When Google emerged as a search engine innovator, 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, a coffee laboratory, colorful sofas, slides between floors, and more, the Googleplex inspired tech company office design everywhere.
As the U.S. tech sector expanded in recent years, driving nearly 25 percent of office leasing activity, tech companies have become a tenant of choice in many cities, according to JLL research.
However, many have specific requirements in mind for their workspace and only some buildings will make the cut. “Tech tenants look for buildings with character and connectivity to accommodate their workplace design styles,” says Steffen Kammerer, who leads JLL’s Technology Practice group. “Such elements as high ceilings, large windows and open, pet-friendly spaces will inspire a tech company to consider signing a lease.”
1. 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. Many have embraced open office layouts with collaborative work lounges, flexible, multi-use spaces, quiet rooms for calls and heads-down work and design that matches company culture. Rather than stick to the script of cubicles, private offices and a conservative color pallet, tech companies often prefer offices designed to promote unconventionality, creativity, collaboration, community and inclusiveness—what the new Millennial workforce wants.
2. 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. Tech companies prefer 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.
3. Location, location, location
For the work-hard, play-hard set, 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.
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. Such features as an onsite fitness center and showers, games area, outdoor activity space, bike storage and event space can differentiate a workplace 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 tenants and add value to a property.
5. Bring the outside in
Greenery, plants, and even simple window views of the outside world 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.
“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,” says Kammerer. “Making the office a place people want to be creates a better environment for creative collaboration that is the lifeblood of tech companies.”
Many companies have sought to emulate the tech company workplace philosophy to spur creativity, collaboration and engagement. Nap hammocks and onsite putting greens may not be right for every office, but the appeal of multiple workspace options, high ceilings and big windows, and plentiful onsite and neighborhood amenities crosses generations and industry sectors.