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Shadow Office Space and the Office Market Recovery

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Over the past nine months we have made numerous posts on the effect that shadow office space will have on the office space market recovery. In a recent article from CNBC some numbers show the effect that shadow office space will have on the market. According to Co-star shadow space is adding as much as 7 percent to the Los Angeles office vacancy rates and over 6 percent in Chicago. This is likely to be the case in most markets. The problem with shadow office space is that before the market can see a full recovery, shadow office space will need to be absorbed.  Typically, shadow office space is space that a company still has under lease, but is not in use. Before these companies who have shadow space will go out into the market to lease additional office space, they will need to fill their shadow space.

Additionally, Grub and Ellis is predicting that as the market recovers shadow space will account for about 1/3 of the increased demand in 2011 and 1/4 of the office space demand in 2012, thereby dampening the office space market recovery. The good news is that we are starting to see positive absorption. As the jobs come back, the office market will improve.

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Decorating Office Space for Well-Being and Productivity

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We recently looked at points to check to ensure you have a healthy office space. But there are more ways to ensure you and your colleagues are healthy and have a sense of well-being as well as increased productivity in your work areas. After all, who can possibly be their most productive in a drab, boring space? What is in your office environment on a daily basis has a big impact on your energy level, motivation and success.

It is a little known fact that work space design is among the top three factors in ensuring employee job satisfaction. Documented studies have shown that an increase in productivity of 20% or more is not uncommon when changing from a boring office space to one that provides the vibrancy and energy needed to help people produce.

Many of the below suggestions can make your office space more attractive -- not only to you and your staff but to clients as well. Many are also very inexpensive to implement. A few may require a little investment, but the rise in your bottom line and employee satisfacton will make it well worth your time and money.

Use of Color: Many office spaces are made up of mobile partitions in some drab color such as gray or drab blue. Grey metal file cabinets may be much of the furnishings besides desks and chairs. The overall look can be quite institutional; that’s the last thing you want in your office environment. Of course, you could have your walls repainted or buy new partitions, but amazing changes can be made with the addition of bright splashes of energizing colors. Bright colors such as red, orange, yellow, bright blues and greens in the form of paintings, posters, and incidental furnishings can be added for very little money and yet improve the space greatly. However, avoid making the workspace so full of color that it becomes “nervous”. Add highlights of super-bright color in some spaces while leaving some areas of the office in calm, cool colors for a sense of peacefulness. For example, a break room or coffee area should be decorated with relaxing colors to maximize the effectiveness of a work break.

Add Green Potted Plants: Not only will the addition of living greenery in the office space add vibrancy, but it also cleans the air. If you and your co-workers have no green thumbs, you can enlist a plant service to care for your plants or even to provide the plants and change them out on a regular basis. But if you have minimal time and ability to care for plants, you can avoid this expense. It is quite likely that one of your colleagues has a passion for plants if you don’t, so enlist their help. Brightly colored planters can add the splashes of color you seek while the green plant will add a touch of the outdoors. If your office space has few or no windows, this is a critical improvement for helping productivity and increasing that important sense of well-being.

Personal Items: Allow people who work in the office space to include their personal items in their workspace so that they feel at home. A “bragging wall” of family photos, awards, pictures of pets, colorful calendars, or whatever appeals to the person should be permitted as long as it is attractive and in good taste. Some people like to have a small water fountain on their bookshelf or some other personal items which make them feel their best.

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Re-Imaging Your Office Space for the 21st Century Knowledge Worker

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We’ve been discussing the emerging trend of re-imaging office space to provide for better working conditions, use of advanced technology, and evolving work styles. You may be wondering how you could begin to re-image your own office space to join in this new trend. Of course, much of the answer depends on your business and type of office space, but any office space can be evolved to some extent. Here are some areas to begin reviewing for re-imaging:

Break Down Walls: If your company’s office space is divided into small cubicles with moveable wall partitions, this can be a great place to start re-imaging. Discuss with your employees what areas they would feel more comfortable with as open areas where those performing like types of work could have easier interaction. If you have a totally open office layout, would the workers prefer to have some areas partitioned so that there are “quiet areas” for working when deep concentration is needed.

Take it Outside: Place an outdoor table and chairs set or sets in an area where they will be safe. This can be a fenced in area or, if you do not have such an area, consider concrete tables and benches since they are not popular theft items. If you permit smoking during breaks, you very likely already have some similar area already established. When weather permits, hold meetings outdoors and permit other meeting facilitators to do the same. The feeling of freedom and pleasure of fresh air and sunshine can really change how people interact in meetings. This type of setting can open up ideas and brainstorming to improve outcomes of meetings. The added pleasure of the venue will bring smiles and openness to new ideas.

Consider Telecommuting: Depending on how much face time is required, you may find that you could offer employees the opportunity to work from home on an established schedule. Many companies, both large and tiny, have begun allowing workers to schedule one day per week to work from home and it has proven to be an excellent change that improves morale. However, there are some employees which simply do not like to work from home because of children’s’ interruptions or personal preference. Those employees should have the option not to participate in the telecommuting program.

