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Capturing More Value In Office Design Through Co-Working Strategies

Jul 13, 2012
Capturing More Value In Office Design Through Co-Working Strategies

By Kristin Jensen, Interior Designer, VIA Architecture
LOOP Creative Agency, photo credit: Michael

The transition from closed-door offices and cubicles to shared or flex office space is a well-established trend. Even now, scooters and skateboards demonstrate the radical change in how people move within office spaces.  Today’s office space is embracing individual identities and social communication as a means to enhance worker productivity and satisfaction. Regardless of the change, space planning remains conscious of capital and operational costs.  So, where do we look for the next trends in space planning that will continuously improve returns per square foot and retain a quality workforce.

As businesses drew a deep breath and plunged into the economic downturn, the balance of operational costs and key employee retention took on a new level of importance.  As reductions in headcount continued, many quality people started over, started lower, or stayed home, and every home felt at risk across the board.  Whether an employee made the cut or not, we have all had an opportunity to assess our work/life balance and the value of time at home and at the office.  It is here in this collective experience that we should look for the next trends in office space.

With the promises of rewards for tireless hours in the office no longer abundant, trend makers amongst their working peers have rediscovered the value of managing their home life during business hours, and dismissing the value of endless meetings. In short, the next trend is to make the office environment an extension of home life- and the home an extension of the workplace. These extensions will be non-intrusive and individually managed, and both the definitions of home and office environments include activities in and out of the individual’s immediate work area.

Oxigen, designer: Oxigen with Woods Bagot, photo credit: David Sievers

By way of example, let’s look at the successful trend of “Hoteling” office space for mobile workers.  Hoteling the practice of providing office space to employees on an as-needed basis, reducing the amount of physical space that a business needs, lowering overhead cost while ensuring every worker access to office resources when necessary) has met the need of both efficient space planning and a mobile workforce within the footprint of an office tenant.  Hoteling incorporates various strategies in wiring, storage, and location to create “lite,” unassigned desks in a constrained and secure office area.  At its core, hoteling gets more out of the tenant’s secured area.

In the age of the mobile internet, developers should look to what mobile employees do when they leave the secured office environment, while continuing to work collaboratively.  Outside of the office, the next drop down space is generally uncontrolled and unsupervised by the employer. Where do they go? Are they in cafés, at kitchen tables, at parks, on couches, or in airport lounges? Mobile workers can surprise us with how they stay connected and productive. Ubiquitous Internet and cloud storage allow mobile workers to personalize their most productive work-life space during all hours of the day.

The next evolution of hoteling may look more like “co-working” spaces that incorporate common areas and retail spaces within a development. This evolution is the idea that “semi-secure” tenant space, common areas, retail, and amenity spaces can, within a development, be opened to multiple tenants and visitors. Food service space in commercial districts is already a mobile worker offload to office square footage.  The opportunity is to satisfy tenants’ needs and reduce operational costs within their primary footprint. Developers can design retail and common areas that offer productive co-working space.  The financial opportunity for developers is to use interior design investment to compete for today’s bottom-line conscious tenants, while appealing to a balanced lifestyle.  Like co-working spaces, developers may also be able to sell memberships to multiple tenants into co-working square footage, even to their authorized vendors and guests.  A fully integrated design may encourage a café tenant to have its service counter open to an airport loungestyle work area that is accessible to member tenants.

Makers, a co-working space in Seattle; design + photo credit: Caitlin Agnew & Lana Morisoli

Unlike supervised office environments, co-working spaces also give mobile workers a sense of permission to access virtual services and cloud computing to stay connected to both work and home life throughout the day.The reality is that mobile workers have moved beyond costly wires and security measures; embracing their reality is an opportunity to bring them back into leased spaced. For example, the advent of “print to cloud” means that IP addresses to printers and their placement become as accessible as Wi-Fi hot spots; copier/printers with scan and send functions nearly eliminate mailing interoffice documents; IP connected televisions eliminate paper flyer announcements; online shopping, online banking, and web managed home delivery services like Amazon Fresh allow spouses to contribute to home management from anywhere; and downtown lunch rush restaurants now use phone and web apps to take orders for instant pick-up of food.   While buzzwords like “collaboration,” “social communication,” and “mobile worker” have pushed the concept of open office environments, the next trend is allowing workers and mobile workers to clear their mind of personal agendas while at work or on the road within office buildings, without having to leave the immediate area.

Google UK Campus, designer: Jump Studios


I want to know from readers: how do you envision integrating home and work into an office environment in order to allow individuals to personalize their space while managing their life balance?  For developers, the net result is a benefit to tenants who can capture more of their employee behaviors related to home and co-working within the total building footprint and immediate surrounding areas.  Developers don’t need to invest in services that are capital intensive when they stop to consider the walkability of nearby amenities that aid in the promotion of a healthy urban environment.

One Comment

  1. My office uses cloud computing but other than that we could use more personalization.