Can modern office space be too open? Is this a problem plaguing today’s office space in Boston? Some say “yes,” and are migrating towards more private office space design.
According to a recent Bisnow article, “the open office model, which was originally designed to improve collaboration, created other issues, including increased stress on employees, who struggle to focus, and high demand on support spaces, especially conference rooms.”
Is your preference to have a private office or open plan? Open is the current rage, but this may not rein true over the long haul. Quiet zones, skype rooms and meeting rooms seem to be taking the place of the private office which leads to more common space and smaller personal space.
Some 80 percent of offices these days are “open,” roughly defined as work spaces that minimize doors in favor of low (or no) partitions, shared desks, and a full-on view of any number of people at once, very often the boss included. There are two reasons for the format’s popularity. The first is the cost of real estate, says Jeffrey Tompkins, a partner at Boston architecture and interior design firm Spagnolo Gisness & Associates. Twenty-five years ago, he says, the standard allotment was 250 square feet per worker. Now it’s 160 to 190. Simple math says you can fit in more employees when you don’t need to work around walls.
The bigger driving factor, however, has been the pervasive idea that open offices encourage collaboration, spark creative conversation, and increase productivity. Since there’s really no such thing as a private conversation in many of these offices, they also serve to symbolize the modern, egalitarian workplace ideal: one big happy family that types together, eats together, and works through personal drama together. “I love the ability to know what’s going on with all the projects around me,” says Faith Marabella, the CEO and president of Wellesley Design Consultants, whose offices transitioned from mostly to fully open a few years back. “I also like the quick interactions that can happen. Everybody can lend a hand when needed and go back to individual tasks when things calm.” The open environment, she says, also lets less experienced staffers listen and learn.
The updates to Quincy Market, which include the new retailers, the hotel and more developments, are all part of Ashkenazy’s plan to make Faneuil Hall more attractive to those living in Boston…we also learned that Faneuil’s notorious brick walkways could be repaved with smooth granite, with benches replaced by movable chairs, drastically changing the marketplace’s familiar and historical facade – but making it easier to walk, especially for those in heels.
Past coverage of the impending changes in Faneuil Hall have filtered in from both the Boston Globe(in September) and the New York Times (in early December). While today’s City Council meeting was held in regards to the impact on pushcart vendors in Faneuil Hall, the conversation focused on the many alterations slated for the marketplace. The redevelopment is in its early stages, and some of the proposed changes would require the BRA’s Article 80 review.
Charts courtesy of Marcus & Millichap via MHN Online
Boston continues to lead the nation with one of the most stable office markets which is due to a strong local economy.
Research data from Marcus & Millichap, published on MultiHousingNews.com, reaffirms this claim:
“Over 38,500 jobs were created in 2013 in the city, increasing payrolls 1.5 percent. By the end of 2014 employers will add 40,200 new jobs, of which 14,000 will be office-using positions—a 2 percent increase from last year…Developers completed approximately 4.2 million square feet of office space over the last twelve months as compared to merely 1.4 million square feet in the previous year. Around 5.2 million square feet currently under construction in the metro area is expected to come online throughout 2016.”
“According to Marcus & Millichap, approximately 3.2 million square feet of office space is set for completion by the end of 2014—a 1 percent increase from 2013—with new inventory being heavily concentrated in the Boston/Suffolk County and Route 128 North submarkets.”
Some of the creative spaces to work house some interesting amenities that would have been frowned-upon in the recent past. How we work and how we collaborate has evolved, and companies are trying to offer a creative and fun environment that can help their teams excel.
Cool features include:
· Beer tabs
· Standing desks
· IT vending machine
· Nap room
· Kitchens with large flat-screen TV’s
· Treadmill desks
· No assigned desks
· Wall displays of employees which is designed to make introductions
· Town hall styled meeting space
· Glass, glass and more glass for abundant natural light
A recent Boston Globe article on Boston’s “Cool Office Spaces at Top Places to Work“, notes “some of Top Places to Work winners have some excellent digs for their employees. Newer workspaces include beer on tap, flexible workstations, and even a nap room in one case.” The Globe article also includes a slideshow of Boston’s stylish office spaces to peruse.
