Office of the Future — NAIOP

Rosalind Brazel / April 23, 2013

by Laura Ray

Today’s workplace culture rests on mobility

McKinstry Innovation Center

Truth be told, I geek out over the topic of workplace design. To be clear, I mean thoughtful and progressive workplace design. Think of Google, Microsoft Studio West (Xbox),, McKinstry Innovation Center (pictured left) — all of these workspaces were designed by experts who not only know how to create an aesthetically pleasing space, but one that can actually increase productivity, inspire people and bring groups together in unique and transformative ways.

Today, fundamental shifts are underway in workplace design, with movement away from the
80’s cube farms with overhead fluorescent lighting to open and flexible spaces flooded with natural light. Driving this shift is the need to attract and retain top talent in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

April’s NAIOP breakfast — moderated by Vulcan Real Estate’s Sharon Coleman — explored the topic of “The Office of the Future: Changing Spaces for Changing Needs” with insights from local experts who are in charge of developing and designing today’s office, and also perspectives from the tenants who use them. Some key takeaways:

  • A generational value shift. As “boomers” head to retirement, so too does the “butt in seats” 9-5 work culture. Today’s generations of workers place higher value on mobility, personalization of workspace and amenities such as bike lockers, showers and informal gathering spaces. This generation is also looking outside their workspace to an office location that offers ease of walkability, access to transit and nearby stores and restaurants.
  • Rethinking the meeting space. The concept of space for meetings is shifting from the traditional rarely accessible conference room to areas where people can meet, ideate and touch base “phone booths,” “couch rooms” and even “walking paths” for larger corporate campuses (concept credit to Brent Rogers, NBBJ).
  • Catering to a nomadic workforce. With technological advancements such as video conferencing, virtual meeting spaces, smart phones, tablets and wifi hotspots, employees are no longer tethered to a desk (or geography for that matter). Today’s workspaces are designed not to house employees, but to support them.
  • New ways of working. As our culture moves from a predominantly manufacturing society to one of creative class (think engineers, programmers), spaces are being designed to enhance collaboration and inspire ideation.  “Co-work” spaces, such as the McKinstry Innovation Centers — are increasing in popularity, especially for small companies and start-ups. These co-work spaces provide shared, centralized spaces to enable chance encounters for ideation between companies.

Re-thinking office space transcends the responsibility of a facilities manager, to HR, recruitment and marketing. It is a reflection of a company’s culture and brand and vital to attracting and retaining top talent in an increasingly mobile marketplace.