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The Rise of Open Offices

The Rise of Open Offices

Companies are often looking for ways to cut costs, and since real estate is usually the second biggest expense, it makes sense to evaluate real estate costs.

Many employers are analyzing their square feet per employee ratios and ways to reduce that, and one way to do that is to embrace an open office concept.

Nationally, square footage per employee has decreased from 211.4 sf in 2009 to 193.8 sf at the end of 2017—a decline of 17.6 sf or 8.3%. But, this trend has not been consistent across all markets. In many of the largest office markets in the country there were significantly steeper decreases, like in Northern Virginia, which saw a 13.3% decrease on sf per employee. However, changes in square footage per employee were small in markets where the space allocation was already relatively low in 2009, like the 2.2% reduction in Washington, DC.

A main concern with office densification is the potential downsides for employees when personal work space is reduced. Many employees can struggle with new distractions in an open office plan. For example, employees who need quiet time to focus can struggle if they now sit next to others who have a phone call heavy roll. Therefore, paying attention to what teams, roles, and personality/workstyles end up sitting in close proximity to one another can help mitigate these issues. Furthermore, offering private break-out spaces for employees to use for both heads-down work and for louder work like phone calls or team meetings can also help alleviate these issues and distractions.

While open offices were first praised for breaking down barriers and encouraging employees to have face-to-face conversations, new research has emerged that finds that often times open offices actually discourage this communication. Instead, workers can rely on email more in order to avoid distracting colleagues or to ensure privacy and avoid eavesdroppers. The impact of open offices on employee collaboration and communication is still being debated. Furthermore, each office and workstyle is different and therefore will react to an open office differently, but these impacts should still be considered.

At Cushman & Wakefield, we have helped a number of companies move to an open office concept or manage the change of each employee having less square feet allocated to themselves. We also have several tools to monitor the impacts. For example, our Experience per SF™ consulting program measures employees’ current work experience in their office space and identifies the biggest levers for optimizing the employee experience. This is useful both for employers looking to move into an open office concept, and those who already have an open office and want to make sure it still works for their staff.

The move to open offices that many companies embraced as a way to control or cut costs are probably here to stay. Therefore, ensuring that the office layout, open or not, works for employees is an important step for all organizations to take. Read more 

Keeping Your Team Together Remotely

Keeping Your Team Together Remotely

Teamwork is undeniably important when it comes to being successful in the life sciences sector. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations were moving towards a more agile way of working. Technology was starting to be used to connect people around the world so that talented life science professionals could collaborate. This was still in its infancy for most areas before the pandemic, with the changing world forcing organizations to become more agile and allow for remote working almost overnight.

Remote Teams are Becoming the Default

One of the biggest changes to the way people have been working in life sciences is that teams have become separated. People have needed to work within the guidelines for social distancing and remote working has become the norm for many people.

Remote working manifests itself in different ways and includes working from home for much of the working day, being placed into smaller team groups or reducing the amount of time spent in the company of others by holding virtual meetings and sharing more work through digital channels. Ultimately, the more we get used to working remotely, the more creative we need to become to meet all workload tasks.

Managing a Dispersed Workforce

Remote working brings many challenges, and this is particularly true for mangers or executives who need to ensure teams work effectively and maintain positive team culture, even when teammates aren’t spending time together.

A dispersed workforce can quickly become a demotivated team, which can lead to people being unhappy in their roles, or even leaving to work for a competitor. As an executive it is likely to fall to you to ensure this does not happen.

Bring Fun to Remote Working

It’s difficult to bring a team together when some people are working remotely and others are in the office. However, if you think about the things that you used to do as a team in the office for fun, you can replicate these. If you usually have cake and sing to someone on their birthday, why not send team members a cake in the post and have a Zoom catch up just for singing and enjoying cake together?

If you often go out as a team after work, arrange to have ‘after work drinks’ virtually. Or if you usually have lunch together, make sure you continue doing these things. People can enjoy a drink or lunch while chatting to colleagues over Zoom. It won’t be the same, but it will bring the team together. 

