Office Gets Less Formal, More Innovative
As computers take on more rote tasks, employees’ value is increasingly in creativity and problem solving. Offices can spur that, a trend we’ll consider in depth at Bisnow’s Workplace of the Future event Dec. 10, starting at 7:30am at Headquarters (3302 Canal). Register here, and read on for thoughts from three of our panelists.
Workplace design is finally catching up to new business models and workstyle, PDR principal Lauri Goodman Lampson says. Entrepreneurialism is becoming more important in this weaker economic environment; even large, traditional oil and gas firms will be looking to accelerate innovation and build out more incubator space as they look for the next big thing. Workplaces need to support the trend by breaking down all barriers to collaboration. Lauri says science has shown that good ideas don’t come on demand, they happen when you’re relaxed and engaged, so offices need to break down formality.
The most important trend: Creating collisions, or the opportunity for employees to accidentally run into each other (colleagues or neighboring tenants). PDR is designing Headquarters, which Lauri believes espouses the new workplace trends. (You can check out their plans at our event, which is being held there.) That project will have some components of traditional office, but with nontraditional amenities like a game room and shared conference rooms designed to support collisions within and across tenant companies. Rendered here is one such meeting space in that facility.
Lauri says new workplace design is pervasive now in Houston, but on a small scale as landlords and tenants dip their toes into the new concepts. They know the business model is viable, but everyone is still discovering Houston’s variation on it. Lauri says so far, Houston’s take on creative office isn’t as high-tech or as wacky as Silicon Valley, but is about companies taking themselves less seriously and being more energetic and playful while remaining professional.
We’re still trying to figure out how co-working and collaborative space fits in Houston, says Parkway Properties managing director Mike Fransen (pictured with wife Stacey at Redwoods in Northern California in July). The typical big co-working groups like WeWork have been a little gun-shy here; Downtown isn’t livable enough, and the Galleria isn’t walkable enough. He thinks there are steps the Houston office market must take before collaboration/co-working is a viable option. But one important strategy, Mike says, is making sure your amenities are usable and memorable. It’s not just about checking a box, but about creating a space that extends tenants’ workspace beyond their four walls.
Parkway just built out new amenities at San Felipe Plaza, which Mike believes puts the property back into the discussion of top-tier Class-A office in the Galleria. The project pulled together everything Parkway’s learned about new office strategies from its 15M SF Sunbelt office portfolio. Parkway rethought the dining space (the finished product is pictured), built a new fitness center and added a Starbucks in the lobby, and Mike stressed that the team strove to build spaces that tenants will want to use regularly throughout the day. He tells us he just got an email from a tenant thanking Parkway for putting in the kind of meaningful amenities that are already making the tenant's ability to attract new analysts much easier.
Here’s a new collaborative workplace in San Felipe Plaza. Parkway’s also blending its approach with amenities with a new management style, implementing hospitality techniques. And in 2016, it wants to start linking its amenities to operate as one cohesive package. It’ll start with Parkway's CityWestPlace campus, Mike says—there are significant food and fitness offerings there, but they have historically been managed independently. He’d like to see them all united with technology. An example: You use the trainer at the fitness center, who works with a nutritionist at the campus food service who can recommend a diet to go with your program. That's all input into an app, which syncs the workout to the menu and suggests what you should grab at lunch.
Office being influenced by other property types isn’t new, but it’s picking up steam. Kirksey EVP Brian Malarkey loves a new term that popped up this year: “resimercial,” referring to the residential feel creeping into workplaces. West Elm is even entering the commercial furniture market now with office product that looks residential. Brian has also enjoyed seeing the idea of creative collisions go global—one company put up a flat-screen TV in the break room with Skype open to the break room in the company’s London office, so employees could chat with their colleagues on either side of the ocean.
Brian tells us companies need to design for mobility and flexibility. That includes moving about throughout the workday; studies have shown that people need breaks every 90 minutes to maintain productivity, and many companies are implementing sit/stand desks throughout their teams. It could even include the dynamic sharing/free address concept. That model is in the discussion for most companies, but isn’t happening as much as you might think. It only works for relatively large companies or companies with highly mobile staff, Brian says, and with the acknowledgement that some people need to be anchored. It’s important to do a study about which groups it would benefit. Pictured is a really cool example of flexibility: Kirksey designed this multi-use space in Noble Energy Center. It can be used as a town hall for meetings, but also serves as a company basketball court.