Experts Dispel Myths Surrounding the Creative Office

Amenities have proliferated in recent years under the assumption that Millennials prefer certain perks. The creative office movement is predicated on building space to increase collaboration and productivity—something younger workers supposedly crave. Our panel of experts tried to separate the myths from fact at Bisnow's Silicon Valley creative office event yesterday.

Hunter Storm Properties president Derek Hunter Jr. (L-R: Ryan Amaya, Derek Hunter Jr., former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and moderator Mark Calvano.) discussed the importance of location and transportation in creating a highly creative workforce. He said productivity degrades when someone spends 45 minutes in a car commuting to work. To ease this burden, companies can locate their offices closer to employee residences or near mass transit.

Derek took a long-term view of Millennial productivity, arguing the office needed to adapt over time to keep this generation engaged in their work from ages 30 to 50.

Dostart partner Mollie Ricker's company builds in a tight radius around mass transit hubs and believes long transit times have a negative impact on workers. She also stressed the importance of outdoor space in enhancing employee creativity.

Which amenities are fads? As the current generation of leases expires, Mollie said we will see what amenities really took hold by observing the requests companies make. If a program survives two leases, it’s a good bet employers saw its benefits. It remains to be seen if bocce ball courts will make the cut.

Insight Realty managing partner Dennis Randall (left with Sobrato president Rob Hollister) took a slightly different view from our other panelists, saying he's more interested in creating a palette of options to suit his clients' imaginations. He says designing creative office means building adaptable spaces that allow tenants to try out different configurations. He favors high ceilings and high floor plates since they allow teams to move into new working groups without placing too much stress on the infrastructure. Unlocking productivity by offering employees and employers a chance use their imaginations is much more compelling than “doodads like foosball,” he said.

Rob said about 70% of amenities are important for the building tour but fall out of regular use quickly. The future of creative office is in the mixed-use concept that breaks artificial barriers between work and residential spaces. He's excited by the growing support mixed-use is receiving from the financial community.

Irvine Co VP Todd Hedrick (right with Craig Almeleh) spoke about shifting the burden of amenities from developers to third-party service providers. He argues food trucks and farmers markets can be contracted to outside vendors. That strategy offers adaptability and choice while avoiding the fad/disuse problem that haunts creative office construction.

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