then Back ‘Home’
Trinity Partners recently represented tenant CapTech at 300 South Tryon St. “They ended up creating a really good collaborative space within their space. They have all these employees that go out to the banks and they sit with their clients during the day,” Powell said. “They really wanted to encourage coming home; coming back at the end of the day so they could share information.”
Hotels would be good models for office designers to follow, architecture firm John Portman & Associates principal and Design Director Gordon Beckman said. “How does that translate to the office world? That might sound like an enhanced employee experience,” he said.
“The idea of an open office means that you don’t necessarily have to have this core with the perimeter office space around,” Beckman said. “The core could be at one side, while the office space that we work in could be narrower, and we get that opportunity for natural daylight and ventilation.”
Are Millennials Deciding How We Work?
The millennial population is driving decisions for older employees, yet everyone wins, Pappanastos said. “We see the idealistic approach to space, communal spaces and all that. We secretly covet that. We start to adopt their view of the world.”
Workspaces always shift as new generations want something different from their parents, Beckman said.
“The amazing thing is, as you see the next generation of CEOs come into play, they come in with their whole collection of ideas from their experiences.”
For this generation, that means green, environmentally sensitive architecture, new urbanism and walkable streets, Beckman said.
“That’s all in reaction to how many of us grew up from the suburbs where the city was a place that you had to go to but you didn’t really want to go to. Now it’s a place where everybody wants to go so they can get rid of these wheels that have to push them all over the place and they can actually enjoy life,” Beckman said.
Do Open Offices Still Have A Place?
Loeber, who moderated an open-panel discussion at last week’s Bisnow event, asked industry experts, “Is the open-office plan dead?”
Far from it, most panelists said; it is just shifting.
“From a development perspective, as a landlord: Open space better not be dead, because we are really betting on it,” Pappanastos said.