Landlord Considerations: Creative Workspace Designs

By Michael Siino  |  November 16, 2018

As competition to attract and retain high-quality commercial tenants has intensified, and with a generation of millennials graduating into roles as decision makers in today’s business world, it has and will continue to become more important for landlords to adapt and enhance their office and common spaces to suit the desire of employees to work in environments that are collaborative and stimulating. As tenants seek to attract talent into their offices, so too must landlords be creative in their uses of space to attract these tenants.

Whether it be by outfitting lobbies with amenities such as soft seating, coffee bars and attractive lighting, or by adding cafeterias, gyms, childcare facilities or outdoor meeting places, landlords must anticipate and address their tenants’ needs to work in a more social environment than was previously experienced in traditional offices. Today’s workforce tends to be more interested in technology, working collaboratively and being inspired to be productive in a fun, comfortable and healthy environment. In office design, this can be accomplished by incorporating more open space into a floorplan, with natural lighting and brighter colors. The incorporation of shared quiet rooms and private spaces can also be useful. Unconventional workspaces often appeal to the younger generations with designs to suit their divergent personalities. This may be accomplished by adding activity areas, bean bag chairs and other alternative casual seating arrangements.

Flexibility is key in the modern workplace. Workspaces should be easily adaptable for different uses, with furniture that can be easily moved and open space suited to accommodate impromptu meetings. Portable wall dividers can be available for creating areas of privacy. Dry-erase boards and projectors can turn any area into a conference room. Landlords may find that this desire for more open and flexible workspaces will also lead to lower construction costs and therefore lower tenant improvement costs. Space will be available for occupancy more quickly, and rent commencement dates can be moved up.

In addition to adaptable design, today’s employees tend to be much more conscious of their health and prefer working in green environments. Biophilic design, which brings elements of nature into the “built” world, is scientifically proven to reduce stress, promote physical, mental and emotional health, boost energy and creativity, and improve employee performance and job satisfaction. The addition of plants and greenery, textured natural wall coverings, rooftop gardens, stone surfaces, indoor fountains and purified air and water systems can address these needs. Traditional walled partitions are becoming less popular as designers are now using alternative materials to define spaces, such as bamboo walls, shrubbery, acoustic panels, etc. It has been proven that being in or around nature is beneficial on many levels to help staff feel calmer, more creative, happier, and healthier.

Another great benefit of creating open space design is the more efficient usage of heating, cooling and lighting systems. Opening up space along the perimeter of an office and reducing the number of interior walls allow for the penetration of more natural outside light to filter through, thereby reducing the necessity to light the space to the same degree needed when office walls and doors separate interior spaces. Light sensors should be incorporated to adjust the lighting as needed based upon the amount of daylight throughout the day. Likewise, since the open space will allow more employees to occupy that same office space, natural shared heating will reduce the need to excessively rely on expensive HVAC systems.

HVAC systems should be designed with multiple, independently controlled zones and with sensors to automatically adjust heating and cooling according to set parameters. Occupancy sensors can track how many people are using the different spaces within the office and adjust accordingly. Likewise, air cooling systems can be designed in a way that distributes cooling air more efficiently and consistently throughout the space. To avoid excessive heat filtering in on warm days (which would increase cooling loads in the summer), windows should be tinted and reflective. The use of energy-efficient materials such as better insulated walls, floors and windows can also reduce energy costs significantly and provide a more comfortable environment as well.

And, of course, as technology advances, it is imperative for landlords to recognize the technological trends and needs of their tenants. For example, as the use of augmented and virtual reality find their way into the methods we use to communicate and interact with each other, it may be necessary to incorporate new technology into workspaces to accommodate its use. This can then be used as a tool by tenants to recruit talent by allowing for virtual tours of the office. Such technology will ultimately become standard — and it will always be important for landlords to keep an eye out for the coming trends and anticipate what will make their space more attractive to tenants.

By creating office spaces that offer the same comforts as home, such as living room furniture, fireplaces, exercise areas with yoga mats and massage chairs, media rooms, and even showers, employees will find themselves wanting to spend longer hours in the office. They will be more engaged in their workplace and therefore more productive. Happy, hard-working employees lead to happy tenants, willing to pay higher rents to be in a productive office space. Today’s landlords must be aware, ready to react, and willing to redesign and market their spaces in order to attract the best tenants.

About Michael Siino

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Michael Siino, CPA, is the Co-Partner-in-Charge of the Real Estate Group at Marks Paneth LLP. With over 30 years of public accounting experience, Mr. Siino primarily concentrates on the real estate industry, where he serves commercial and residential real estate clients, real estate management companies as well as co-ops, condominiums, retirement plans and trusts. He also advises high-net-worth individuals and family partnerships. Mr. Siino advises his clients on all facets of accounting and tax issues,... READ MORE +

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