Workplace and Innovation – Just Need a Little Investment

I read an article in the Harvard Business Review this morning ( .

It talked about how most big corporations are miserable at innovating. Other than a few bright spots like the Silicon Valley, where tech is driving commercial real estate demand, it seems like many areas just don’t have an economic engine to pull them out of the doldrums.  Is it the life cycle of our economy? Is so much of American big business that “mature?”  So I started thinking about my clients that are doing well, those that aren’t, and what is going to get us out of this tepid economy.

I noticed one common difference between the growing companies and the slowing companies…investment.  My clients, big and small, that are increasing their sales and footprint, regardless of their industry, have a positive belief in their product or service and are continually investing in new products or expanding their ability to deliver more product and services.  And they are investing in their employees.

I also noticed something about my clients that are not doing quite as well.  The primary focus is on cost containment.  Something I specialize in to be sure, and necessary for any business to be profitable, but not at the expense of growing the business.

Image courtesy of
Sura Nualpradid /

How does this relate to office space? New and exciting “green” initiatives (LEED), new technologies, enlightening architecture and workplace strategies are changing the way companies use real estate. To attract younger and  innovative workers many companies are reinventing the way we use space.  I think in many instances it’s not so much the science behind all the new innovations, but that the different environment is just fresher and more attractive.  But these workspaces need to be more than good looking, they need to be tuned to the workforce that will inhabit them.   These changes will likely be more efficient, but they will take considerable investment.  And an attitude change…

Employers must look at the changing demographics of the workplace and adapt workplaces to accommodate their employees.  I would argue that there is no longer a “typical employee.”  Baby Boomers, Gen X, Y and Millennials share the workspace.  They dress differently, use different communication methods and tools, some are more effective in offices, some in pods, some outside the office entirely.  Single parents make up a huge percentage of the workforce and have the need for more accommodating schedules.

The more things change the more they stay the same

Forcing more mature employees to change and work in the exact environment as the youngest workers seems to me to be unintended consequence of the rapid shift to create these “hip” new environments.  But both types of spaces, old and new, have their place in todays office space.  Respecting the needs of everyone will result in a happier and more productive space for all.

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