Focus on the Purpose and Potential

When teams are working remotely, or in a hybrid way, it can be easy for team members to lose sight of the purpose of their work. This is another way that people become demotivated or demoralized quite quickly. When working together, people talk and share aspects of their jobs, meaning that everyone has an insight into the bigger picture. When working remotely, you may need to instigate more regular virtual catch ups so that people have the chance to share what they are doing.

Giving people the opportunity to chat about their work and hear about colleagues’ work will help to ensure employees remain motivated and focused on the purpose of what they are doing. This will also mean that employees can realize their potential by finding out about other opportunities to progress.

Good Morale Achieves a Productive Solution

Maintaining a happy and productive team can be more difficult in the current pandemic climate. However, remote working and hybrid teams are set to stay for the foreseeable future and so implementing ideas now is only going to making working in the future more effective and efficient.


On Mental Health and Hope: We cannot lose this generation.

On Mental Health and Hope: We cannot lose this generation.

“We cannot lose this generation.” Dr. Kevin Churchwell, president and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital recently spoke with McKinsey & Company on the pandemic’s impact on children’s health. At first glance, my stomach braced for the same uncomfortable lurch that occurs each time I see or hear “children” and “pandemic” in the same sentence.

In reading through Dr. Churchwell’s take on how we need a continuum of care built upon technology and improved communication for our children, “hope” comes to mind – something not mentioned but implied. I think we must keep “hope” as our guiding star for how we address the pandemic trauma we are presently experiencing-especially for our children. Trauma, like hope, is relevant only in the mind of the beholder. I am not an expert on either but have studied mental health and the brain’s dynamics for a couple of decades. I also have had the lived experience of both.

After 40 years in health care and health information technology (IT), my focus has turned to mental health or more specifically – “brain health” – a nod to the fact that our brain has “plasticity” or can be shaped by external factors. I dodge any reference to “comparable pain” but know I have experienced enough pain to change how my brain reacts to what it interprets to be “trauma”. This change in career focus is different somehow from past career pivots; it somehow feels like mental health– chose me.

In my mind, hope is not an emotion, a resource that can be stockpiled, nor a commodity that everyone has a specific amount of. I chose the best online definition from Miriam Webster:

“Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”

After some thought, I realize that the dominance of “hope” in my life–flanked by calm and a certain amount of peace–arrived only after I had spent time examining and “working” on (via counseling, research, and specific therapy) my own perspectives, biases, pain, and expectations.

Psychology Today has a well-stated take on hope:

“Research indicates that hope can help us manage stress and anxiety and cope with adversity. It contributes to our well-being and happiness and motivates positive action.

…. hopeful people do the other things that will help them move toward what they are hoping for.

Then, other positive emotions such as courage and confidence (self-efficacy), and happiness emerge. They become our coping strategy; the emotions crucial in helping us survive. They allow us to take a wider view, become more creative in our approach and problem solving, and retain our optimism.

It doesn’t ignore the trouble, or make excuses, or deny danger. It is not pretending. It is acknowledging the truth of the situation and working to find the best way to cope. It’s showing up and working through the hard stuff, believing that something better is possible. It’s resilient.”

Indeed. We all need that guiding star to convey hope, courage, and confidence to our children. There are reasons to be hopeful.

January 11, 2022|Brain Health, Children and Mental Health, Courage, COVID-19, Digital Mental Health, Hope, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Pandemic, Resilience

Life Sciences Employee Return to Office Survey Results | August 2021

Life Sciences Employee Return to Office Survey Results | August 2021

One of the top questions that employers in the Life Sciences community within the Capital Region are asking is how companies are approaching bringing employees back to the office. That’s why we asked nearly 30 top employers in the area to share their strategies in a recent survey conducted by BioBuzz Media.

What the data you will see shows is that while there’s still a great deal of indecision in the industry, companies are cutting a wide margin for COVID-19. Remote work, shifting processes, and the focus on safety are still top priorities. However, what you’re starting to see are the impacts it’s having on the long-term strategy for everything from facilities planning to talent acquisition practices.

Approximately what percentage of your workforce is now working remote for at least part of their week (2+ days)?

Read More Here

Posted by
Chris Frew
Author Bio
Leading a team of doers to foster #community, connect the biotech workforce & democratize access to better careers in biotech