owner's representative for building owners

Why Savvy Landlords Use Project Managers

Why Savvy Landlords Use Project Managers

 

Balance office tenant needs with your best interests

Taking on a new commercial real estate tenant can be risky - especially when it comes to build-out requests and tenant improvement projects. Landlords and property managers focus on preserving the building with investments that add long-term value, while office tenants want the new space to be designed and constructed according to their vision. To balance tenant needs with your best interests, owners are wise to enlist a project management firm as their owner’s representative.

What's an owner's rep?

In a world where building owners rarely have the bandwidth to manage everything that arises during a tenant’s buildout or tenant improvement project, the owner’s rep is an independent consultant operating as an extension for the owner. Owner’s reps are hired by building owners or property managers to ensure successful project completion and protection of the landlord’s interests. Enlisted to help manage and execute design and construction, owners' reps are the liaison between the building owner and the various sub-consultants involved. As project management professionals, owner’s reps manage the scope of work and schedules across pre-design, design, construction, and post-occupancy with the building owner’s best interest in mind. They maintain control of estimated budgets and schedules, keeping the project on track and preventing cost overruns.

When should I bring a project manager on board?

Ideally, engage a project manager from the beginning so they can use their expertise to prevent issues, rather than having to solve them later on. Doing so enables the project phases come together more smoothly from planning, hiring, communicating, executing, and overseeing. As your owner’s rep, project managers determine the confines of the project, formulate a realistic budget and timeline, and provide subcontractor and vendor selections. They also manage architects, designers, engineers, and contractors. With their experience and background, they’re able to effectively translate the objectives of the creative process from designers to construction teams and vice versa.

How do owners or property managers benefit?

  1. Respond to the most critical needs—not manage every issue that arises

    Building owners have their hands full—especially in markets like the San Francisco Bay Area. Balancing time, resources, and property management duties are no easy feat, and the last thing landlords want to deal with is the fallout of a tenant DIY disaster. But owners often don’t have the time to sufficiently monitor a project from conception to completion, or they lack the expertise and experience to do so.

  2. Invest time and resources more wisely

    Enlist a project manager to be an owner’s representative to enable the owner to more wisely invest their time and energy into other projects. Project managers handle the day-to-day decision making, bring only the most important needs or project summaries to the landlord’s attention. In doing so, owners can focus on the most critical aspects that arise, rather than managing all parts of the project.

  3. Deliver projects on schedule and on budget

    An owner’s representative advocates for a building owner to deliver the project on time and on budget, to create a harmonious experience for all project team members involved. Project management firms are up to date on current codes and technologies and assemble the best project team possible, aligning with the owner’s goals. This allows the delivery of a successful project to the client from a budget and schedule standpoint while meeting expectations.

  4. Preserve long-term property value

    Bring on a project manager to help ensure the best interests of all parties are met. The building staff is alleviated from the responsibility of overseeing buildouts and renovations. PMs work to control tenant improvement allowances, costs, and ensure alignment with building rules and standards. Streamlining these processes mitigates surprises. This means tenants can move into office spaces more quickly, and owners can begin leasing the property sooner—a win-win. And with a project manager as an owner’s rep, the owner can rest easy knowing the balance between long-term value and immediate tenant needs is being maintained.

Ready to bridge the gap between tenant and owner? We want to help! Built on more than 20 years of experience representing both tenants and building owners, our success lies in our deft project managers and the partner relationships we’ve built on. We cover all project needs from design to construction. For your next project simplified, contact The Bridge Group for your complimentary consultation.


Seeking Bay Area office space? Here’s what startups need to know

Seeking Bay Area office space?
Here’s what startups need to know

San Francisco office rents remain scarce and fueled by continued growth of tech companies charged by capital raised IPOs

Why a project management firm is essential in your search

Home to tech titans like Google, Apple, and Facebook, California currently ranks as the number one state millennials are moving to. The San Francisco Bay Area is an especially key destination for these educated, mostly mobile workers. Not only Gen Y seek great food and countless outdoor activities the Bay Area offers but also proximity to success stories in the tech world, like Slack’s recent IPO and hotly anticipated public debuts from the likes of Postmates and Airbnb.

Top 10 U.S. cities for startups and entrepreneurs. Infographic by Business.org

 

When it comes to office space, though, demand outpaces supply right now. Startups moving to the Bay Area will have to navigate a rather crunched market — but it’s by no means impossible.

 

We spoke with Robert Tasker, CEO and Principal at CM Commercial Real Estate in San Francisco, who offered some advice for this competitive and saturated tenant leasing market. For entrepreneurs/startups and tenants seeking to relocate to or within the Bay Area, here are some key questions to consider during your search.