The Seaport is for sale! The landlord’s that have participated in the lease of up to 3.7 million square feet of new tenant space since 2010, are looking to cash out and move onto new opportunities. Class B rents have surpassed the $40.00 per square foot mark on Summer Street.
Banker and Tradesman points out that “nearly 750,000 square feet of office space is currently on the market, or nearly one-fifth of the neighborhood’s office inventory. The six properties include the Thomson Reuters office portfolio, an assemblage of 10 buildings containing 414,000 square feet of brick-and-beam space.The transactions will go a long way toward determining whether Fort Point can retain its status as an Innovation District, or whether rents set by the new owners will force startups to look elsewhere.”
Additional information on the transformative Fort Point neighborhood is available on B&T’s website.
Uber is on the move and headed for new digs in the North Station area of Boston. The North Station office market still reigns as a value option compared with Back Bay and the Seaport.
The Boston Herald describes the scale of Uber’s new space at 239 Causeway St., noting “The 17,494-square-foot office is nearly three times the size of the company’s current office near South Station, and comes with an option to expand to another floor in the future.”
Rents in the Class B market can range from the low to mid $30’s PSF.
How does your open space rank amongst your peers in East Cambridge/Kendall? Interested in learning more, come to the open forum.
“The competition, sponsored by the City’s Community Development Department, is an opportunity to plan a vision for the entire open space network in Kendall Square and eastern Cambridge and vicinity. The city is looking for unique approaches to open space planning and design,” notes WickedLocal.
Looking for a new office? Thinking you simple want private offices because that’s what you have always had? Well, have a look at how that has changed for some companies.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a working ‘office experiment’ was carried out by The Bridgespan Group in its Back Bay offices, to determine what impact an open, shared workspace would have on employee collaboration and production. The HBR article includes the following:
At the end of our design lab, we handed off to our architects a “radical” plan which they built out over the next few months.
an open café, where staff bump into each other making coffee, or making sandwiches and catch up or take care of business
a “laboratory” space with tables, sofas and white boards at the heart of the office, where teams meet and discuss work previously done in closed conference rooms
a large, closed-off library space with lots of natural light that we call the “quiet car,” where people can work without interruption
several small comfortable seating clusters throughout the office for small-group conversations
a bank of small private rooms for people to use when they truly need privacy for meetings, phone calls, or individual work–but no private offices even for the most senior staff
sitting and standing work stations where people can park themselves day-to-day
glass-walled conference rooms so most meetings are seen by everyone, even if they aren’t heard
background noise masking, so that conversations in the open are heard as mild hubbub rather than distinct, distracting words
lockers in which staff can keep personal items
Six months in, we continue to be amazed at how differently we work in the new space and how much the spirit of our office has changed. We used to make appointments to see each other; now, we often just run into each other, and all kinds of new ideas emerge from these unplanned collisions of two or three or four people….Formal meetings are routinely held in the open areas, where it’s easy to bring in someone else on the spur of the moment—just because they’re passing nearby, or sitting in view.
The look and feel of today’s office space is dramatically different than what we saw just 10 years ago. Collaborative is the new norm and private offices are a thing of the past. Gone is the bowling alley of offices replaced by open spaces with exposed ceilings.
Drawing a parallel between the modern workspace and online social behavior, the Boston Globe notes, “in a fast-paced high-tech world where community seems to be more valued than privacy, the office partitions have come down in the name of collaboration and quick exchange…Offices are being designed to offer slightly cramped but open spaces to create “collision zones” for employees, where conversations get started and ideas get hatched. Status-based work areas have gotten the pink slip as companies envision cross-departmental, even cross-industry alliances. And why have a meeting around a gigantic table when you and a few co-workers can set up shop in a booth — not so different from one at Denny’s. Sound much different from your office? Just wait.”