A few days ago, I had the opportunity to see what such an office is like. Specifically, I went on a tour of CBRE’s Los Angeles office organized by Urban Land Institute – Los Angeles (ULI-LA). You may be wondering, how special can an office be? Well, I must say that this one is unlike any other I have seen or worked in. The tour was an eye-opening experience that left me in awe and somewhat envious of the CBRE employees who get to work in such a wonderful environment. Mr. Lew Horne, CBRE’s executive managing director, gave a very insightful talk/presentation about the office and the whole experience of transitioning from a traditional work environment to one that has been referred to as “the office of the future” or an “untethered office” in a popular Los Angeles Time article. As Roger Vincent shares in his article, CBRE’s L.A. office has dramatically altered the corporate office landscape: their 200-person office has completed its “free-address” (unassigned work spaces) transformation. Employees are no longer confined to an assigned desk in a cubicle or office; instead they are given the freedom to roam around in an open and airy environment, surrounded by comfortable couches and open work stations. To increase efficiency and attract younger employees, the office is completely wireless and minimizes the use of paper. All documents and files are scanned and accessed electronically, removing over 900,000 pieces of paper. Employees work from laptops and may sit, stand, or even walk on a treadmill from a work station. As the need arises, they may also reserve individual work spaces or meeting rooms using an app on their phones.
CBRE’s office transformation seeks to minimize space usage, and reduce rent and office capital expenditures. It is obvious that by incorporating advanced technology, high-quality amenities, and flexible work space, CBRE has started a corporate office revolution. Summarized below are what I considered to be the highlights of the tour:
- Use of the Latest Technology: A lot of us have Wi-Fi at home and can browse the internet from anywhere inside. However, this is the only office I know of where the employees can sit anywhere and do work like they are at home. This creates a very comfortable environment which undoubtedly makes work more enjoyable. As a planner, I was most impressed by CBRE’s use of Liquid Galaxy developed by Google. I only wish that we have this tool in my office which allows the user to fly anywhere in the world in seconds and focus on neighborhoods or even specific buildings on the multiple screens that surround the user. I was amazed at how CBRE has adapted this tool which can even display the latest vacancy/occupancy information for specific office buildings.
- Focus on Wellness: CBRE recognizes that a great company needs healthy minds and bodies to run it. Thus this office offers circadian rhythm lighting, ergonomic furniture, anti-bacterial coatings, Red List-compliant materials and enhanced air/water quality. CBRE’s new space is the first WELL-certified office space in the world, incorporating over 50 wellness elements in the categories of air, water, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind. There are even plants throughout the office which I had mistakenly thought were fake because they were so green and well-kept!
- Involvement of Employees: Mr. Horne spoke at length about how the employees were actively involved in the transformation of their work space. Specifically, employees worked in various committees to shape their space, including the selection of furniture and contribution of other ideas. There is also the Rise Cafe Photo Wall which is in a way a tribute to the staff. Using a smart phone, one can scan the QR code on each employee’s photo and find out more about him/her. This photo wall does a great job capturing the range of character, personality, and talent that make the office special.
- Inspirational Art: Recognizing that beauty expands the mind and challenges the senses, CBRE’s office incorporates artistic elements from local talent such as Augustine Kofie. Kofie is responsible for the mural that symbolizes the company’s transition to a new way of working. The piece is a system of colors and angles that communicates an aura of renewal and progress. Seeing this mural almost made me feel like I was walking inside a contemporary art museum!
Of course, words alone cannot really capture how special CBRE’s office is. Thus, provided below are a few photos I took on the tour. Enjoy!
If you are interested in finding out more about this office of the future, be sure to visit this site which lists articles, brochures, and videos about CBRE’s Los Angeles office.
Note: All photos by author.