Photo of Jim Trudeau

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WOBURN, MA—With unemployment at very low levels on the NorthShore and throughout Greater Boston, companies are looking for waysto enhance their facilities or even relocate in an effort torecruit and maintain talent. In this environment, corporatetenants are reviewing workplace alternatives, which includetechnology upgrades, open offices, live-work-play locations,multiple amenities, sustainability, and remote workforces.

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It's important to be knowledgeable about cutting-edge workplacestrategies, but it's also critical that organizations be discerningabout what's just trendy and what's really in their best interests.Why? Because, however exciting the latest “bells and whistles”may initially seem, they may or may not be good for the bottomline, and they may result in needless risks, including lost timeand compromised performance.

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So, a reality check may be in order to see what works and whatdoesn't for your workplace.

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Understanding the Variables and the Options

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Of course, no two organizations are exactly the same, and thatbegs the need for customized workplace solutions that will varybased on your size, business goals, growth plans, industry sector,and demographics.

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In planning for your ideal office space, consider thefollowing:

  • Technology. Providing advanced technologytools, particularly coveted by Millennials and Gen Z, is perhapsthe most vital factor in attracting new professionals and improvingemployee engagement (though concessions for less tech-savvy BabyBoomers are also prudent). High-speed Internet, data sharing, andconnectivity throughout the workplace are expected, while morespecialized tools like video conferencing may be desirable as well,though they come at a price.
  • Open offices. Studies show that flexibleopen office environments are gaining traction as companies striveto cut real estate costs by reducing rigid construction andpromoting collaboration. While some research shows that thisenvironment promotes productivity, it doesn't work for everyone.Pushback often comes from senior staff members who value theirprivacy and are annoyed by distractions. The answer is often abalance, a hybrid setting with common areas, work stations, andlimited private offices that accommodates future changes.
  • Live-work-play. Companies can benefit byrecognizing that their employees have lives outside of work. Alive-work-play dynamic accents convenience, with easy access todining, shopping, banking, exercising, healthcare, day care, andhousing. In this light, amenity-rich office parks provideattractive communities that consider employees' lifestyles andwell-being. This is all about location, and on-site servicessuch as ample free parking and prompt snow removal are keybenefits.
  • Atmosphere. In addition to in-housetechnology, amenities, and aesthetics (such as building appearance,landscaping, and fountains), office features such as naturallighting, clean air, acoustics, and ergonomic considerations may beother key parts of the prospective client package. Theseenvironmental factors are often tied to the growing wellnessmovement that takes into account the holistic needs ofemployees.
  • Sustainability. This isn't a recenttrend, and the health benefits of “going green” arewell-documented, but it's debatable whether the considerableexpense and exhaustive paperwork associated with LEED certificationis worth it. Also, the myth that the suburbs always lag behind thelarger high-rent districts doesn't always hold true. CummingsCenter, for example, features innovative energy initiatives,including large roof-top solar arrays, and commuter-friendlytransportation options such as public transit and bikeracks. Cummings Center also demonstrates that you can go greenwithout spending excessive of amounts of green!
  • Remote workers. Virtual offices help tolower operating costs—with fewer dedicated seats as well asco-working provisions—and they make sense for employees such assales staff who are often on the road and areself-motivated. Many managers fear, however, that thisarrangement will result in a loss of control andaccountability. Some studies show that virtual workers workmore hours and are more efficient than in-housestaff. Ultimately, employees need to return to home base forface time, and they should ideally consider the workplace awelcoming “home away from home.”

Recognizing Tenant Advantages

In short, there are pros and cons of most workplace strategies,with data to support different models. But in the finalanalysis, what matters most is how tenants can realize optimalresults within a reasonable price and timeframe.

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With this in mind, more corporate space users are discoveringthe value of engaging a service provider that offers one-stopshopping and integrated services, with leasing, design,construction, engineering, financing, legal services, and propertymanagement working together under one roof. This businessmodel streamlines and consolidates services, precluding the needfor extra time and expenses associated with outsourcing to thirdparties.

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At the end of the day, companies are encouraged to perform duediligence by reviewing market conditions and potential workplacesolutions, including flexible designs that can accommodate, but notbe limited by, cool and creative options. As you strive to attractemployees and hone your competitive edge, look for cutting edge,but be leery of the bleeding edge.

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Jim Trudeau is chief design officer for Cummings Properties,based in Woburn, MA. The views expressed here are the author'sown.

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