There’s something about concrete floors, unfinished ceilings, and unfurnished office spaces that excites millennials. My guess is that moving into these blank slates gives tenants the option to personalize and design their offices on their own terms. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. Creativity begins from the moment they move into their new space, and this gives them a deeper sense of ownership.
The problem with traditional offices
Let’s face it—most offices are familiar and very boring. We work in a hedge maze of cubicles with sterilized hallways and strategically positioned meeting and break rooms. This has been the status quo for a long time, and few companies have dared step outside this comfort zone.
But times are changing. The modern tenant sees the potential in unfurnished spaces. Creative agencies and tech startups are leading the movement with increasingly elaborate and intentionally collaborative open spaces.
In more than two decades on Wall Street (a decade of which I spent running my own firm), I have had the pleasure of experiencing this shift from traditional offices to modern spaces firsthand. My verdict? Modern, customized spaces not only enhance creativity, they also encourage collaboration and increase productivity.
Foster collaboration between teams
One question I hear all the time is, “How do you intentionally design an office space to maximize collaboration and productivity?” Well, with all the technology at our fingertips, enterprising executives can analyze workplace data, survey their employees, and identify the key needs of their workforce as well as the various ways in which these needs can be satisfied.
One of the most important, yet overlooked, needs of every workforce is the need for collaboration and a sense of family. Traditional office settings stifle these types of interactions. Keeping every employee in an office or cubicle for the entire day seems like a good way to keep them focused and productive. But humans are social creatures, and they need the freedom to come together and work apart on their own terms.
Study shows that we might be spending more time with our colleagues at work than our families back home—1 in 4 Americans work 45–59 hours every week. So it makes sense that offices should make employees feel like they’re with family rather than in a library.
Design the perfect office space for your needs
Detractors of modern office spaces may argue that noise, lack of privacy, and frequent distractions would lower productivity and stunt creativity. But the idea of a creative office isn’t to necessarily have an open floor plan—it’s to have a flexible workspace that works for your company and your employees.
This means bringing the best of both traditional offices and modern, open offices into one space. A real estate developer may go to great lengths to create a one-size-fits-all design, but they could get it terribly wrong. The real solution is to take matters into your own hands and tell a developer how you want your office to be set up.
In order to make workspaces feel more like home, organizations should include a mix open spaces and individual workspaces. WeWork, for example, has a friendly lobby with amenities, various meeting rooms in different styles, and private phone booths for individual phone calls.
By including a wide range of room types, employees will never feel frustrated or isolated. They can work on their own terms. And by including a wide variety of amenities (think TVs, game rooms, plush sofas, etc.) employees will feel more at home.
It’s time to change things up
Is the traditional office setting dead? Of course not. There are still many who believe that it’s the best way to get work done. And it does work for a lot of organizations. But I think that’s due mostly to familiarity, not optimization. We are creatures of habit, and we can get used to any workspace—even an ineffective way.
But based on current trends, anyone can see that creative, flexible spaces will slowly replace cubicles and quiet hallways. And maybe that’s for the best.