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Upping Your Office Game with Common Areas

For years, modern and flexible office spaces were the stomping ground of small, boutique startups and the self-employed creative types. And, while those groups still play a large role in the market, larger and more traditional companies are now beginning to see the benefits of flexible office spaces.

But what, exactly, is a flexible office space? Well, flexible office spaces come in many shapes and sizes (literally). Some are co-working spaces, or rather, offices shared simultaneously by an assortment of individual workers or even small companies. Others are simply a hybrid of different office types, combining cubicles with private offices, and soundproofed rooms with open concept conference spaces.

One thing that nearly all flexible office spaces have in common? Common areas.

Today, businesses are beginning to design office space with these common areas in mind, increasing the overall amount of square footage per employee, when all work settings are taken into account. Or, at least that is the conclusion that architecture and design firm Ted Moudis Associates came to in their recent report, after closely analyzing more than 2 million square feet of their office projects. Many companies are forgoing the traditional office setting and are instead choosing to expand the selection of alternative common areas to in which to get work done, such as a kitchen or cafe area, a relaxed living room type area, or even secluded quiet zones.

What’s more, designers and planners of office space say that they are seeing this shift across a wide range of industries, giving the trend mass appeal. TC Macker of Coldwell Banker Commercial WESTMAC in Los Angeles says,

“Whereas the focus used to be on more efficient workspaces, today’s employers are realizing the benefits of making offices more attractive by adding in open community spaces, working to choose for themselves how and where they work within the office. And employees and workers are responding.”

A recent study by Coldwell Banker Commercial Affiliates found that, believe it or not, the physical space of an office can actually help to keep staff happier. This study, which polled Younger Millennials (18–29 years old), Older Millennials (30–34), Gen Xers (35–49), and Baby Boomers (50–69), found that workers want both convenience AND a social scene at the office.

Among the top amenities workers are looking for are food courts, on-site restaurants, outdoor patios, and outdoor lounging space. In other words, as workers spend more and more time at work, offices are becoming more of a center for social activity, with workers continuously demonstrating that they want to be able to work in places other than just at their desk.

Open floor plans and common areas can help facilitate collaboration among colleagues and can bolster creativity within the office, but it is also crucial to remember to carve out private spaces throughout the office to provide employees a break from all the buzz throughout the office and to allow for focused working without distractions. As employee preferences continue to shift, it is imperative that office developers and commercial real estate professionals stay on top of the expectations and wants of today’s workforce.