1. What does a typical Bay Area office need?

Thanks to pioneering tech companies like Apple, Google, and Salesforce changing expectations, offices today need to be more than just a place where employees sit at desks. Companies moving to the Bay Area or relocating their offices need to evolve and redefine their office for various workstyles and shared open spaces to encourage cross-functional collaboration and creativity.

Even traditional industries, such as law and the financial sectors, are recognizing that today’s offices need to not just foster individual productivity but also serve as spaces to hold meetings and events, and be able to expand down the road as the company attracts more talent. In short, companies today need to be looking for space that is adaptable to the rapidly changing needs of the business world.

2. How can a project management firm improve my search?

Once potential office spaces are shortlisted with your broker, engaging a project manager to help evaluate the properties from a constructability standpoint is to your advantage. Enlisting a PM firm can streamline the process in budgeting your space for buildouts or designing effective open office layouts. An experienced PM firm can help assemble a tenant’s budget, keep it under control and review vendor proposals and suggest cost effective strategies.

Together with your broker, a project manager will tailor your office search around your specific needs as a company: how much square footage you’ll need to accommodate future growth, the ratio of public to private spaces in the office, number of conference rooms, and the level of amenities you should be offering, including onsite food options, wellness rooms, bike storage, and micro-kitchens. These are all part of work-life integration millennials now expect. Unlike an architect or interior designer, who has one specific focus, PM teams are experts in factoring all details into an office search while still keeping your move within budget.  

The right space is crucial for attracting and retaining new talent and staying ahead of the competition. Partnering with the right commercial real estate broker and enlisting an experienced project management firm can simplify the tenant leasing process.

3. Where can a new company find affordable Bay Area options?

Sure, the San Francisco Bay Area can be a challenging leasing market to penetrate, but working with an experienced broker alongside a project management firm can uncover quite a few more options than might first be obvious.

For example, CM Commercial analyzes market data on local brokers, landlords, and resources to help clients find office space. Startups who need to move into a space quickly but not lock themselves into a long-term lease might consider an interim solution like a sublease, coworking space or direct space that is ready to go without major tenant improvement work. CM Commercial helps companies find these options quickly because they closely track the market and advise tenants to evaluate all possible options for their business.

4. Coworking or traditional office space?

Flex working is a top demand among Millennials and Gen X employees, and often companies turn to coworking spaces as affordable ways to provide it. Right now, the flexible workspace market is expected to represent 30 percent of all offices by 2030, and San Francisco has the most coworking spaces per capita in the United States.

According to Robert Tasker, coworking isn’t the only way to provide flexible work and typically is not the least expensive option. Coworking companies build the price of improvements to the space into tenants’ rent. In an overpriced market such as the SF Bay Area, this can actually end up costing the company more than they would incur with a traditional office lease. Again, it depends on the company, its headcount, and plans for the future, but it’s important to understand the economics behind coworking spaces before you settle into any long-term arrangement with one.

Make no mistake, the SF Bay Area office market is a complex, intricate market to navigate when you’re a startup or seeking to move. Partnering with the right team during the leasing process can uncover a whole new world of options you might not have even realized existed.

Begin your search for your company’s new office space in the City by the Bay today.

 

Thank you to Robert Tasker of CM Commercial Real Estate for his valuable input on this piece.


How to encourage cross-generation collaboration at work

How to encourage cross-generation collaboration at work

Stand-up meeting bars, pops of color, and informal seating characterize the many collaborative meeting spaces; the light-filled main “promenade” of the office; and a fun garage door connects the cafe-lounge with the design studio.
        Delta Dental, Seattle. Photo credit: Sean Airhart, courtesy of NBBJ

Meet the needs of all 5 generations using our handy guide

Familiarizing yourself with what different generations of employees need at work is a great place to start if you’re seeking to improve employee collaboration. But what actionable steps can you take to create workplaces that set every employee up for success?

We’ve outlined four ideas you can use to plan and design spaces that bring diverse groups of workers together.

Create opportunities for spontaneous collaboration

community hub collaborative spaces

Café-style areas allow for warm community settings that accommodate a wide variety of purposes and create an opportunity to connect for everyone. Kitchen at HGA’s San Jose Office. Photo credit: Corey Gaffer Photography

 

Most offices have a micro-kitchen or office cafe where folks naturally socialize. However, more facilities are designing spaces specifically for spontaneous interaction, often called in-house social hubs. Think attractive, well-lit break rooms that are easily accessible for several teams and benches in hallways where employees can sit and chat. These spaces are for “accidental collision,” where unplanned dialogues lead to new, creative ideas. Consider providing snacks or beverages in these locations to encourage people to linger.

