By Tyler Courtney, Senior Vice President of Global Occupier Services
Last August, we packed our Downtown and Atlantic Station offices for our much-anticipated office consolidation at 1180 Peachtree. Despite the muggy weather, the office had the feeling of Christmas Eve. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed. A prime Midtown location, 360-degree views of metro Atlanta from the 31st floor lobby, amenities everywhere you turned. Our colleagues were no longer out of reach, an internal stairwell rather than the downtown connector was all that divided us. Did I mention there’s a coffee bar and beer on tap?
Clearly, you’re not going to hear any complaining about our new office in this post, but the real intent is to share a few observations and lessons learned as we embarked upon a fairly radical workplace transformation.
As John O’Neill, Regional Managing Principal, said, “We saw this as an opportunity to shape the direction of Cushman & Wakefield in Atlanta. This is so much more than a relocation. It is the manifestation of our culture within our physical space.”
Striking a Balance: Me to We
If there’s a greater fear in the American workplace than overcrowding, I haven’t found it. We often speak with our clients about the transition from “me” space to “we” space. Moving an employee from a private office to a workstation? Have fun with that conversation. An 8’x8’ workstation to 6’x6’? Personal file cabinets as far as the eye can see to two drawers in a shared cabinet? Not surprisingly, these issues are likely to rattle even the most resilient employee.
In reality, each of these concerns can be addressed. Workstations went from the core of the building to the window line, a great democratization of light. Need to have a private conversation? Try one of the more than 15 huddle or conference rooms on each floor. Team meeting? Perhaps a high-top or booth in Cushman Central. Clients coming to the office? Maybe the Innovation Lab followed by a glass of wine or beer (after 5 p.m., of course). Preparing a presentation? Try your headphones or one of the drop-in rooms with a full technology package. The benefit of enhanced collaboration and a vibrant workplace far exceed the loss of four walls and a door. Did I mention you have a new sit/stand desk?
We didn’t arrive at the perfect balance of me/we space or number of conference rooms by accident. Increasing office density, from around 250 to 180 square feet per person in our case, involves measuring your use of the space. Each team is different, and nearly everyone overestimates time spent in their seat. By analyzing usage by department prior to relocating, we were able to strike a balance that works well for everyone. Was it perfect? Not exactly. We ran a second workplace study shortly after relocating and realized that with all the new places to work, people tended to spend a bit less time at their desk. Some of our road warriors voluntarily gave up their dedicated seats. Why limit yourself to one spot when you can chose based upon the demands of the day?
We Can’t All Drive
Until autonomous vehicles arrive to save the day or MARTA expands its network, parking will continue to be a thorn in the side of Atlanta corporate real estate execs. Using some quick math from above, our density in our space was slated to be north of five people per 1,000 square feet. Our parking ratio? A mere 1.5 space per 1,000 square feet. There’s no creative math to solve for the densification of workplaces and ever shrinking parking allocation. This was the variable we couldn’t solve for. Atlantan’s love our cars and are only slowly, very slowly, coming around to MARTA. It was a perfect storm heading our direction. If we can’t get employees to work, what happens? Well it turns out, not much…
The bomb never went off. The storm never hit. How’d we do it? I wish I had a simple answer that would address parking woes across the city. The answer is we explored EVERYTHING. We regularly survey our clients to understand how they address these same issues. Parking shuttles, ridesharing apps, subsidized public transportation, old fashioned negotiating excess capacity with providers. The most surprising finding was the price sensitivity. At current Midtown parking prices of $125 unreserved and $175 reserved, many people simply found other ways – carpool, ride with a spouse, ride a bike. Whatever the individual solution, our employees show up every day to an incredible new workplace, mission accomplished.
Our efforts, along with design partner Gensler, were noticed by the design industry and resulted in the AIA Georgia Honor Award and Best Workplace for our category as well as the Best Overall at the IIDA Best of the Best Awards. More importantly, the collaboration, energy, and employee engagement have all improved across the board, and we even have the Experience per Square Foot data to prove it! It truly is a new day at Cushman & Wakefield, and we’re thrilled to have a workplace that reflects our culture, our values, and the caliber of our employees.
Tyler Courtney is a Senior Vice President of Global Occupier Services with Cushman & Wakefield in Atlanta, with 11 years of corporate real estate experience. He leads the Portfolio Solutions group in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, focusing on corporate portfolio optimization and outsourcing.