Rise of the Instagram office

Rise of the Instagram office

Total Property - Issue 4 2017

OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS millennials will be the fastest growing age demographic in New Zealand, contributing about 70,000 people to Auckland’s workforce. Their ascendancy will have a huge impact on the way companies approach office layout.

Research shows that millennials seek a strong demonstration of purpose from their organisations. Many workplaces are responding to this by making choice of working styles a selling point, allowing millennials to work however, whenever and wherever they want.

The influence of millennials on workspace decisions can be seen in global corporations’ increasing desire for offices their employees can show off on Instagram or Facebook. Many businesses want high-quality fit-outs that showcase the style trends and amenities typically found in the offices of Silicon Valley technology giants: large open spaces, exposed ceilings and floors made from timber or polished concrete. These have been shown to drive tenant inquiry and transactions.

Although the vacancy rate in Auckland’s office market has fallen to historic lows, more than 50,000m² of prime space is set to come on stream this year, including Goodman’s Datacom building (16,000m²) at Wynyard Quarter and Manson TCLM’s 46 Sale Street (10,000m²). The FOMO effect (fear of missing out) will undoubtedly have a bearing on the leasing decisions of businesses in established, older-style office buildings.

However, prospective tenants can often struggle with blank spaces. Visualising how they will occupy a building can be challenging, especially after inspecting a string of properties.

Office designer Lizzi Whaley, who is chief executive officer of Spaceworks Design Group, says: “Instagram-worthy fit-outs allow tenants to fall in love with a bare shell of a space, which can be a hard ask from an office with suspended ceiling tiles and carpet. Our research has also found that a great-looking space can help attract and retain staff.”

Work space strategy firm NotYetKnown, which is part of the Jasmax group of architects and interior designers, agrees. “Physical space is the most tangible expression of a business’s culture, and relies upon activities within it to bring it to life. Instagram is about people expressing what’s important to them, and so if a workplace means something to employees, they will share pictures of it on social media,” says NotYetKnown senior strategist Sarah Bryant.

“It’s important to consider that millennials will soon represent 50 percent of the workforce, and right now they view Instagram as an important part of their digital life. So, making a workplace ‘Instagram-worthy’ could soon be an essential tool in attracting world-leading talent.”

Millennial-friendly work trends such as coworking – where businesses share office space and facilities – are also influencing office design and leasing decisions.

The trend in new office developments is for shared, open working spaces, centralised meeting hubs, segmented spaces and light, airy interiors. New buildings advertise energy efficiencies and green/eco-intelligence as selling points to attract businesses and in turn like-minded staff.

However, Australian workplace expert Libby Sander believes the move to open-plan offices has been, in some cases, detrimental to staff productivity.

“For decades, the office has moved from private, to open plan and more recently, no desk at all. These changes have been driven almost simultaneously by the push to reduce real estate costs and to also increase collaboration among employees,” she says.

Writing for the Australian opinion website The Conversation, Ms Sander argues that open-plan offices often fail to take into account differences in individual working styles and differences in the types of work that need to be undertaken.

“The time workers are spending on collaborative tasks is decreasing, while time on quiet concentrated work is increasing. In response to these issues, organisations have been experimenting with ways to segment workplaces to overcome these problems,” she says.

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