Design cross-functional spaces

Cross-functional space at LendingHome San Francisco headquarters designed by Studio Blitz. The space serves as a presentation area and work-cafe. Photo credit: Adam Rouse Photography

 

The trend of nesting coworking spaces inside your office space is one approach to creating cross-functional spaces where different people can meet. Also known as innovation hubs, they double as showcase rooms. Inviting freelancers and other innovators into your space is one way to infuse your employees with a fresh perspective and expose them to diverse ideas. If you aren’t able to build a dedicated co-working space, consider setting up regular events for the community, like a meetup geared towards designers or a happy hour for product managers.

Add connectivity options

HLW designed an outdoor courtyard space. Photo credit: Kim Rodgers Photography

Make sure that all new public spaces you design include wifi and easy power access. Power and connectivity must be ubiquitous throughout your facility or office to promote productivity and collaboration. This is especially critical for outdoor spaces, which need to be fully fitted with the right utilities if you want employees to utilize them. Adding outlets along hallways and in other places employees might spontaneously choose to work is another way to encourage random interactions.

Include areas for focused work

 

The Bridge Group's client, Redbubble, San Francisco

A recent survey by Gensler revealed that while employees value collaboration, they also need more private, enclosed spaces. Many companies offer areas like phone booths, huddle rooms, private hubs and semi-private booths. Offices are increasingly desiring communal libraries where employees can go when they need time to focus alone are. Make sure your office offers these spaces so your workers have the opportunity to recharge when they need to.

Designing workspaces where diverse groups of employees can socialize doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Many employees genuinely want to build a relationship with their coworkers, which can quickly lead to the birth of new, innovative ideas. By providing them with spaces for socializing and collaboration, you can foster an enduring workplace community.

Ready to bridge the communication gap between the employee generation gap in your office? Reach out for ideas on how we can help bring everyone together.


Designing a multi-generational workplace? Here's what you need to know

Designing a multi-generational workplace? Here's what you need to know

Why every generation of employee needs something different at work

Employees in America today are more age diverse than ever before. Many older generations, including baby boomers and traditionalists, are staying in the workforce past the typical age of retirement. Meanwhile, the 61 million members of Gen Z are preparing to look for employment in the coming years, and, by 2025, millennials will make up the majority of the workforce.

Photo courtesy of US Department of Labor

Planning spaces that accommodate the needs of a diverse group of employees can be challenging, which is why we created this guide detailing what each generation needs from their workspace. Here are the five generations of employees in the workforce today and how you can design spaces to meet their needs and wants.

Traditionalists (1922 - 1945)

Although the youngest members of this generation turn 76 this year, a few members are still in the workforce. None of them grew up with technology, or worked with it for most of their careers, so accommodations may be needed to help them adapt. Many of them remain in senior positions in law, accounting, healthcare, and architecture and engineering, and some have taken administrative roles to keep busy after retirement.

Although this generation may not be working for much longer, their experience growing up after the great depression and World Wars has made them a loyal, hardworking asset. By making changes at the office to meet their needs as they age, they’ll return the favor by staying loyal to your organization.

Baby Boomers (1946 - 1964)

Members of this generation are usually defined as goal-oriented and independent, qualities that have propelled them into upper management positions. They tend to thrive on familiarity and routine, meaning that the changes caused by an office redesign could be disruptive for them.

They grew up in an era when everyone got their own private office (or, at the very least, a private cubicle), but usually enjoy collaborative workspaces.

Infographic courtesy of Pew Research Center

Gen X (1965 - 1980)

This generation is a mix of folks who are comfortable with technology and folks who are not— they didn’t grow up with it like many millennials did, but they have also had time in the workforce to adapt and learn.

They value the opportunity to work independently (in fact, 41% describe themselves as entrepreneurs) but also appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with generations above and below them. Creating spaces like communal kitchens is a good way to draw them out and allow them to socialize on their own terms.

Generations X also appreciates the work-life balance lifestyle so consider offering telecommuting options for this group.

Gen Y/Millennials (1981 - 1996)

Generation Y is the first generation of “digital natives,” where most members of this generation grew up with a personal computer in their home. As a result, they embrace the use of new technology in the workplace, including features that allow them to work from anywhere like power adapters and wifi in outdoor spaces.

They expect a modern workplace, and are eco-conscious and appreciate biophilic design and sustainable features in the workplace, including opportunities to recycle and compost.

