What's As Important As Salary?
For Millennials, workplace culture is just as important as a paycheck, we learned at Bisnow’s Chicago Creative Office Summit last Thursday. Perkins+Will associate principal Eric Mersmann moderated our owner/tenant requirements panel, sharing an interesting stat: In a recent survey of Millennials, 82% said the prospect of working in a beautifully designed space would influence their job decision. A creative office should use simple materials in an unpretentious and sustainable way, Eric says, incorporating brand, reinforcing culture, and building passion for the mission. A creative touch at Hillshire Brands’ HQ: Eric’s team re-milled wood from the building’s old water towers to create a unique patchwork quilt of wall paneling.
GlenStar Properties managing director Christian Domin had home-field advantage, hosting the event on the 39th floor of the firm's 55 E Monroe. (Each floor is an acre—no joke—and the sunrise was incredible.) Changing the image of a traditional steel and glass building involves looking at the total package, he says, including a 24/7 neighborhood, conferencing facilities, and food and beverage services. The building recently got LEED certified, and there’s a 3,500 SF bike storage and repair facility in the pipeline. LEED was a battle, Christian says, but it’s the right thing to do and allows GlenStar to go after Fortune 500 tenants who show a preference for it.
Sterling Bay’s adaptive reuse projects honor each building’s history while creating a warm and comforting environment, founding principal Scott Goodman says. He calls outdoor space the Jacuzzi of our generation—you might not use it, but you have to have it. (At 111 N Canal, there are four separate private roof decks.) Pets and bikes are the other buzzwords, changing the way lobbies and elevators are designed. (Don’t forget Google’s pet clause in its lease at 1K Fulton.) The real question: are these mega-amenities making us more productive? He expects the pendulum to swing back to more privacy and personal space. (It’s tiring moving your bobbleheads around in an open office.)
MicroOffice co-founder David Rotbard says his company’s Coalition coworking spaces (one recently opened at 18 S Michigan and a River North space at 405 W Superior is in the works) are meant to provide amenities to small businesses that they wouldn’t be able to attain on their own (like penthouse suite views of the lake). In addition to being a part of Coalition’s larger community (in the Loop, the focus is on green tech), members are encouraged to showcase and foster their own brand identities. Though a true animal lover, David says pets pose too many challenges for coworking—one person’s Chihuahua could make another break out in hives.
Grind co-founder Benjamin Dyett says if he were only focused on real estate, his coworking business would be in bankruptcy (yes, we audibly gasped). What he means: Grind members don’t pay for a certain type of building, they pay for the collaborative and client-friendly environment the space offers. In Grind communities, staff members make sure that members with potential for synergy are actively introduced to one another (info is also shared on members-only profile pages online). There’s a check-in system to keep track of who is in the office (clutch for happy hours). In 10 years, more than half the workforce will be independent, Benjamin notes. Where will they go?
JLL managing director and corporate interiors pro Jim Plummer notes that design has markedly shifted from an aesthetic focus to functionality. For example, the folks at 1871 (one of Jim’s projects, above) had no use for wool carpets (which certainly don’t help your startup go viral). They preferred lots of light and glass to promote transparency and flexibility. It’s all about creating environments that help people better work together, he says. Asking if sustainability is important in a creative office is like asking if you want to be productive, he jokes. Levels and certifications may vary, but everyone’s asking for it, and building owners have responded accordingly.
We caught up with Matt Kelly, associate principal at event sponsor Earles Architects and Associates. He agrees that workplace culture is ruling space decisions. Even law firms are trying to liven up their spaces and emulate the Googles and Groupons, he says. EAA recently worked on Dechert LLP and Kerns, Frost & Pearlman’s spaces, both which embraced neutral colors and natural light, he says. EAA’s cool crib claim to fame: hammock chairs in the mezzanine area for your light lunch reading and/or nap. Outside of work, you’ll find Matt running along the lakefront (even in these frigid temps). View more pics from our event here.