Trends & Insights

Tales from the Leading Edge: 4 Highlights from Future Offices 2017

Posted by Lindsay Baker on Sept. 11, 2017

We recently had the pleasure of attending Future Offices West with a rare group of smart folks thinking about workplaces, technology and the employee experience. Reflecting back, it was encouraging to see how far we’ve come in the past 5 years in terms of attitudes and practices in workplace strategy that are pushing the industry towards better environments that are really human-centered. A few take-aways:

Technology is finally a no-brainer in corporate real estate.

In this room of industry leaders, no one is questioning the critical role that technology will play in the future office. This definitely wasn’t the case a few years ago, but all of the leaders in the room who are managing portfolios were knee-deep in deploying new technologies to improve their workplaces. In particular, I was delighted to see this cool vision video from ISS, which reminded me of a vision video we made a couple of years ago. And of course my esteemed co-panelist, Melissa Marsh, talked about how more companies are looking at the changing expectations of the workforce as it relates to technology. Exciting times.

A high quality of experience matters.

It is not optional. One of my favorite moments from the event was Martha Clarkson from Microsoft talking about how they are prioritizing the human scale. As she put it, people don’t care as much about 3-story atriums and other expensive architectural moves- they care about good lighting quality and other things that really impact them on a day-to-day basis. My other awesome co-panelist, Dr. Judith Heerwagen from the GSA, related modern office buildings with how zoos used to work- utilitarian designs that had rotten impacts on their inhabitants. She sees CRE moving towards environments that really pay attention to core human needs like good air, quality lighting, and reduction of noise.

There is no one-size-fits-all office.

Perhaps the biggest change I’m seeing in 2017 is that workplace creators are going way beyond just “activity-based workplaces” to design for a diverse workforce. Dr. Rick Beaton talked about remembering introverts, extroverts and ambiverts in your workplaces- open offices are great for some, but probably not for the introverts, and we want everyone to work their best. Tom Hebner, head of Real Estate for Starbucks, also touched on this, saying that “we are overthinking ‘millennials’” in workplace design. His bigger point was that it isn’t just millennials that need variety and options in their workplaces- it’s everyone.

This industry is full of fun and passionate people.

With such a well-curated event, it was easy to spend more time with some of the fellow travelers we love on this road towards smarter and more human-centric workplaces. Just to name a few that I had the pleasure of spending time with: Jonathan Johnson from Flexport here in Oakland, the crew from Serraview (in particular Ian Morley), and the whole Starbucks crew- just a lovely and energized bunch of people.

So as we launch into 2017 conference season, I’ll be keeping an eye out for these trends as I hit the road. Next up are: IFMA World Workplace, ULI Fall, Corenet Global, Greenbuild, CRE//TECH NYC. Looking forward to hearing what you think about these and other emerging trends!




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