Gen Z (1997 - 2012)

For many designers, Generation Z (or post-millennials) is the most unknowable generation. According to the US Labor Department, they are expected to make up at least 25% of the US workforce by 2020. The youngest members are still relatively new to the workforce, and we’re watching as they demonstrate an increased need for work-life balance and workplace wellness. Incorporate elements like in-house gyms or rock climbing areas so they have options for physical activity throughout the day, and consider integrating objects like sit-stand desks and ergonomic furniture to show you care about this generation’s need to stay well while at work.

Furthermore, members of this generation don’t remember a time before the internet — they’re true digital natives, and feel most at home in a workspace with ample technology. They want to collaborate face-to-face as well as online, so consider using team communication software like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

In addition to wanting virtual workspaces, they also desire opportunities to work more independently and tend to shy away from open office concepts. Help them feel more at home by providing break out rooms and spaces for quiet reflection.

Here's how to prepare for Gen Z which will compromise 25% of our workforce by 2020

We know how tricky it can be to accommodate the needs of a multigenerational workforce in a single, cohesive space. In our next post, we’ll share a few practical solutions you can use to create workspaces that are welcoming to employees of all ageWhat design changes have you made to meet the needs of several generations of workers at your organization? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


2019 San Francisco workplace office design trends

2019 Workplace design predictions

2019 Workplace Design Predictions

2019 San Francisco workplace office design trends

These trends will Influence your office's corporate real estate footprint

As we kick off 2019 by partnering with clients new and old, we’re excited to pause and consider what design trends will shape our workplace in the coming year.

In 2018, we saw more companies focusing on designing for wellness and creating flexible workspaces where employees can seek solitude or work collaboratively. Here are six workplace trends our team thinks facilities managers and real estate professionals will be focusing on in 2019.

More flex space

Since open offices are here to stay, we predict flexible workspaces that allow both focused, independent work and group projects to become even more of a priority. More importantly, it’s what employees want: 53% of employees surveyed in mid-2018 value working in different spaces throughout the day.

Many clients have been adding additional non-work spaces for collaboration, such as coffee bars or micro-kitchens. These spaces offer opportunities for interaction between teams and the casual exchange of ideas.

Increased focus on the outdoors

Given the studies that show incorporating plant life into your workspace can help ease employee stress, we expect more companies will start introducing outdoor elements to their designs. Biophilic design, which involves using natural design elements like sources of natural light and fresh air, is especially appealing for departmental managers seeking to improve team productivity and reduce mental strain.

This could come in the form of living walls and more houseplants in communal spaces. It could also be created by placing open office desks near windows for employees to enjoy throughout the day and shared communal spaces on the interior of the floor plate.

More comfortable, home-like spaces

Research suggests that more comfortable office spaces can improve productivity. Some companies, such as our client Redbubble, created a soothing home environment by fashioning a meeting space after a cozy library.

Redbubble cozy library and meeting space

More growth into co-working spaces

Most people think co-working spaces are only for freelancers and small businesses. However, many larger companies are busting that myth and leasing co-working spaces to provide flexibility in their real estate strategy.

In mid-2018, Facebook announced that it would be leasing almost all of WeWork’s latest co-working space in Mountain View, California. We suspect more companies will be following Facebook’s lead in 2019. Partnerships with co-working spaces allow larger companies to get available office space faster for projects requiring a quick turnaround, without requiring a large spend on buildout.

More retrofitting old warehouses

Companies continue to look for ways to differentiate their facilities from others in order to attract top talent. One strategy that will continue to gain traction is be renovating old buildings, such as warehouses, into high-tech office space. The exposed beams and high ceilings add character to an office and are defining elements for tech companies such as Gusto. The HR software company recently renovated Pier 70 in San Francisco to create a fresh, unique space for employees to work and collaborate.

What facilities or workplace trends do you think we’ll be seeing more of in 2019? We'd love to hear from you!

Retrofitting old warehouses for modern office workspaces trending for 2019 and beyond.
Gusto’s new home at Pier 70 tells a story about history, community, and relationships. Photo credit to Gensler.

 

 

 


How to tighten your workplace security

How To Tighten Your Workplace Security

Our client, Tradeshift, takes company security seriously throughout their office and in the reception area with cameras.

Four strategies to keep your facility safe from theft

How confident are you that the security measures you have in place today will prevent your company from becoming the victim of a devastating theft?

Nobody enjoys planning for the worst case scenario. Security should be a key consideration during the planning phase of any office design or relocation project. The good news is that deterring theft doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

If your approach to workplace security so far has been remembering to lock the doors and saying a quick prayer before bed, it’s time to step up your game. Here’s four tips you can use to improve security at your business.

Place Cameras Strategically

Consider what you’re trying to capture before mounting cameras. Are you trying to catch footage of a potential suspect entering or exiting the building? Do you want to know where they go if they get inside? What about a shot of the type of vehicle they’re driving?

