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John Kilroy On The Perfect Office Space And Unplugging

For John Kilroy, one of the most important aspects of his own office is that it gives him the ability to work the way he wants. The Kilroy Realty Corp CEO will share his insight on the office market at Bisnow's Office, Leasing and Development Series West event Nov. 2 in San Francisco.

Kilroy Realty Corp. CEO and Chairman John Kilroy

John's San Francisco office (shown) features many of today's common work amenities. His office is set up so he can sit or stand to work. At roughly 9x12 feet, the office is small, but is next to a casual conference room, and the anteroom where his assistant sits is equipped with presentation boards, a model of San Francisco and television monitors. There's plenty of light, high ceilings, art and vibrant colors.

“I work differently depending on how I'm feeling and what the circumstances are,” John tells us. And that ability to work the way he wants in the environment he wants is something John sees as key to how office has transitioned in recent years.

Fifteen years ago, you had to go to an office and use a desktop computer and hardwired telephone at a desk. “You had to go to places like that to be on the phone, to be online,” he says. “Now with all the devices, we have phone and WiFi wherever we are. We can be connected in all kinds of different places.”


That shift has informed many of Kilroy Realty's offerings as the largest provider of space for the technology, entertainment and media industries, which are transforming how that space is used, John says. That includes the company's 350 Mission in San Francisco, fully leased by Salesforce (above and below).

In today's offices, there are stations where employees can work standing or sitting, break rooms, phone booth areas for private conversations, rooftop decks, grand rooms—“people don't think of office space anymore, they think of the workplace environment,” John says.

That environment is key to retaining people, a company's most important asset, he says.

John spoke with us on a recent afternoon from his second-floor space in West LA (both his San Francisco and his West LA offices are on the second floor). He says he can look out of his office in West LA and see outside exercise areas and places where people gather. People respond to the energy of being surrounded by other people, he says.

But there is also the need for solitude. John knows this well from his own way of unplugging.

When he's sailing competitively, John has WiFi on the boat, but it's only for navigation and weather. “I'm not thinking about business at all while I'm racing. I'm totally focusing on the mission at hand, dealing with shifts in the breeze,” he says.

He may check in occasionally while taking the family skiing or mountain biking, but having that time away is important, he says. “The only way I operate at the high level I do for a lot of the course of the day or year is to have times where I have totally disconnected,” he says.


He sees that happening in offices. Salesforce's effort at 350 Mission, called Salesforce East, includes a meditation room on every floor of the 30-story, 500k SF building.

The growing trend, particularly among technology companies, is to offer employees a break from the screen, whether it's playing a game of table tennis, hitting the gym or yoga studio, or stepping outside. This work-life balance is translating into shifts in office development.

“We're increasingly doing mixed-use projects that involve resi and office and retail (particularly food and beverage),” he says, so employees have somewhere to take a break or shop for dinner and can live near work if they wish. It creates a work environment that allows people to be more efficient and forget the car as more employers locate near public transportation.

Another big shift in the past decade is a stronger focus on sustainability, so tenants are on board with attaining the highest LEED certification possible, not only in how the building is built, but also through their tenant improvements.

These trends are expected to continue, and Kilroy Realty is poised to deliver what companies look for (it'll start $1B to $1.5B worth of development in the coming year, John tells us) as they recalibrate their work environments. John expects a strong year of leasing ahead.

Hear more from John and our other speakers at Bisnow's BOLD West event Nov. 2 at The Hibernia Bank in San Francisco.