Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel for Colorado Real Estate Journal’s Office Summit & Tech Forum.
This was my first time participating in an in-person industry event since the pandemic began, and I have to say, CREJ did a fantastic job. The panelists were in the same room, but distanced, and the 275-person audience was completely virtual.
The panel was made up of multiple industry leaders and as we prepped, planned and presented our perspectives, it became clear to me the importance of having in-depth conversations like this about our work and the role we, as designers, will play in creating the offices of the future.
Here are a few key takeaways from this conference that stuck with me:
- People are slowing down (a little). And that’s a good thing. More people than ever before are recognizing that the design of the spaces we live and work in has a tremendous effect on our health and happiness. As a result, we’re seeing clients slowing down in their process to think critically about what’s right for their company and their people. Speed isn’t dictating design and construction schedules nearly as much as it was pre-pandemic. Engaged clients who are committed to thinking about the needs of their people and their business inevitably end up with a better space.
- Technology integration is not slowing down. The focus of my particular panel was trends in the tech office sector. By virtue of the nature of their work, the tech sector has always been quick to adopt new technologies into the design of their workplace. As technology-enabled work has become the norm, nearly every sector must think about technology integration in their design process. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, where connectivity has become a lifeline for many people and businesses, technology integration is moving at warp speed. This will fundamentally change the ways we interact in our office spaces. As designers, we need to plan for technology integration that is adaptable – as technology is advancing more rapidly than ever and spaces need to be able to shift new capabilities in and out without tearing down walls.
- The best solutions are the ones that are right for your business and your people. This panel was fascinating because we had the perspectives of designers who work primarily with large corporate tech clients as well as designers who work primarily with startups and mid-size tech firms. While ‘tech’ might be the tie that binds them, what the panel reinforced is that what is right for the tech giants might not be right for a startup with 30 people.
What has always struck me about working with young tech startups is how passionate they are about their culture and how unpredictable their trajectories are. When you start working with them, they might be looking for their first 10,000-square-foot office and by the time you start designing, they got a new round of funding and now they’re looking to triple their square footage.
I believe, In order to plan a space that will allow a tech startup to effectively scale and grow – and retain their culture – you can’t just look at what others are doing. You have to get to know the team you’re working with – what they need and where they are going. Are they on track to get a new round of funding? Are they looking to sell soon? How do they work together? When do they need to collaborate? What do they value in a workplace? What are the quirks of their culture that they’re really proud of? You can’t answer these questions by looking at trends. You have to look at people.
We’re working on a couple projects right now that exemplify these key takeaways, so stay tuned!