We recommend that clients begin by placing cameras in the following locations:

  • Entry points
  • Areas where someone may be injured
  • MDF and/or server rooms

Your local police department may be able to provide specific recommendations about the type of footage that is helpful for identifying criminals.

Secure Points of Entry

Card readers or keypads are the two top options for most business owners today; with keys, you have the expense of changing the locks every time an employee leaves. Many of our clients opt for card readers so employees don’t have the burden of remembering a code (and potentially sharing that code with outsiders). Card readers also produce a record of who entered and when so you can review in the event of an incident.

We recommend placing card readers on exterior doors, IDF rooms, and possibly storerooms, depending on what you have inside. Depending on the type of building, consider using a latch plate to prevent would-be thieves from using a crowbar to gain entry.

Use Burglar Deterrents

Since most offices are uninhabited at night, alarms are extremely useful to tip off potential thieves that their presence on your property has not gone unnoticed.  60% of burglars said they look for an alarm system before robbing a home— and if they find one, they move along to another target.

You can install alarms that are monitored by a security service, or simply use the alarm itself as a deterrent.

Review Company Protocol

When we think about theft, many of us imagine criminals dressed in black sneaking into your facility in the dead of night. But today, many thefts occur during broad daylight, perhaps when your receptionist has stepped away for lunch or many of your employees are in a meeting or attending an off-site.

If you don’t receive a lot of visitors, consider keeping your front door locked at all times and buzzing guests in as needed. If you do frequently have guests, taking turns at the reception desk is a good way to make sure there are always eyes on the door.

Finally, make sure all of your employees are aware of the possibility of theft. Help them feel comfortable coming to your security/facility team or management with any concerns, or if they see someone who doesn’t belong.

For general information by the USDA, Office of Procurement and Property Management for use in addressing security in the workplace issues, click here.

Looking to make office security a priority in 2019? Contact us for a consultation.

 


Workplace wellness office design strategies — part II

Workplace Wellness Office
Design Strategies
— part II

 

workplace and workspace wellness rooms and spaces
Photo: Kelly Robinson + Wundr Studio

Why physical activity and exposure to nature is key for employee happiness

As you probably already know from part one of our series on designing for employee health, office design can have a significant impact on your employee’s wellbeing and productivity. Whether you’re moving into a new office or constructing your first corporate campus, your entire team should be thinking about how your employees will inhabit every space— and, in turn, the impact that these spaces will have on their mental and physical health.

In collaboration with our partner Two Furnish, we came up with four approaches we’ve deployed to help our clients design locations that help employees stay fit while they’re at work.

Think Critically About Services Placement

staircase in the midddle of office floorplanFor example, one of our tech clients in Los Angeles placed a staircase in the middle of the floorplan instead of on the perimeter. When staircases are accessible and centrally located, employees are more likely to take the stairs instead of an elevator.

As you work with an architect to design the floor plan of your new office, pause to think about how employees will travel through the space. How can you organize services (such as bathrooms, kitchens, and elevators) in a way that will encourage employees to move?

Take Advantage Of The Outdoors

Walking meetings are all the rage today— they help employees gain more energy and reap all the benefits of increased physical activity, like lower healthcare costs and a reduced number of sick days.

incorporating nature in workplace design
Photo: Microsoft

Creating outdoor spaces like gardens, a track, or hiking trails will give your employees a big push to take their meetings outdoors when the weather permits. Offering umbrellas that anyone can take when they head out for a walk is another way to encourage them to think of the outdoors as another workspace.

Microsoft’s campus in Seattle, which is pedestrian friendly includes walking paths just for recreation, does an excellent job of creating space for outdoor work and leisure. Nearby forest trails provide additional options for employees wanting to get away from their desks and enjoy some fresh air.

In 2017, the technology company created a treehouse outfitted with power outlets and wifi for use as a meeting space or outdoor workstation. Their intention was to foster a greater connection between their employees and the outdoors, which has been shown to boost creativity and wellbeing.

If building your own outdoor paradise isn’t in the budget, consider looking for an office adjacent to a public park, beach, or recreation site. If you’re seeking space in the financial district where outdoor space may be limited, consider a building with a public open space such as a rooftop garden.

Incorporate Ergonomic Furniture

70% of all full-time workers in the U.S. hate sitting, but they’re often stuck glued to their task chairs day in and day out. Long periods at a desk combined with poor posture can also lead to back pain, which can contribute to increased rates of absenteeism.

sit to stand desks
Photo: Two Furnish + Matthew Millman Photography

Offer your staff a variety of ways they can work outside of the standard office chair. This could be sit-to-stand desks, modular furniture, foam mats to make standing more comfortable, configurable tables with casters, or yoga balls. By giving employees the gift of choice, they’ll be encouraged to move into whatever position is most comfortable for them throughout the day.

