JLL: How a collaborative office re-design worked in our favor post-COVID

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Editor’s note: Kimarie Ankenbrand is a managing director of Tenant Representation and JLL Raleigh Office lead.


RALEIGH — Flexibility. Efficiency. Function. Purpose. Reimagination. Culture. Collaboration. Innovation. Sustainability. Wellness. Futureproof.

These are all concepts that companies and their leadership are looking to instill moving forward in a post-COVID world.

They were also concepts that were top of mind for the JLL Raleigh-Durham team two years ago. In 2018, JLL signed a lease for a larger, more collaborative space full of lounge areas, meeting rooms and flex seating options.

After months of build-out, we finally moved into the new office in early 2020. Then the pandemic hit.

So, we sent our employees home, along with the rest of the world for the foreseeable future. Today, we’re slowly phasing employees back into the office under social distancing guidelines and it’s working out pretty seamlessly thanks to the size and forward-thinking flexibility of our space.

The design, layout and utilization of our new office did not happen by chance. It required thoughtful attention to detail and out-of-the-box thinking.

Our goal was to challenge the status quo and reimagine the workplace as a hub for culture, collaboration, innovation, and ultimately productivity.

We planned for the long-term, so it had to be futureproof. So far, it has proven to be.

I wanted to share some of the decisions that worked in our favor during re-entry, as well as some insights into what companies redesigning and reimagining their workplace should consider when developing their strategy for the next normal.

Space utilization that works for you, not against you:

  • 30% closed offices, 70% workstations. Our new office is not a heavy, open office plan. We have a good mix between offices and workstations. If we had geared more towards the 80-100% open office strategy that was trending pre COVID, bringing people back in under social distancing guidelines would be difficult.
  • Room for growth. We leased more space than we needed at the time and built it out with future growth in mind. This has allowed us to spread people out instead of having them sandwiched in right next to one another as we bring them back in.
  • Closed-door lounge areas. We were very thoughtful about these spaces during our build-out. We have about one lounge area per every 1,000 square feet of office space. These areas have been great during re-entry because people have the option to leave their workstation and still be in a space they feel safe in.
  • Comfortable conference rooms. Our largest conference room can normally hold over 20 people. Right now, we’re only allowing up to four people. Even still, it’s a great option for smaller meetings, brainstorming sessions, or hybrid in-person and virtual meetings. The conference rooms have the technology to effectively video-chat colleagues working from home and also offer comfortable amenities like couches around the perimeter of the room. Again, this offers another safe option to get employees out of their regular seats.
  • Spacious walkways. We were very thoughtful about the flow of our office space. There’s not a lot of dead-end areas so people are able to travel around without running into others. We have big open walkways, so employees feel safe. Plus, the extra space made it easy to create one-way walking areas, so people aren’t passing by one another in close proximity.

Creating an environment that feels like home:

  • Optionality. We knew that people want optionality when it comes to their workspace. Not just two options, but five or six options. Our team created an office with comfortable seating options even before COVID. We’ve got two closed-in living room spaces, high-top tables, stand up desks, phone rooms with couches, usable soft seating —even our café has three different seating options. People like working from home because they can work anywhere: their kitchen table, office, couch or their bed. Part of incentivizing your people to come back to work is to make sure that they have as many, if not more options for their work area as they have at home.
  • Décor. Aside from optionality, we also decorated our office with “home” in mind. A residential interior designer helped us with our art so we could create a home-like environment that doesn’t feel corporate. Our employees collaborated to choose each piece of art based on one question: “would you put this in your home?” While choosing design elements for our office space, we never sacrificed home-like features. For example, when the budget had to be cut, we opted to keep home-like elements such as our moss wall in the café and the geometric wood paneling behind our reception desk. This has created an environment that people want to get off their couch and come back to.
  • Ambiance. If we had been at our old space when the pandemic shook the world, we’d be pressed to have a quarter of the employees back that we do now. I would have rather worked from home than work in a space that wasn’t inviting; a space that was stale and corporate. Cookie-cutter. No personality. We’re kidding ourselves if we think our people will be happy about returning to offices with rows of cubicles, bad lighting and no personality.
  • Energy. Just because you’re productive at home, doesn’t mean you’re inspired, happy and engaged. Being in a space that is literally designed to energize its people will create a more productive environment and drive collaboration. All this together drives employee loyalty. It makes your people want to work harder. You’re not going to get that kind of energy at home.

You could provide the safest and cleanest office space in the country and your people could still dread coming back to work when all this is behind us. We must take the steps to ensure employees are as happy as they are healthy while at work. Space utilization and layout are key factors in ensuring your office is safe and convenient for your people, but it’s also the smaller, home-like details such as décor and optionality that will actually incentivize your employees to come back at all whether 1 or 5 days a week.

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire