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The Right Office Space

Once upon a time, the notion was held that an office only needed to be functional. It could be a windowless cubicle dungeon, dimly lit by the insect-like buzz of a sputtering neon bulb and that was good enough. It helped the company’s bottom line by virtue of thrift—or cheapness—depending on where you sat in the building.

Nowadays, managers (thankfully!) realize that an inviting office space, rich with amenities that energize employees, do more to the standard office than make a company profitable. Along the Wasatch Front, trends in collaborative open format office spaces have been driven by the state’s robust tech sector but that trend also extends beyond tech companies. Many large businesses are experimenting with open/closed office hybrids, while other businesses make their mark by repurposing historic buildings or engaging directly with their surrounding locales.

Brandon Fugal, the chairman at Colliers International says it’s exciting to see Utah’s dynamic growth in all business sectors, from technology and financial services to the biosciences and aerospace industries. With so much good business in the state, it’s also driving a need for companies to get the most out of their workspace, not just for the sake of efficiency, but also for obtaining the right talent.

The Right Office Space Attracts The Right Talent

“With a tight labor market and record low unemployment, and employee recruitment and retention being the highest priority, companies are exploring new ways of enhancing their office environments in order to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” Mr. Fugal says.

Amenities from cafeterias to on-site gyms are appealing for employees, making work seem more like a home than an office, and employers are seeing the benefits in an office where their employees can file their reports, make their calls, grab a bite to eat, or get in a workout on site between meetings.

“It’s an opportunity for employers to effectively increase productivity in their employees by adjusting the space to people’s moods and it also extends the hours,” says Cynthia Foster, national director of office services at Colliers International. “Because if people are feeling healthy, social, and fed they don’t need to leave the office.”

Open Office Space For Younger Employees

Another trend that has taken hold―especially with tech companies―are open office formats with shared work tables and spaces to help foster collaboration, a selling point, especially for millennials.

“With the Millennial generation it’s about coming together for informal meetings,” says Chris Kirk, managing director at Colliers International Utah. “Booking a conference room can be very formal but sitting in an open area on couches by a window with a cool view can be every bit as productive and a little bit more casual, fun, and creative.”

Mr. Fugal also points out that many companies are learning how to incorporate both open and collaborative spaces with more private spaces for special meetings and projects. Mountain America Credit Union’s new 11-story, 377,000 square-foot headquarters in Sandy offer a prime example of this. Plenty of natural light cascades through floor-to-ceiling glass windows on the exterior of the office’s collaborative spaces, but there are also private office spaces throughout the interior space—that and all the amenities one could hope for.

“This iconic building incorporates not only the finest finishes but also provides occupants everything from consumer bike storage to a two-level fitness center,” Mr. Fugal says.

Other companies like Entrata, a software company in Lehi, have utilized space in a way that dazzles guests and potential clients. In the foyer of the Entrata offices, potential clients will be greeted by a giant red double-decker bus and an expansive two-story digital wall showcasing engaging and futuristic displays. “Guests are welcomed into a headquarters that is both state-of-the-art and inviting,” Mr. Fugal says.

Historic Buildings For Creative Employees

Other companies are learning how to repurpose older historic buildings to give them a modern twist. For example, Mr. Kirk recently helped an architecture firm get into a historic building complete with exposed rafters, open ceilings, red brick, and a handful of other contemporary finishes. Having a compelling design-oriented workspace was crucial to the architecture firm’s culture and Mr. Kirk found a space that was the perfect meld of what his client needed. That’s the kind of matchmaking that goes into a lot of his work at Collier’s International Utah.

“They want to set the right tone for their employees as well as their customers,” Mr. Kirk says. “They’re looking at their [work environment] as well and are trying to find the building and the space that reflects their ethos.”

Traditional Environments For Traditional Businesses

None of this is to say that businesses with more traditional and timeless workspaces like financial firms and law offices aren’t also learning how to innovate. Shared workspaces might not always be a good fit and efficiencies and sustainability are still appealing to traditional employers.

Mr. Kirk points to the law firm of Durham, Jones, and Pinegar that recently moved into the top two floors of the 111 building in downtown Salt Lake City. Even though it was a higher rent space, through efficiencies in the layout they were able to reduce their square footage. “Sometimes you can upgrade a space but it’s not necessarily a major financial impact,” Mr. Kirk says.

All agree that the conditions are truly aligned for a dynamic work environment in Utah, with Mr.  Kirk saying more and more brokers across the country are recognizing the appeal of working in Utah with its vibrant downtown scenes in Salt Lake City and Provo and its close proximity to the majestic Wasatch range. “Utah is on the radar for people now in a way that it has never been before,” Mr. Kirk says.

Large tier employers, out-of-state capital, and employees themselves are now eagerly keeping an eye out for opportunities in Utah. For employees already here the workspaces alone are keeping them admiring the sunsets from their towering windows before making another call, instead of just watching the clock creep toward quitting time.

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