“Nearly 85% of the offices we’re actively engaged on consider height adjustable resident desks,” said Brian Buhl, Partner at Two Furnish. “It goes beyond being fad; it’s a tool amongst the extensive list of amenities and incentives that companies are advocating for. These desks in addition to a diverse mix of ancillary vignettes inspire a degree of user-based autonomy leaving it up employees to determine which posture and environment is seemingly most productive to work in on-demand.”

Create Rooms / Spaces Dedicated to Wellness

Finally, give employees space they can use to move their body and relax their mind. The workout they get from a game of ping pong, a brief yoga session, or a workout in an on-site gym can provide quick stress relief.

health, physical, relieve stress workspaces
Photos: Two Furnish + Matthew Millman Photography

And don’t be afraid to think outside the box: not all fitness is physical. Two Furnish worked with Kelly Robinson who co-designed medication pods with Headspace, creating a place where employees could step away for a moment of calm as our main featured photo. The “Lookout” also serves as a communal space adjacent to a large café and auditorium integrating a multipurpose room for a few minutes of repose.

Photo: Kelly Robinson + Wundr Studio

These are just a few of the many ways you can use design to help your employees feel better both during their time at the office and when they get home at the end of the day. When you’re ready to think about how your office space contributes to employee health, we’re here to help. Reach out to us for a free consultation.

 

Special thanks to our contributor: Brian Buhl, Partner at Two Furnish


JOANY makes use of potted plants in a creative huddle space with natural light.

Workplace wellness office design strategies - part I

Workplace Wellness
Office Design Strategies - part I

JOANY makes use of potted plants in a creative huddle space with natural light.
Two Furnish's client, JOANY, makes use of potted plants in a creative spherical garden space. Designer: Kelly Robinson and Photographer: Wundr Studio

 

Keep your employees healthy and productive with these four approaches

As the cost of healthcare expenses rises and employers grow more concerned with absenteeism, designing for workplace wellness has become a necessity for companies. Providing employees with opportunities to exercise, such as walking paths and standing desks, have become standard client requests.

But helping employees with their mental health is a trickier proposition. We know 40% of U.S. workers experience office stress, but the causes are as diverse as the people experiencing it.

Typically, improving workplace mental health has been the task of HR departments and employee assistance programs. But an increasing number of companies, including Uber and Amazon, are turning to design to provide employees with stress relief. Here are 4 approaches you can use on your next project to create spaces that foster productivity and relaxation.

Incorporate Natural Light

Sunlight was once viewed as the enemy of indoor spaces, as it penetrates through glass, heating up rooms and disrupting climate-controlled environments. But a lack of exposure to natural light at work has been shown to contribute to poor sleep and depressive symptoms — something no employer wants their workforce to experience.

Client: JOANY, Designer: Kelly Robinson, Photographer: Terrence Williams

Having natural light plus a keen awareness of materials which reflect and absorb is essential. “Having exposure to natural elements impacts your staff. Being inside all day can be uninspiring or impact your mental health – if it’s inevitable, which for many of us it is, employers have the option to adopt philosophies such as biophilic design or WELL that are proven to positively impact productivity,” said Brian Buhl, partner at San Francisco-based furniture dealer Two Furnish.

Uber Technologies’ new office in Mission Bay sought to foster connections between employees and the great outdoors. By placing all services such as elevators and restrooms at the building’s core, every employee can have a workstation within 20--30 feet of a window.

If you can’t give every employee a bit of natural light at their desk, consider placing gathering spaces around the building’s shell. They can be used for meetings, one-on-ones, or space for employees to have a moment of respite while enjoying a little bit of light and a novel view.

Furthermore, simply spending time outside has been shown to improve happiness and even give our memory a boost. Think outside the office when you design meeting rooms and gathering places. If you make spaces for outdoor interactions available, people will use them — sometimes rain or shine.

 

Bring the Outside In With Biophilic Design

Spherical garden designed by Kelly Robinson for TwoFurnish's client, JOANY

What’s the next best thing to providing space for employees to experience the great outdoors firsthand? Bringing the outside in using features like living walls in common spaces.

The biophilic design movement, which promotes exposure to natural environments through the use of indoor plants and patterns found in nature, is taking off in the tech community. One point/element of the movement is the fact that homo sapiens have spent most of their history outdoors, not in sealed office buildings. Adherents assert that incorporating these elements into workspaces will improve productivity and employee well being.

