The nature of work is evolving, and along with it, so is workplace. The workplace of the 21st century must meet the productivity and functional demands of employers and employees’ need for flexibility and choice. The ways we come together to collaborate and interact, as well as the ways we seek concentration and solitude, are more relevant now than ever.
There are three key trends driving this evolution. The first is the shift from the idea of work/life balance to work/life integration. No longer are these two distinct and separate parts of one’s existence in constant a struggle for our attention and time. This means the workplace needs to support our whole person—and not just be a place to “get work done,” but a place that allows us to recharge, reflect, and renew. And because our work is integrated into our lives, there is a greater need to actually enjoy it. The built environment plays a key role in that.
The second is technology. Our tablets, smartphones, and laptops allow us to work anywhere. They provide complete mobility and choice; we are no longer tethered to our desks by a phone or network connection. This allows us to find the spaces that best support the task at hand—an office today, an easy chair tomorrow.
The flip side of this flexibility means that a lot of us are asking: If I don’t have to come to the office, why should I? Companies recognize value and necessity in face-to-face interaction, and if employees don’t need to be at work, employers must provide workplace where people want to be.
The third is the war for talent. Companies today are competing to recruit and retain the best and the brightest. Walking a prospective hire through a sea of beige cubicles is a tough way to make a first impression. It can be equally demotivating for existing employees. Providing interesting, inspiring, and collaborative work environments can be one of the most effective tools a company can use to both attract and hold onto talent.
The shift in the type of workspace that is being designed and built has been occurring for the last several years at larger private companies. Groups from Target to Best Buy have built their own internal third-workplace spaces that allow employees to work away from their desks and to work differently. It is only recently, however, that building owners and landlords have begun reacting to these trends. We are now seeing the emergence of collaborative third-workplace and lounge space as a significant differentiator in the leasing of multi-tenant buildings.
This is not the “check the box” amenities packages of yesterday. And why would they be? When everyone has a fitness center and conference room available, it is no longer a differentiator but simply parity. These spaces are hip, eclectic, and cool. They feel more like a hotel lobby than an office lobby, and they are not just functional and useful, but designed as places people seek as destinations. Owners are building these spaces as both private amenities to tenants and, in some cases, as public amenities for all to enjoy.