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San Diego
Sunday, May 19, 2024
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A New Day at the Office

1 San Diego

2 Salt Lake City

3 Los Angeles

4 San Antonio

5 Seattle

6 Inland Empire

7 Houston

8 Boston

9 Washington D.C.

10 Las Vegas

Millennials, those younger workers between the ages of 18 and 34 who are seeking a different kind of workspace, are having a profound effect on the way offices are designed and built in San Diego County and elsewhere.

And since millennials constitute a large percentage of the San Diego population, designers and builders are stepping up to accommodate their preferences.

Millennials were very much on the mind of Chris Veum, president of AVRP Skyport Studios, when his firm designed new offices for the marketing technology company Amobee in Sorrento Mesa.

“It was definitely the target of conversation,” Veum said. “Social space was big for them, which it is for most millennials. Collaboration space also was very big, and food.”

About 80 percent of the space at Amobee’s new offices is open. There’s also a large kitchen, an amphitheater which can be used by a group or by someone who wants to work in a quiet space, phone rooms for up to four people which can be used as private spaces or small meeting areas, a courtyard park in the middle, a deli, a large gym and plenty of natural light.

Architects also point to WeWork, the coworking space giant with two locations in San Diego, as an example of the kind of work environment millennials want.

“Building and office construction has definitely been affected by the millennial workforce,” said Mark Kuske, asset manager for EMMES Realty Services of California — a major player in the downtown San Diego commercial real estate market.

Well-Rounded Work Environment

“We’ve seen a design focus on collaboration, technology and wellness, driven by the culture and preference of millennials,” Kuske said. “Open work environments with exposed ceilings, less private offices and more spaces to collaborate are becoming more and more prevalent. Ping-Pong tables, kegs and wine bars seem to be a standard in today’s tenant improvements for creative companies.”

Julie Kilpatrick, JLL vice president and market lead of project and development services, said that to accommodate the amenities millennials want, less office space is being devoted to work.

“We’re moving toward lower square footage per employee,” Kilpatrick said.

The standard of more than 200 square feet per worker, is shrinking to 150 square feet or even 125 square feet, she said.

“You want to make sure you’re allowing open floor plates with open views and access to the outdoors wherever possible,” Kilpatrick said. “Millennials are not sitting in private offices with closed doors. That’s not something they’re interested in doing.”

San Diego has more of them as a percentage of population — 27 percent — than any other metropolitan area in the country, according to an analysis of U.S. Census figures by JLL, a real estate brokerage firm.

They’re the ones with the skills high-tech, biotech and information technology companies want to attract.

Gone are the walled-in cubicles and private offices of older generations.

These workers want open space where they can work collaboratively, but they also want private space where they can work alone without interruption.

Fitness and Food

They want places set aside in the workplace where they can go to de-stress. They crave amenities — things like gyms staffed by fitness trainers, and coffee shops, and trendy places to eat in the building where they work or nearby, and a wine bar or maybe even a beer tasting room where they can socialize after work.

Those are among changes that architects and real estate brokers said they’re looking at as they try to accommodate the workforce that will replace aging baby boomers — those between the ages of 50 and 69.

Founded in 2007 in New York, WeWork has capitalized on that trend, growing to become a $20 billion company with offices in 23 U.S. cities and 18 countries, according to its website.

WeWork came to San Diego in December 2016, leasing 85,000 square feet at 600 B St. downtown, and has since leased an additional 54,000 square feet at The Aventine office tower in University City.

Architect Kevin Heinly, principal at Gensler in San Diego, said discussions among his colleagues often focus on how to tailor office design to attract millennials.

“One of the things we talk about a lot is the activity-based work environment and having choice,” Heinly said. “What we’re seeing is everybody doesn’t work like their dads did in an office or a cubicle. They want choice in their work environment.”

Choice can mean incorporating many meeting rooms of various sized and what Heinly called “focus rooms” where workers can do heads-down work without interruption but with plenty of open space when they want to share ideas and work collaboratively on a project.

It also means having those spaces on site that are more akin to activities people used to do away from the workplace.

Flexibility a Must

“The millennial generation is the one that’s most accustomed to this blurring of the lines between work, play and live,” Heinly said. “That doesn’t mean working 12 hours a day or 14 hours a day, it means having the flexibility to go into a work setting, maybe do a seminar, go into a workshop setting, maybe take two hours to go exercise or to a coffee shop on campus.”

Fitness centers have been around for a while, but the ones millennials expect aren’t tucked away dungeonlike in building basements with a few pieces of battered equipment and no windows.

These better be state-of-the-art, maybe with personal trainers and operated as a franchise by a third party.

“On large campuses, you’re seeing things like care doctor suites for check-ups or quick diagnoses of flu,” Heinly said. Bike repair shops and dry-cleaning services on the campus in suburban locations are something to consider.

After the Millennials

Even as architects and developers struggle to accommodate millennials, Robin Weckesser, president and founder of a3 Workplace Strategies in San Jose, said it’s not too soon to start thinking about the people who will replace millennials in the workplace — Generation Z, or GenZers.

“They’re digital natives. They’ve been born into a digital world, and as a result, they’re at ease with technology, with interacting with technology. They’re not afraid of it. Everything they do revolves around it,” Weckesser said.

Flexible space is what they’re probably going to want, and they’re not likely to be as keen to work in collaborative groups as millennials, Weckesser said, adding that GenZers value “a space that fits the task at hand.”

“They’re going to look to be given a task and let them go off and do it,” Weckesser said. “It’s now about flexibility of work settings with the appropriate technology built in and available throughout the day.”

“On large campuses, you’re seeing things like care doctor suites for check-ups or quick diagnoses of flu,” Heinly said. Bike repair shops and dry-cleaning services on the campus in suburban locations are something to consider.

After the Millennials

Even as architects and developers struggle to accommodate millennials, Robin Weckesser, president and founder of a3 Workplace Strategies in San Jose, said it’s not too soon to start thinking about the people who will replace millennials in the workplace — Generation Z, or GenZers.

“They’re digital natives. They’ve been born into a digital world, and as a result, they’re at ease with technology, with interacting with technology. They’re not afraid of it. Everything they do revolves around it,” Weckesser said.

Flexible space is what they’re probably going to want, and they’re not likely to be as keen to work in collaborative groups as millennials, Weckesser said, adding that GenZers value “a space that fits the task at hand.”

“They’re going to look to be given a task and let them go off and do it,” Weckesser said. “It’s now about flexibility of work settings with the appropriate technology built in and available throughout the day.”

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