One example of this approach is Amazon’s new greenhouse located in downtown Seattle. With more than 400 species of plant life, The Spheres provide employees with a variety of unique spaces to work or unwind, including many spots that mimic natural environments like bird nests.

Most companies aren’t able to build their own private rainforest, but there are small ways to bring nature to your client’s employees. A living wall or adding space for potted plants can help decrease stress and reduce the amount of sick days.

 

Add Colors and Artwork

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeIf real plants aren’t an option, what about adding pops of color and art pieces that reflect the outside world?

Art can have a positive impact on our emotions and our productivity— one study found
employees working in spaces enriched with color, art, plants, or other design elements
were 17% more productive than employees working in bare, undecorated environments.

Our recent project for a tech company in Los Angeles took studies like these into consideration.
We facilitated the creation of a mural and a hanging art piece that spans multiple floors,
which adds visual interest to employee’s days every time they walk past.

Create Private Spaces

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representative

As many companies shift towards adopting open office layouts, spaces for employees to speak privately or enjoy a respite moment to themselves are becoming more important.

Consider adding phone booths in open office environments to provide privacy for a phone call. San Francisco coworking space, RocketSpace achieved this with The Bridge Group in collaboration with the design team.

Although design isn’t a panacea for depression, there are many different approaches designers can take to help workers reduce office stress. They can be as simple as adding plants to a break area, or building an outdoor patio— the benefits for an employee’s state of mind makes it worthwhile.

What design approaches does your office use to help employees to maintain with workspace wellbeing? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

 

Special thanks to our blog contributor: Brian Buhl, Two Furnish

 


Strategies to control costs on your construction project

3 Simple Ways to Control Costs On Your Next Construction Project

Construction costs spiraling out of control? Here’s how to handle it.

As project managers, it’s our job to make sure our client’s office build-out is completed on time and within budget. We frequently partner with startups and companies who are growing rapidly and have a strict budget with little room for the costly overruns that can become an insidious part of the construction process. As a result, we’ve fine-tuned our ability to get our clients the best value for their money.

Here are three strategies Construction Managers, Facility Managers and Operations Teams can employ to keep costs low while ensuring that your new space meets your needs.

1. Bring in a contractor early

By hiring a general contractor early in the project, you can price the plans at various stages during the design process. Then, your team can conduct value engineering exercises as they design and prevent costly surprises once the construction documents are complete.

2. Find opportunities to cut costs

A general contractor can also identify where the costs are coming in high and make suggestions for places you can cut back. Ideally, your project management firm will work closely with the design team and general contractor at this stage to ensure sure they’re reducing costs without sacrificing quality.

3. Utilize cost comparisons

Skyline Construction created a tool called the Bay Area Cost Comparison to help guide you towards a less expensive project. This white paper will give you an idea of what an average project might cost in your area, what factors drive escalation, and what cost saving measures to look for.

We brought all these strategies together during our recent work for RocketSpace, a San Francisco based co-working space. Our team partnered with Skyline Construction, while we were still finalizing the fit plan so they were contracted and ready to price at the end of the schematic design phase. We conducted a second round of pricing after the design development phase and then, of course, at the end of construction documentation.

Our partnership with Skyline Construction helped us discover several ways to save on construction project costs. Project savings included; re-working the mechanical design, selecting less expensive light fixtures, re-thinking the door selection to each office space and finding a less expensive finish for the millwork. It would have been disastrous if we had discovered these expenses after our construction documents were complete, since it would have delayed the project and led to change orders from our design team. As it was, our team was able to make these decisions while the plans were coming together, which resulted in construction costs meeting our budget and staying on track with our timeline.

We’re not afraid of a small construction project budget. Find out how we can help with your next project or discuss some costs savings alternatives. Contact us now for your free project consultation.


6 tips to transition employees to an open office layout

Six Tips to Transition Employees to an Open Office Layout

What do the offices of companies like Facebook, IBM, GE and Apple all have in common?

If you guessed that they all incorporate open office space into their design, you’d be correct. Open office layouts continue to gain popularity as many companies make the switch to encourage a more collaborative work environment.

Unsurprisingly, most of our recent projects involve at least some open concept space, although they aren’t without controversy. Many employees have complained that open workspaces have a negative effect on their productivity, make it easier for germs to spread, and dampen creativity.

I didn’t fully understand what it was like to work in an open office until I tried it for myself. Although it was difficult at first to maintain focus amid co-workers discussing their lunch plans or recent weekend trips, I eventually learned to drown out the noise and get my work done.

