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Viewpoint: If offices don’t evolve, they become extinct

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Rick Kingery Guest Columnist

Rick Kingery
Guest Columnist

Is your team ready to follow other Delaware companies in the agile-office concept?

Delaware’s strategically focused companies are all about disruption, turning the old office model on its head. Technology, connectivity, and perceptions about how work gets done are changing so rapidly that the focus of today’s discussions about office space design has changed from a demand for cheap space to a demand for “smart” space.

Owners are looking at their workplace as a tool for the attraction and retention of top talent and as a physical symbol of their culture and brand. With the proliferation of remote workers and a diminished desire for the corner office, owners are faced with a whole new set of questions. How do we design the space to make people want to come to the office? How do we get the most productivity out of our staff while they are here? And, how do we encourage organic, effective meetings rather than scheduled management-driven sessions?

“The office is more than a place to get work done.  It’s where we connect with clients and each other to problem-solve and share expertise,” according to Kate Lyons, director of branding and communications for Lyons Companies. Her team is currently in the marketplace for new space, and their design plans have come back with a heavy emphasis on an environment that encourages an exchange of ideas. “Dynamic usage creates more value, attracts employees and supports the culture of the organization,” she said.

Phillip Lock with Formcraft, a workplace strategy design and construction firm, cautions, “when planning a redesign, it’s only when the intent of the newly designed space is clearly communicated that people buy into the reasons for changing it, and begin to change their behaviors.” Interestingly enough what they have found is that electrical and data in older offices cannot keep pace with today’s mobile demands. “People want to work in a completely mobile or agile environment, but batteries don’t last forever and favorite collaboration spots usually have no power or data near them.”  This is a common complaint, according to Lock.

The far extreme is the unassigned “benching” concept where your work station is wherever you plug your laptop in that day, with your phone line following you. But even those holding onto their private offices are creating open meeting areas strategically positioned throughout conventional space in addition to conference rooms.

Another popular feature is high-top tables in meeting spaces with nearby writable walls. When I originally saw this as a concept plan, I thought it seemed awkward, but my first experience with it, smack in the middle of 50 cubicles, seemed natural. Afterward, I received a picture of the writable wall as a follow-up action item document, and I knew it was a winner. Expect to seem more of this concept as the agile continues to evolve.

Rick Kingery, vice president of Colliers International, specializes in the leasing and sales of commercial properties. His Twitter handle is @rick_kingery.

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