When the Los Angeles real estate brokerage firm of CBRE Group Inc. decided to do away with having individual offices for their staff and go with an open plan model, quite a few employees didn’t think it would work. No assigned desks or offices AND with employees roaming freely — for a white collar firm to take up this ‘untethered’ initiative was unheard of.
The space consists of an airy complex on the top two floors of a Bunker Hill tower. There are no assigned desks or offices. Workers doing similar tasks can join their peers in a “neighborhood” or plop down on a modernist couch. The firm’s goal was to reduce rent costs by using its office space more efficiently and to create a template for other CBRE offices around the world.
Chief Executive Robert Sulentic has even taken to booking an office by the day and has shed many of his personal ‘office’ possessions, like photos, since he has no place to stash them. Improvements in mobile technology, like smart phones, have made framed photos outmoded. When he leaves the office at night, he takes everything to an assigned locker or home in a briefcase. Individual mobility and the office’s large common areas almost force employees to interact with one another and work together more effectively, Sulentic said.
After touring CBRE offices in Amsterdam, Lew Horne, the company’s head of operations in Los Angeles and Orange counties, decided to convert the LA workplace office. The office makeover was overseen by Laura O’Brien, head of the company’s Workplace Strategies Group. One of her challenges was getting people ready to move by making them scan paper records into a computer or toss them straight into a recycling bin. Each employee is now supposed to have no more than one file drawer for storing paper documents.
Desktop computers were replaced with laptops that can be stored in lockers in the new office. Upon arriving, employees collect their telephone headsets, laptops and key files. They then head to one of 10 “neighborhoods” where employees doing similar tasks such as legal work or property management cluster. Or they can set up in the heart of the office near the front door that looks like a cross between an upscale hotel lobby and a coffee bar.
Workstations have telephones, keyboards and monitors that employees plug into, and they can sit, stand or even walk on a treadmill while they work. There are media-equipped conference rooms for meetings and small booths for making private phone calls.
Looks like the open space route works well with white collar offices as well.