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Scars Of The Recession Have Shaped What Employees Want

With evolving tech and an increasingly Millennial-dominated workforce, the office market has transformed. Co-working companies have taken over portions of the market, and traditional spaces are no longer endless rows of beige cubicles. Panelists at Bisnow’s BOLD East—which will be held at 180 Maiden Lane on Nov. 9—believe this transformation is only going to become more pronounced.

The New Tenant


Although he’s not a fan of “the M word,” Onyx Equities managing partner Jonathan Schultz (pictured) says developers need to accept that Millennials will make up more than 50% of the workforce and recognize they’re working with a different mindset than before. 

“Generation Y has lived through the global economic crisis and the fall of Lehman Brothers,” he told Bisnow. “Notions of job permanence or a job defining a person hold less weight to them.”

Instead, he says, Millennials are used to being mobile and constantly on the lookout for the next challenge or growth opportunity. That’s why the concept of “talent attraction and retention” has become such a focus. 

The Two C’s


What these workers likes more than anything else, Jonathan stresses, is convenience and community.

At 30 Montgomery (pictured) in Jersey City, for example, it was not only important that Onyx and Rubenstein Partners revitalize the lobby and soup up the the elevators, but add a retail component that tenants could easily visit, one that could create a community atmosphere as they walk among residents and fellow shoppers.


Convenience and community were also important for Sonos’ new office at Boston's LaFayette City Center, Sonos global real estate & facilities project manager Chad Lundeen (pictured) says. Originally stationed in Cambridge, Sonos believed the chance to balance transit time for all employees, have access to amenities and be part of a city fabric was too appealing to pass up. 

“It was also important that the cellphone signal and internet connectivity was strong throughout the building,” Chad says. “That’s an infrastructure component many overlook but could impact operations and frustrate employees.”

Connected by the 7 and multiple other transit lines (which can cut transit time by seven minutes or more), Hudson Yards' main appeal comes from its “city within a city” feel that draws young talent with its massive open spaces, art installations and sports clubs, Related Cos VP Stephen Winter says.


A more radical example of this phenomenon can be found in National Australia Bank's space in Melbourne, which Woods Bagot global head of workplace Sarah Kay (pictured) describes as “borderless”: it has no separating walls between its public entrance and the various workspaces on each floor. By allowing the public to see all the workers, she explains, the bank has been able to connect with the public and within the company itself.

Even when the bank moves out, Sarah believes the space will continue to flourish as smaller companies take advantage of the opportunity to mingle with as many of their fellow tenants as possible.

“I don’t expect a single wall to be built,” she says. 

Let’s Get Flexible

Another major change to consider is rethinking the desk. When tenants can work from anywhere, Chad says, fewer than 50%, he estimates, will want to be tethered to a desk. Sonos’ office offers several spaces for employees to collaborate away from their workstations, leaving many desks empty.

Tenants still want some sense of ownership, so things like hot-desking or no workstations are also out of the question. 

“The ideal is an arrangement that allows for flexibility and doesn’t take a lot of space,” he says.“That’s not an easy balance to find, although it helps that workers need less space—around 6 SF or so.”


Sonos was looking at several properties in Boston, Chad says, but what made Lafayette City Center in Downtown Boston stand out was its flexibility for improvements like taller ceilings.

Even when the space was built, it was paramount that the desks were movable so they could be rearranged, and that the infrastructure—such as the office’s lighting grid—could be easily and cheaply replaced for the next big thing. After all, Stephen (pictured) says, nine times out of 10, the next big thing can be a major talent magnet, whether it's for the quality-of-life improvements or the sheer novelty.