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Space Age

By creating office environments that place a greater emphasis on collaboration and having shared workspaces, many San Diego County businesses are striving to increase their productivity.

Georgia Collins, the managing director of workplace strategies for the CBRE commercial real estate brokerage, said the concept — often called the “office of the future” — seeks to improve efficiency while meeting the changing needs of workers.

Businesses that fail to adapt eventually will find it difficult to recruit and keep quality employees, she added.

“There is tremendous competition for talent in many markets,” Collins said. “Part of it is about retaining people.”

Because of their mobile devices, workers no longer are tethered to desks, she explained. They are less willing to sit alone in a cubicle all day. They prefer to work with their colleagues.

Gary London, president of the London Group of Realty Advisors in San Diego, said part of the motivation for having shared workspaces and fewer individual offices is to reduce the amount of square footage that businesses must lease in commercial buildings. This approach results in an increased return on investment.

“This office-of-the-future environment has really tamped down the demand for new office space,” London said. “It brings down overhead. The most significant part of overhead always is employees, but after that, leasing space is right up there.”

A New Generation

The challenge is to create offices where workers want to be, not simply to fit more people into less space.

Although the open-office concept is gaining momentum, not all workers are celebrating, London said. While it works well for 20- and 30-somethings, some middle-aged workers are less

enthusiastic.

Older executives view having their own office as an earned perk, after working their way into a position of authority, he explained.

“There is less wall and floor space, which is viewed as a positive thing, but it also can be seen as a negative thing,” London said. “I don’t get my private office space, which would be nice given my place in the hierarchy of the company.”

Leasing costs quickly add up for commercial tenants. London said if a business were leasing office space at a monthly cost of $3.50 per square foot, dropping the average amount of space it needs per employee by 100 square feet could save more it than $4,000 per year for each worker.

Where is it happening?

Paul Komadina, the managing director of the San Diego region for CBRE, said there are commercial real estate submarkets here where the “office of the future” is becoming commonplace.

“Downtown is really where it started.” said Komadina, who oversees the owner-

investor side of the business, with a focus on office, industrial and retail agency leasing. “There is a younger generation of workforce that lives and works downtown. They are really driving the change. It was originally driven by the tech and media companies.”

Gradually, the concept is spreading to other parts of the county, he said.

“We have seen a movement toward the suburbs,” he added. “It has been slow but it definitely is occurring. Carlsbad has pockets of it. It’s driven by the action sports and tech communities that exist there.”

The concept also is making its way into the commercial office buildings of Del Mar Heights and University Towne Center, he added.

Who is driving the change?

Komadina said it is office workers who are pushing landlords and tenant businesses to redesign commercial office spaces.

“The tenants are building space to recruit and retain key employees,” Komadina said. “The employee drives what the employers do. The employers drive what the landlords do.”

One San Diego businesses that has embraced the concept is the Red Door Interactive marketing and advertising agency. President and CEO Reid Carr said he employees about 60 people. The payback is having top-quality workers who are prepared to invest their time into making the business a success. Common areas where workers can congregate encourages them to interact and collaborate.

“The energy is huge,” Carr said. “There is kind of a palpable energy that comes with an environment like this. People want to be part of it.”

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