Deborah Quinn Hensel 2017-01-24 23:28:11
DESIGN DEFINES NEW TECH SPACES, REVAMPS WORKSPACES FOR YOUNGER SEGMENT OF THE WORKFORCE " The shift in assigning someone to a seat is really changing." In offices all across the Houston area, a sea change is happening, most of it driven by technology and the needs and desires of a younger segment of the workforce. Traditional office spaces, paneled boardrooms, and beige cube farms are giving way to a newer, more flexible way of working. “The shift in assigning someone to a seat is really changing,” said Heather Van Ravenswaay, an Associate Principal at design firm PDR. “When you come to work these days, you’re not asked to do just one or two tasks. You’re asked to do 20 or 30 different things. We’re shifting to a world of knowledge workers.” A knowledge worker is someone who changes processes, she added. Simultaneously, managers are becoming mentors who give “big picture” assignments and then allow workers to figure out for themselves the best way to get things done, with far less supervision and micromanaging. In 2016, PDR conducted a survey of college students to help inform workplace design for the next generation of problem solvers. “Collegiate to Corporate: Workplace Insights from Learning Environments” revealed that students are looking forward to flexibility and choices in their future. They reported a desire to work in more than one space in the office and to be able to choose where they work on the basis of what they need to do. They also want to interact with teams and leaders, but still have access to quiet spaces for independent focus work. Enabling those choices translates to providing the requested focus areas, as well as team huddle rooms and multipurpose spaces, Van Ravenswaay said. “There’s really not a whole lot of difference between what millennials want and what everybody else wants,” said Brian Malarkey, Executive Vice President of Kirksey Architecture. “They want to be engaged; they want to be part of the process; they want to be collaborative; and they want access to technology. I think they’re just more verbal about it.” Of the many things driving the workplace of the future, technology is at the top of the list. And while technology has enabled many people to work from home, from remote locations, or from their local coffee shop, some are now getting excited about returning to newly designed and enticing workspaces that allow for more interaction with their coworkers, he added. “It’s all about getting people to run into one another,” Malarkey said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to create those ‘collision points.’” One Houston company that has made the transition to a more flexible workspace in its downtown location is PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The professional service firm relocated in December 2015 to 170,000 square feet of space across seven floors in Wells Fargo Plaza on Louisiana. PwC designed the space with future growth in mind, and included “touch-down desks” to accommodate mobile workers, plus lounge areas and conference rooms for social gatherings and team meetings. “Our new office space in Houston reflects our continued commitment to creating a great place to work for our 1,600 partners and staff—from our modern amenities and stateof- the-art facilities to our open and spacious floor plan that allows for better teaming and collaboration among our people and with our clients,” said Managing Partner Ray Garcia. Another trend in nontraditional spaces is the concept of coworking, which began a little more than a decade ago on the West Coast. In January 2016, deskmag.com predicted there would be 10,000 coworking spaces operating by the end of the year. In Houston, lone entrepreneurs and small-business start-ups are finding a haven in shared spaces like Station Houston at 1301 Fannin, where providing a physical workspace is just the framework for a larger story. “We're really more of an accelerator,” said Station CEO John Reale in November at a panel discussion titled “The Future of Work in Houston.” Station Houston offers both open-plan and private offices, with conference and meeting rooms that can be reserved. It also offers its members a variety of educational events, Lunch & Learn, Fireside Chats, and community meet-ups, giving them the opportunity to interface with one another as well as the chance to glean wisdom from nearly 50 mentors. “It’s about events; it’s about programs; it’s about community,” Reale said. Yet providing an incubator to nurture young companies is not as simple as supplying desks and a coffee lounge, he acknowledged. “Building your own business is a challenge as it is,” he said. “Building a business that supports other businesses is even more so.” Coworking spaces in Houston still represent only a few hundred thousand square feet, but the concept is quickly catching on and spreading to suburban areas like Cypress and The Woodlands. Many of these new spaces, like Station, are focused on providing support solely for budding hightech and software companies. “Our mission is to serve entrepreneurs,” Reale said. “And our vision is to transform Houston into an admired tech community.”
Published by EMMIS Communications. View All Articles.
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