Christina Clark ChristinaClark says one of real estate's challenges is that it is inherentlyinflexible.
SAN FRANCISCO—Whether there are three to fourpeople in a room or open space offices or large amounts of square footage, thesecharacteristics affect the way employees socialize around oneanother, and how they engage with the overall company.Unfortunately, many companies focus on the perks of an office thatlook flashy, but ultimately can hurt overall employee productivityand satisfaction.Christina Clark, managing principal of Cresa's global portfolio solutionsgroup, has been working with clients such as Twitter, Palo Alto Networks andHeadspace to identify the correct office space that meets idealcompany culture while keeping hidden factors such as financialimpact, mobility and supply/demand of space at top of mind. In thisexclusive, she shares some insights into how executives,particularly those in a growing company, reinforce company culturewithout breaking the bank or creating negative backlash fromemployees.GlobeSt.com: Do employees really want morespace? Clark: Executives often associateoffice square footage with an enhancement in company culture.However, research has found that today's Millennial employees oftenvalue amenities over additional personal space. Instead, money isbest spent on spaces that create energy, collaboration and unitywithin the office with a variety of spaces for employees to utilizesuch as a great coffee bar, outdoor or lounge space, music or gamerooms and quiet rooms.GlobeSt.com: Please share moreinsight into “neighborhooding”. Clark:One of real estate's challenges it that it is inherentlyinflexible. Even with lots of options, a lease is a lease–of aspecified size, for a specific duration of time. However, researchshows it's not the quantity of space being occupied, but rather theutilization of the space that is important. Alternative ways ofworking, such as neighborhooding, can create more flexibility.Neighborhooding, the latest twist on hot desking, eliminatesindividually assigned employee desks in favor of designated spacesor neighborhoods for a specified department. Many employees,especially sales teams, spend a majority of their work day awayfrom their desks. Instead of allotting 20 desks to a sales team,perhaps a company provides 12 to 15 desks, a conference room and alounge area which act as that team's neighborhood. This frees upadditional office space, allowing a company to utilize less of itsfootprint–thereby leasing less space and reducing expenses. Whilean individual's desk may vary each day, they still maintain aconnection to their manager, team and its unique culture.Whileneighborhooding has proven to promote team culture, it does noteliminate an employee's need for personal space. Quiet spaces tomake phone calls, technology ports to charge electronics and ameans of secure storage for bags or jackets are stillnecessary.GlobeSt.com: How important is office space forthe company's community, including employees andclients?Clark: Every square foot mattersand careful consideration must be given to how a space can be usedto engage both employees and clients. From the seating arrangementsto the walls, how can your company make a connection? Incorporatingcommunity art in the main reception or hiring a local nonprofit toprovide art is a great option. Rotating the art regularly andinviting clients it to see and hear from the artist generatesconversation and connection while also keeping the space fresh.Unlike expensive items that are infrequently used–think the officeping-pong table–artwork is a cost-effective way to showcase companyculture to potential clients. Another way to inject energy intoyour space is to provide continuing education opportunities fromaward-winning authors or outside speakers. Inviting these thoughtleaders into your space to tell a story will foster an environmentof creativity.As with any real estate decision, a company'sexecutives must communicate openly–and transparently– withemployees before making any major shifts. This is critical in orderto avoid miscommunications about the company's intentions. Often,employees support concepts like neighborhooding and are willing topart with their personal space so long as they are activeparticipants in how the transition is made and, even more so, whenexecutives are participating too. Office space impacts and enhancesculture, but will not create it. By communicating openly,leadership and company employees can create a culture ofcollaboration, teamwork, and innovation. And isn't that what allcompanies want?

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Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown is an editor for the south and west regions of GlobeSt.com. She has 25-plus years of real estate experience, with a regional PR role at Grubb & Ellis and a national communications position at MMI. Brown also spent 10 years as executive director at NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she led the organization to achieving its first national award honors and recognition on Capitol Hill. She has written extensively on commercial real estate topics and edited numerous pieces on the subject.