Tech startups channel their inner Google when searching for a new office

Brian Houchins
Jun 16, 2017 · 3 min read
Source: iStock

Shortly after Google emerged as a search engine innovator in the early 2000s, the company’s unconventional Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, California showed the business world what a workplace could be.

With foosball tables, a bowling alley, lava lamps, nap pods, pools, laundry services, a coffee laboratory, colorful sofas, slides between floors, and more, the Googleplex inspired tech company office design everywhere. But certainly, startups and other small tech companies don’t have the resources to replicate the fanfare of the famous Google campus community.

So if they’re not going to emulate Google, then how should emerging tech companies prioritize various location and design elements when relocating or expanding their office? There are five key traits of the modern tech workforce that have proven bottom-line benefits, from talent acquisition and retention to employee health, productivity and engagement.

More than other industries, tech companies recognize their office space is more than a cost center, it is a strategic tool to attract, retain and engage employees. Prospective tech tenants should prioritize the following facets when selecting a new office space to get the most bank for their buck:

1. Location, location, location

The work-hard, play-hard motto is a hallmark trait of the tech culture, so proximity to an amenity-rich neighborhood is critical. Many tech companies have adopted a formula of setting up shop in hip, trendy neighborhoods with access to public transportation, parking, bars and restaurants, and a vibrant community. The challenge is to balance the cost of living against the desirability of the location. That’s why Silicon Valley and the Bay Area continue to be top spots for tech companies — but so are Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, at considerably lower real estate price points than Palo Alto and San Francisco.

2. Creative spaces for collaboration

Modern office workplace strategy has shifted from utilitarian to actively addressing the values and habits of the employees, particularly the Millennial generation. No one has adopted this idea more than technology companies. When looking for a new space, prospective tech tenants should look for a space that offers open office layouts with the opportunity to create collaborative work lounges, flexible, multi-use spaces, quiet rooms for calls and heads-down work and design that matches company culture.

3. Connecting the connected

Not surprisingly, connectivity is a critical driver of productivity in tech workspaces. When employees want the option of working in different parts of an office at any time, access to power outlets and the corporate network is essential. Prospective tech companies must prioritize buildings that can support fiber optic links, plug-and-play workstations, screens for work sharing, and high-speed wi-fi to allow employees to work seamlessly throughout a facility.

Cellphone call access in elevators and parking lots is another plus. More options and greater fluidity through connectivity is a big part of the tech company workplace — and something other more conservative industries are increasingly emulating, as they strive to attract young, tech savvy workers.

4. The health and wealth connection

Health and wellness amenities located inside the office building are another way tech employers give back to employees — while also keeping staff on the premises longer. Buildings that offer features such as an onsite fitness center and showers, games area, outdoor activity space, bike storage and event space can differentiate a workplace when attracting top talent in a hot market and promote the physical and mental health — and productivity — of the workforce. However, tech companies aren’t alone in recognizing the value of fitness and wellness amenities. Landlords increasingly recognize that onsite fitness amenities can bring in the highly desirable tech tenants and add value to a property.

5. Bring the outside in

Tech companies were among the first to understand that working in an environmentally friendly, nature-inspired office can reduce stress, increase worker’s happiness and improve their productivity. Prospective tech tenants should look for space that offers plenty of greenery, plants, and even simple window views of the outside world. All of these features improve happiness and can increase productivity by up to 11 percent. Bringing the outside in can include providing skylights and allowing more natural light into the office, adding more plants and plant-covered “green walls,” improving air quality, and wired outdoor spaces.

Brian Houchins

Brian is is a Vice President at JLL, focused on HiRise (www.hirise.com).

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