Work in Comfort: You likely already have a break room or lounge for employees. You may have other areas in the office space that are more comfortable than a desk. Allow your workers to use this space for any work that can be performed on their laptop computer or for making business-related phone calls. The break from sitting at a desk can really motivate the employees to perform above average.

Think Tank: If you have the space available, consider creating a pleasant area with plants and perhaps a fish tank where workers can focus on free form thinking to create outside-the-box solutions to problems. If you don’t have space for such an area, allow workers to bring in plants, small water fountains, or other items that they find help them focus on creative thinking. Google, Microsoft, and many other companies have found the idea of an area for thinking to be very effective. 

Be Open to Employee Suggestions: Ask employees what other re-imaging ideas they feel would greatly improve comfort, job satisfaction, and creative thinking. Your employees know what they want in their office space and can help you with ideas to economically re-image the space in which they spend a large portion of their lives. Be open to ideas which are affordable and do not require extensive remodeling. One of the greatest job satisfactions to an employee is the feeling of being heard by the business owner and seeing the ideas submitted being implemented.

Changes do not have to be huge to re-image an office space and work style and most small businesses may not be able to implement huge changes, but even small changes in the way business is performed can bring big pay-offs in motivation, satisfaction, longevity, and productivity. If you will be seeking a new home for your business in the near future, keep the ideas of re-imaging in mind and search for a location which will facilitate the new ways of interacting in the workplace. Your bottom line will let you know how much these changes are appreciated by your employees.

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Drivers Behind the Emerging Trend of Office Space Re-Imaging

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Having looked at office space re-imaging recently, you may be wondering why businesses of all sizes are joining into this emerging trend. Let’s delve into the reasons that re-imaging is occurring and why it help business productivity and profits.

The main drivers behind this trend is the rapid advances in technology and employee retention. Twenty years ago, employees were “chained” to their desks in order to perform their jobs. Telephones had wires and what could be done with computers was limited to the desk. Therefore, employees arrived at the office and spent most, if not all, of their workdays sitting at their desk.

Today, laptop computers with wi-fi capability, cell phones that connect to the internet and provide video chat capability, personal data devices with applications which allow them to perform much like a personal computer, wireless internet availability, and easy to use video conferencing tools  allow an employee to perform tasks no matter where they happen to be. While use of this technology should not be performed in a moving vehicle, almost any other location can be used as a virtual office. No longer are team members restricted to interacting with clients and co-workers from their assigned desk in a boring cubicle.

The second major driver behind the re-imaging of office space revolves around employee satisfaction. Sitting at a desk limits creativity and by the end of the day, the staff members go home without feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction. The physical constraints of being forced to perform all tasks at a desk in a rather boring office or cubicle takes a toll on the body and mind.

The freedom to work in any location in the business campus or building or even choose to work outdoors in the sunshine provides staff members with a feeling of freedom and accomplishment. Interfacing with other team members is easy and the ability to interface with clients and suppliers around the globe without having to leave family and home saves the employee time and the business lots of money. While traveling to see clients and suppliers face-to-face is sometimes important, as well as lots of fun for all parties, it is no longer necessary to travel so extensively to accomplish day-to-day business. No longer are meetings restricted to conference rooms. Some of the most productive meetings may occur in the lounge, cafeteria, coffee break area, or in the hallways. The possibilities are limitless and differing work types no longer must be inhibited.

The third major driver behind the re-imaging of offices is basically the bottom line. Profits drive the way business is conducted and having seen that new work methods provide major pluses employers see the potential provided by changing the face of office space. Today, business owners seek any reasonable means to overcome the competition and take advantage of better and more effective ways to conduct business. Re-imaging the office is just one of the ways that is proving to be effective in so many ways.

Next, we’ll look at practical ways that any business can begin the re-imaging process.

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Slow Recovery for US Office Space Market Beginning

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According to an recent article at, the US is approaching the turning point in the office space downturn and should start to see a slow recovery over the next couple of years.

"The U.S. office vacancy rate is expected to peak in the middle of next year at 16.8 percent, as it did in 2003, and is expected to fall very slowly to 16.4 percent by the end of 2011 and to 15.3 percent by the end of 2012, according to CBRE Econometric Advisors.

Real estate research firm REIS Inc also sees a slow office recovery. REIS sees the U.S. office vacancy rate peaking at 17.7 percent at the end of this year and then slipping to 17.4 percent by the end of next year.

"There's nothing in the job market that's pointing to a quick lease-up of space," said Victor Calanog, REIS director of real estate."

The good news is that the bottom appears to be near.  The bad news is that it will be a long slow recovery that will most likely parrallel the economic recovery of the US.

There are a few major markets that are already seeing good improvement. Both Manhattan and Washingtom DC has seen a lot of leasing activity. Ironically, they are the two most expensive markets in the US.

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