An Expression of Corporate Culture

How function, branding and technology are shifting the boundaries of workplace design in 2017.

Candice Riley Campbell_High-ResAs 2016 comes to a close, commercial real estate developers and asset managers are trying to predict how to prepare for 2017. While there are a plethora of factors to consider, such as employment rates, office vacancy and market volatility, CRE professionals looking to stay ahead of the curve must not overlook how tenants’ changing needs and priorities will shape the CRE office landscape next year.

It’s not enough to have a modest renovation, accessible location and check-the-box amenity package to stand out amongst competing projects. Today’s tenants are highly invested in evaluating how their spaces can align to their company culture and empower the productivity and satisfaction of their employee base. Companies of all stages are stretching to make workplace decisions that will enable them to attract top talent, clearly communicate brand values and support ever-changing digital business processes. These changing dynamics are bringing about three distinct trends that will continue to evolve workplace design in 2017.

1. Branding leaps beyond the logo wall of the past

Brand extension from the digital space to the built environment continues to evolve as the value and direct impact of branding steadily becomes mainstream.

Today, decision-makers’ understanding of branding have completely shifted thanks to brands we know and love, such as Apple and Google, that are paving the way. These brands are differentiating themselves through powerful, consistent messaging, visuals and interactive, multi-channel surroundings. They’re pushing the boundaries of branding from core messaging (the why) and visual identity (the what) into spaces–and in doing so, they’re crafting a brand that audiences understand and trust, as well as interact with.

This concept will deepen in 2017, as companies of all sizes and industries evolve to follow suit. From considered finishes to color extension, planned environmental graphics down to locally crafted furnishings and accessories–corporate tenants both large and small will be more intentional about planning office design to work as a living extension of their brand. Investing into a workplace design that not only functions but also communicates, will be critical to attracting top tenants in 2017. How does this translate for developers and asset managers? Expect higher TI and stronger client/designer collaboration.

2. Engagement and innovation will drive design

Creating an engaging corporate culture continues to be top of mind for companies and startups looking to increase productivity and attract and retain top talent. In 2017, employee engagement will transcend from merely improving HR processes to transforming workplace functionality and design.

For developers and building managers, this means that space functionality will evolve from partial open-office spaces to dynamic, transitional environments that foster collaboration and innovation. Such design will serve the growing day-to-day needs and personalities of the employees and clients who inhabit it. Here are a few specific trends to expect:

  • Telephone rooms will become more standard as an essential workplace design. As companies begin crafting open spaces and collaborative desk-like tables, soundproof telephone rooms and booths allow for acoustical protection for proprietary client or internal communications.
  • Breakout rooms will become not just a standard, but will be an integral part of how companies collaborate and innovate with employees to craft the solutions for expectant clients.
  • Open break rooms will move from the back of the office to the front to become an extension of host/event space. This trend calls for investing in the construction of higher-end finishes, open ceilings and bottomless caffeine, as brands look to craft an environment that meets employees needs and encourages engagement among colleagues and clients.
  • As companies look to craft environments that offer opportunities for employees to participate in all aspects of business operations, glass construction will continue to pave the way as the material of transparency.

More and more companies are realizing that space functionality and layout can truly drive employee engagement and create cross-disciplinary environments that foster innovation and creativity.

3. Technology remains integral and integrated

The ever-evolving world of technology to improve business operations will also play a critical role on all aspects of workplace design. Companies will invest into surroundings that have the right kind of tech capabilities to support new business models and today’s connected culture.

Companies, more and more, are implementing teleworking policies and are experimenting in new markets by setting up temporary remote offices. This means corporate office spaces must be versatile, allowing for instant global conferencing capabilities with teams from anywhere, be it on the plane, from a coffee shop, or in the comfort of a colleague’s own home. For example, conferencing software that only connects via an HDMI cable or only to a PC will be viewed as dated and inefficient for tenants and potential buyers.

In addition, companies of all sizes are looking to digitize their workflows and are embracing how new technology, such as the Apple iPad, Apple Watch, Google Glass, even virtual reality, can improve productivity and speed up time to market, not to mention reach a new generation of highly-connected employees and guests. Office spaces that don’t have the instant capability to connect with these devices, be it via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, will be crossed off the list for tenants next year.

Building an office for the future

Without question, the unique goals and priorities for companies and brands are shaping the CRE landscape in 2017 and must not be overlooked. Companies and tenants want to brand a space that’s inspiring, functional, collaborative, technologically compatible and supportive of business objectives. To make properties stand out and to reach this new kind of tenant, developers must consider these dynamics before construction; they must invest into spatial design, up-to-date technology and amenities and on-site branding opportunities. Crafting a property that’s supportive of these office trends will keep CRE professionals one step ahead of their competitors.

Candice Riley Campbell is an Atlanta-based creative director, and founder of Nimble. A Design Consultancy, a multi-disciplinary design studio dedicated to branding for the built environment. With a decade of experience in commercial real estate, graphic design and interiors, Campbell strongly believes in a strengthened intersection of place and brand. She works with clients in the commercial real estate, hospitality and design industries to craft connected stories and powerful brands. Her work can be found coast-to-coast, with projects from San Diego to Jacksonville. For more information on Nimble, visit MeetNimble.com and join the conversation @NimbleDesignCo.