The Art Of Workplace Design

Cres Gardner, CCIM, SIOR, CID president elect, Beau Box New Orleans, LLC

         It’s where most of us spend eight hours a day. Forty hours a week. Two thousand and eighty hours in 2017. Whether your office consists of a bunch of cubicles or is as spacious as a hotel ballroom, the space in which we work can either help or hinder our productivity.

         It’s a concept being explored today, Thursday, March 23, at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. “Workplaces That Work: Designing For Connection, Inspiration And Creativity” will focus on workspace design as an art, from the premise that functional workspaces boost productivity, foster connections and collaboration and promote new ideas and innovative thinking.

         The interactive session will be held at The Classroom on the 2nd floor of The Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

         As the panelists explore ways to structure workspaces big and small to maximize creativity and efficiency, Cres Gardner, CCIM, SIOR, CID president elect, of Beau Box New Orleans, LLC, said New Orleans has been slow to adopt contemporary design trends in office spaces. He said it’s due to the fact the city has not seen new multi-tenant Class “A” office building construction since 1999.

         “Designers have been able to push local tenants to adopt contemporary thinking about their offices,” Gardner said. “Now, many tenants are demanding redesigns of their spaces in order to take advantage of the efficiency and workplace enhancement contemporary trends provide. “

         Gardner said there are currently five main trends being employed in multiple office spaces around New Orleans. The first is the open office concept. “New Orleans tenants are now embracing the efficiency of the open office concept,” he said. “Open offices eschew traditional private offices in favor of cubicle, desk or table arrangements. The benefits to this type of layout include increased space efficiency per employee and increased collaboration. Many firms provide war rooms, multiple conference rooms and even phone rooms to provide privacy options for their employees.”

         Gardner said the natural light trend is being used with illuminating results. “An offshoot of the open office concept is the focus on getting natural light to all parts of an office space,” he said. “Studies have demonstrated productivity gains with exposure to natural light. A popular design trend is to put cubicles along the window wall and private offices with glass walls facing the cubicle area, thereby providing access to natural light to all employees. Break rooms that were typically in interior spaces, now occupy window spaces, even being placed in prime corner office locations typically reserved for senior executives or partners.”

         The third trend is to allow for an open ceiling. Gardner said, “Many tenants are seeking to either partially or totally eliminate the traditional drop ceiling in favor of an open ceiling concept. Benefits include increased ceiling height and a non-traditional ‘industrial look.’ This approach has migrated westward from Silicon Valley tech firms to our area. Although seemingly simple, tenants must also be aware of increased cost and sound issues associated with this type of design.”

         Gardner said offices opting for a lighter color pallet is the fourth trend. “In the 80s through the 90s in New Orleans, the predominant office environment included dark woods like mahogany giving space a dark, rich feel,” he said. “Times have changed. Tenants now favor a lighter color pallet with whites and light-colored tile floors. Paired with state of the art lighting, spaces now feel more alive and inviting and less ‘clubby.’ Even more traditional tenants like law firms now favor this approach.”

         The last trend, emphasis on efficiency, is gaining steam because the days of the palatial office are over. Gardner said, “Even partners and senior executives are making do with less space. Large file rooms and libraries are now housed in the cloud, so the square footage they once occupied is no longer needed. Technology has also impacted support personnel. Firms are pushing their executives to do complete tasks that were done by support personnel in the past, thereby freeing up the space they once occupied. We find that firms that choose to relocate to custom spaces generally reduce their square footage by 20 percent, which represents a significant savings.”

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