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To Lure Employees Back, Office Design Can’t Be Business As Usual


Companies want workers to return to the office, but it has not been a simple conversation. A Fortune article from earlier this year reported a finding that just 3% of white-collar workers want to return to the office five days a week. However, 50% of company leaders surveyed by Microsoft said that they want their employees back full time to improve company culture and collaboration. 

“Company leaders want the opportunity to supervise and motivate their staff in person,” said John Parker, co-founder and CEO of Parker Brown GNC, a general contractor based in Canoga Park, California. “At the same time, people coming out of college may have the knowledge they need for their jobs, but they need the practical experience that comes with working for seasoned professionals.”

Parker said that he believes one of the keys to making employees excited about coming back to the office is to present them with something different. He said that workers don’t want to return to the same office they left more than two years ago. Times have changed, employee expectations have changed, and they need more from their office space

Parker Brown has been working with a number of property owners who understand this and are making major changes to their buildings to entice workers back, he said. These can range from painting the walls and changing the carpets all the way to major remodels of lobbies, restrooms and other common areas. The goal, he said, is to take a familiar space and create something that will breathe new life into the office for workers who have been away. 

“We're working with several owners to bring tenants back to the buildings,” Parker said. “They're redoing the lobbies, redoing the restrooms, redoing all the hallways, painting the walls — just simply making improvements to entice some tenants back into those properties.” 

The company is working with a company in Oxnard, California, to remodel an office plaza. The lobbies in the property have not been updated for more than two decades, and Parker Brown is working to add all new wood paneling, as well as update some of the floors and modernizing the overall look. 

Another property the company is working on is transforming its outdoor spaces with a new parking lot, landscaping and outdoor lighting. Companies have been placing a renewed focus on outdoor space in the wake of the pandemic, as they increasingly realize how important nature is to workers.

A survey from the Rosslyn Business Improvement District found that 2 out of 5 respondents are working in alternative environments from the home or the office, with the majority choosing to find outdoor spaces to work. Additionally, 58% of respondents said they are looking to connect with their co-workers in an outdoor office space and 3 out of 4 employees surveyed said they believe they would be more productive if they had access to outdoor space at work. 

The demographic that seemed most interested in outdoor office space, according to the survey, are younger professionals. This fact comes as no surprise to Parker. 

“Young people graduating college right now don’t want to go back to their parents’ homes to work from there,” Parker said. “They want a chance to connect with co-workers and mentors and find a place to grow that has the benefits of the office with the freedom of a college campus. The right office, with updated interiors and exteriors, can offer that.” 

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Parker Brown. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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