The idea of place-making began in the '60s as a concept for urban planning and an initiative to bring a sense of identity and atmosphere to a pedestrian area.
It enhances all the aspects of a location--the aesthetic beauty of a park, the ease of walking via wide sidewalks, improving pedestrian movement patterns with sculptures and planters or strategic lighting, added seating, interrelated vendors and retail--to make it more desirable. The area becomes "The Place to Be," greater than the sum of all its individual elements, and more valuable to the community as a whole because of it.
Smart developers are beginning to apply this concept to offices around the globe to greater effect than anything individual companies can do.
Think of a high rise with retail stores, cafés, restaurants, dry cleaners, and more on the first floor (or first few), then the floors above are tailored to corporate tenants, and perhaps above that, residential floors. It's an all-in-one building where people can work, play, and even live to maintain the cohesive work-life balance that has seemed to elude the corporate worker in the last 30 years.
A Change in Regulations
Starting January 1, 2019, corporations are required by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to list property leases longer than 12 months as liabilities on their balance sheets. The inevitable sticker shock for stakeholders is making corporate office managers consider alternative options. Companies like WeWork and Common Desk, which manage co-working spaces with rental agreements for a couple of months, or even a couple days, have seen a significant rise in demand for what they offer as a result.
To fill the demand, developers are designing buildings with these things in mind, and are creating place-making utopias that could, with a shift in outdated corporate behaviors, become the offices of the future.
First We Tried...
...open offices, eliminating boundaries and tossing out cubicles in the hope workers would rise to innovation with more face-to-face interaction, more collaboration, and more productivity. But it didn't entirely work, and a more hybrid office was born, with task-oriented space, sort of a "Choose-Your-Own-Office-Type" for the corporate world.
Next came hot-desking, a practice in which employees worked at a different workstation every day. A day of meetings could mean they didn't have a desk for the day, bouncing from meeting room to meeting room and settling in a communal seat for moments outside of meetings. The idea surfaced when data showed up to 20 percent of assigned desks sat idle on any given day due to vacationing or sick employees, remote workers logging in from home, or employees simply being away from their desks all day.
Soon followed remote working. Workers didn't need to be physically present at a corporate headquarters when teleconferencing, interoffice messaging, email, and virtual private networks (VPNs) meant work could be done securely from anywhere. Some companies, like Buffer, don't even have physical space, preferring to rent co-working space when necessary.
Then, co-working happened, where the office space companies rented was only exactly what they needed at any given moment, and someone else provided the desks, technology infrastructure, copier, printer, and even microwave. They also provided an eclectic mix of other workers--freelancers, contractors, creative professionals, and startup entrepreneurs who were building capital and culture before committing to a full-on lease and location--to interact and share with and to learn from.
Creating the Office Building of the Future
If we think outside the corporate box for a moment, the possibilities for place-making in the business world are, frankly, staggering.
What if buildings that offered office space were also a place with a variety of vendors and amenities, such as restaurants, cafés, gardens, and stores?
In Bangkok, the developers of office real estate are taking even more into consideration, including sensors for workplace occupancy, predictive space analytical tools, meeting room booking applications hardwired into the building, and more. Some landlords are including biometrics amenities, such as CO2 sensors, controls for lighting, oxygen, water management, and air purification, and even some security measures, such as the infrastructure needed for fingerprint accessible keypads desired by high tech companies.
Proximity to mass transit is no longer enough. Offices need to be attractive to talented employees, and with 21 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds having turned down job offers due to the lack of workable office design or amenities, that talent hunt is more fierce than ever before. When workers are no longer interested in an office design that protects a culture of hierarchy and micromanagement, or workloads in a location where they can't be entirely comfortable, something has to give. Calling old school office design a cost-saving measure is no longer a reason to avoid updating the workspace when it's costing companies millions in potential talent acquisition and competitive space in their industries.
What Workers Want
Forget commuting into a central business district. Workers don't want the daily slog of a long commute. They want to work and play in one place: their local community. They want their well-being to be a priority to their employer and are holding out for positions with employers who offer a work-life balance in a desirable location, with buildings that aren't only easy to get to and comfortable to work in but are also enticing to go to. Convenience, quality, and aesthetic beauty are magnets for the next wave of talented workers, and recruiters should take note.
For now, co-working space is the frontrunner in place-making efforts for today's workforce. Facilities managers are bent on finding exciting, abundantly populated, and atmospheric spaces in which to open co-working accommodations. Those with an eye for fulfilling more than corporate needs are winning because their locations, eclectic and enterprising for more than simply performing work tasks, are providing everything workers want and need.