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Tech Firms Seeking Alternatives To Open Offices

From open work environments to amenity-rich campuses, tech offices have set the bar high. But not all features have created productive and efficient work environments.

Tech Firms Seeking Alternatives To Open Offices

Tech companies are starting to understand some of the complications of the open work environment.

“Feedback from several teams was their workspace is too open,” Twitch head of global real estate Emily Williams said. “Focus work has been compromised by the open workplace model, resulting in decreased productivity.”

The open office model, which was originally designed to improve collaboration, created other issues, including increased stress on employees, who struggle to focus, and high demand on support spaces, especially conference rooms, she said.

Tech firms are looking for additional environments for employees, but not doing away with open floor plans completely, according to Pinterest head of workplace Jen Nguyen. These options may include open lounge seating, library and café settings. Both Williams and Nguyen will be honored as Bisnow Bay Area Power Women on May 31.

“At Pinterest, we continue to iterate and adjust our programs as the company grows,” Nguyen said. “As the space needs are evolving, we incorporate these preferences throughout our urban campus.”

Tech Firms Seeking Alternatives To Open Offices
Pinterest head of workplace Jen Nguyen

Creating a workspace that works for most is a balancing act and employees often want a bit of everything.

“They want an environment that's quiet and loud, conducive to both focus and collaboration,” Williams said. "You have to do the best to provide these in the right proportions based on user preferences."

Twitch is considering creating neighborhoods for separate teams in one of its new offices. These floor plans would still be open while also offering more of an enclosed space. Williams said the company also is considering creating workspaces where people working on a similar task can come together.

To assess how best to approach its workspace, Twitch worked with a design architect. The assessment included benchmark data of other companies, constructive criticism of existing operations and scalability of workplace programs.

“We are strategically creating ways to connect our two workplaces and collaborating with teams to ensure that employees are incentivized to move between buildings,” Williams said. “The new build-out will feature a large social center, intended to connect employees and visitors.”

Tech Firms Seeking Alternatives To Open Offices
Twitch head of global real estate Emily Williams

Tech has become an integral part of the region’s commercial real estate and many landlords are building spaces with the intention of attracting tech.

“Tech invests the time and money to build thoughtfully,” Williams said. “Tech companies really do care about their physical space and use it as a recruiting and retention tool for employees.”

Tech also brings a healthy amount of diversity into a building.

“Tech is a catalyst for pooling together professionals representative of various demographics, creating a social hub for a vibrant, innovative and diverse community,” Nguyen said.

Co-working and flexible office providers also have become popular among tech companies whether a startup needing a professional work environment or a large company that may need additional space for a fast-growing office.

It is not uncommon for tech firms to use co-working spaces, especially since it is often hard to predict their growth over the typical 10-year length of a standard office lease. Co-working spaces also give tech firms the opportunity to test different types of spaces to see what works best.

Co-working also is helpful to tech companies growing into new geographic markets to minimize expenses, lower the cost of barrier of entry and invest in the business, according to Nguyen.

Meet Jen Nguyen and Emily Williams and other leaders in commercial real estate at Bisnow’s Bay Area Power Women 2017 event May 31 in San Francisco.

CORRECTION, MAY 24, 11:40 A.M. PT: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect number of people for the neighborhoods Twitch is considering for its office. The story has been updated.