Corporate Offices Evolving For Employee Engagement, Amenities

23andMe's kitchen and meeting space

23andMe's kitchen and meeting space

The demands for office are changing both inside and out, particularly in Silicon Valley, which is still known for its sprawling corporate campuses.

Once content to sit in a cubicle and work from 9 to 5, employees are now demanding space that adjusts to their needs, whether it is heads-down time at a desk or spending some time decompressing outdoors. And those making corporate office decisions have to be cognizant of those demands or risk losing employees in a fiercely competitive job market.

Panelists at Bisnow's recent Silicon Valley Office Investment & Development Series at the Hilton Santa Clara discussed these demands as well as the growing attention to the valuable role of mixed-use development and location-based amenities around buildings and the transportation required to get there.

There has been a transition from focusing solely on maximizing efficiency and butts in seats to looking more at effectiveness in the workplace, Gensler principal Kevin Schaeffer said. With that, the workplace started to take shape differently and there is new attention to user experience.

"Really what companies are trying to do is enhance employee engagement," he said. "Employee engagement is a critical thing for every company, especially in these talent wars we're having today."

Employee engagement helps increase profitability and decrease absenteeism, making a positive work experience key to how effective employees are. These days, it is about collaboration, merging work and life and the need to foster interaction.

At Adobe, about half of the workers who will be using the company's offices in five years don't even work at the company yet, said Scott Ekman, the company's senior director for global real estate. That means it is important for the company to be thinking about how the work site creates a community and place where employees feel that they belong. Part of the conversation is about what people need as well as what is keeping them from using the space the way they need, he said.