It is believed that the phrase, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” was a Chinese proverb originally intended as a curse. Today, we commonly use it as a positive wish toward others, that they might live to seek adventure in their lives. Interesting times might be more challenging, but they demand that we think differently. Dealing with difficulty is often inspiration for innovation and creative thought.
Interesting spaces do the same thing. Working in these environments help foster the creative spirit that allows new ideas to flourish and collaborative teams to thrive. These collaborative teams create cultures that are the foundations upon which many successful companies are built.
Trends are changing rapidly in how businesses use office space and how individuals perform tasks. Gone are the days of tight, drab, closed-off cubicles and large executive offices with room for rows of assistants just outside. Now, we see open, collaborative, unique spaces with fewer and fewer defined work spaces. We hear terms like hoteling and co-working spaces; we see playrooms, espresso bars and bean bags. Minimalism and uniqueness are the rage, and firms are finding new ways to do more with less space.
The good news is these new trends help the bottom line. Companies are more concerned with occupancy cost than ever before. After payroll, expenses related to office space are usually the next biggest cost to companies. Owners and managers are focused on maximizing profits and are looking for ways to cut fixed overhead costs that can cripple a company. Like one business owner said, “No firm ever went out of business because it had too little office space.” Smaller, shared spaces with minimalistic finishes help firms save money, which can be better used to help grow business.
Work habits are transforming as quickly as the work environment. Technology has allowed more flexibility for how and where work gets done. Many offices are paperless, and space-hogging file cabinets are becoming relics like typewriters and fax machines. Servers can be accessed remotely from phones, tablets and laptops. Work doesn’t only happen at our desks anymore—and it might not even happen at the office. Depending on what you do, the office may actually be the worst place to get productive work done. It might just be a place to collaborate, attend meetings or plug in to the culture of the company. The real work might get done at home, a client’s office, in a hotel room or at a local coffee house.
At the award-winning Florida Innovation Hub, the high-tech and lab incubator building located in Innovation Square, there are several “collision” areas located throughout the building. These spaces include living room style seating areas, a coffee bar and a break room with a TV and gaming console. All of these spaces are designed to bring people together in casual and natural ways. According to Jane Muir, the Hub’s director, “Creating collision was one of the fundamental concepts that drove the design of the Florida Innovation Hub. Everywhere, from the endless pot of coffee where coincidental conversations occur, to the purposefully thought out seminar room where we host regular workshops and networking events, we see collision as a fundamental benefit for all who enter our doors.” She added, “When smart people have smart conversations, amazing things happen!”
Here’s how some local companies are creating their interesting spaces:
- CPAmerica just repurposed a full floor space in the Wells Fargo tower in downtown Gainesville that was previously occupied by Merrill Lynch. They removed several enclosed offices to create a more open environment that allows team members to see and interact with one another more easily. Built-in work space partitions were replaced with modular furniture that can be rearranged more easily to create team groupings.
- At Grooveshark, team members work at all hours and often need a place to blow off steam while taking a break. The company offers free meals, and they even have a “playroom” equipped with guitars, video games, ping pong and foosball.
- All the workspaces at Fracture are open and team members face each other to promote teamwork. There are racks for skateboards, and several employees bring their dogs to work. You can feel the energy when you walk into their space, as you witness the ideas and creativity flow.
Take a look around your office. Does your environment inspire you? Do you think it inspires your team? Is it fun and inviting, or does it drain your energy? When someone comes to your office for an interview, what does your office tell them about the kind of company you are?
The trend of creating interesting environments is just beginning, and it seeks to blur the line between work and the rest of our lives. Work used to be what we do for a specific time during the day. Now, it is a bigger part of who we are. We want the places we work to inspire us and for our careers to help define us. Our work, what we do, where we do it, and how we do it is woven into the fabric of our lives like never before.
If you are a business owner or manager, commit to create an interesting space for your company. Watch how it inspires your team and attracts talent that seeks inspiration. Show your clients that you are creative, unique and that you care about creating a company where people actually enjoy coming to work.
These are interesting times. Spend them in interesting spaces.
Nick Banks is the managing director of Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group, a full-service firm located in Gainesville offering brokerage, management and mortgage banking services for commercial real estate clients. Nick is a 17-year veteran of commercial real estate and a graduate of the University of Florida. www.FrontStreet.net