This foray into open seating helped me develop a deeper sense of empathy for clients making the difficult decision to move their employees out of cubicles or separate offices into one open plan layout. Along the way, I developed this list of five key actions you need to take in order to keep your employees happy and productive during this type of transition.

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeProvide phone rooms and meetings areas.  For distraction-free work and the need for private conversations, consider setting up a few hotel offices. Employees can reserve these offices for a couple of hours at a time and use them for private calls, confidential discussions, and projects that call for deep focus.

Give employees space for their personal items.  Think of the desk as your employee’s home away from home. By giving them license to personalize their space, you empower them to feel like they truly own the space. If you’re considering a hotel-seating model, which involves unassigned desks, make sure your employees have lockers where they can store personal items.

Consider acoustics. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on how a space looks. Think about how sound travels through an area and how different personality types react to various sound environments.

Offer spaces for fun.  This includes incorporating areas where employees can take their work if they need to get away, including high-top tables or casual sitting areas. I’ve even seen clients provide hammocks, lego-building areas, or yoga space so employees can take a mini-retreat during the day.

Sell the positive. Make sure you focus on the upsides of the new space instead of the potential downsides. For instance, sitting alongside your manager may make them easier to approach with new ideas. There’s also more energy in the workplace when people aren’t hidden away in enclosed offices or cubicles.

Give them time to get used to it. No matter what your personality type, it still takes time to adjust to a new way of working. Try offering headphones to people who are having a difficult time tuning out the noise. After a while, you may notice they don’t need them.

Change of any kind can be difficult for employees to handle. The most important key to a smooth transition is listening to your employee’s concerns — don’t downplay them, and don’t imply that things will be the same as they were before. Rather, empathize with their worries and then consult with your designer or facility manager and see if there are any practical steps you can take to address them.

Is your company undergoing tenant improvements or moving? Can’t decide if an open office concept is suitable for your employees?

Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

 

 


How to get your team on board with your next office move

Managing Employee Expectations: How To Get Your Team On Board With Your Next Office Move

Since most of us will spend an average of almost nine hours at work each and every day, working in a space that reflects our styles and preferences is critical for workplace happiness. For many people, moving into a new office offers an exciting opportunity to re-imagine a space where you spend a large chunk of your time. But for others, moving offices can feel like an extra stressor on top of existing responsibilities.

Team leaders need to be prepared to manage employee expectations and guide them through the transition. Before you start planning your next move, study these approaches to helping your employees view the change in a positive light.

    1. Deliver Consistent Communication – It’s critical to start discussing the move with your employees early in the process. In particular, make sure you announce the new location, when the move will be happening, and how employees can prepare as soon as you can. It’s important to give them as much advance notice regarding these decisions as possible so they can get used to the idea. Make sure to highlight some of the upsides of the new space in your communications, such as easier commutes for employees or upgraded facilities.
    2. Get Employees Involved – Employees need to feel that their voice is being heard during the design process. Before you start, consider sending out a survey to understand your employees’ needs and ask department leads to confirm headcount numbers and growth plans. You should also consider inviting team leaders to be part of the design process during certain stages, including finalizing the fit plan and furniture selection. It’s important to convey deadlines to getting information to avoid having to make changes later which can be costly and add time to the project.
    3. Give Tours of the New Site – Seeing the space during construction can help foster excitement and ease potential negatives among employees who are reluctant to get on board. You’ll need to coordinate with your general contractor, but many can accommodate hosting tours in the late afternoon when the workers have left for the day. You’ll want to keep the groups small to ensure safety on site, so send out a signup list where people can reserve their spot on a first come, first serve basis.
      The Bridge Group LLC's office build-out in SOMA for San Francisco client.

      Be sure to warn people to wear pants and close-toed shoes and ask your contractor to have hard hats and safety vests available.

    4. Hold a Move Discussion – It’s important to reserve some time during company all hands meetings to discuss the move. You may want to put together a slide deck showing the look and feel of the new space, maps highlighting neighborhood amenities, and photographs of any upgrades that the employees might enjoy, like new sit-stand desks or improved AV/VC in meeting rooms.
    5. Make it Fun – Preparing for a move can be a lot of work, so you need to add an element of fun. For example, many of our clients typically hold a purge day to give everyone an opportunity to clean out their desks and storage areas. Sounds stressful, right? It doesn’t have to be. Bring in food, drink and create contests with prizes to make the process more enjoyable.

Although most people think of moving as painful, if you get employees excited about the new location, it’s easier for them to see the payoff behind all the hard work associated with an office move. Engaging your employees in the company relocation process with the tips outlined is a valuable strategy which will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Has your organization experienced a recent move? We’d love to hear what other tips may have made your transition positive for everyone. Please comment below.