Colliers International’s newly renovated 8,300-square foot North County San Diego office | Courtesy Colliers International

What Makes an Office Instagramable?

Carrie Rossenfeld Office

It’s not enough just to have pleasant surroundings in today’s office sector. Millennials — perhaps the largest segment of today’s workforce — are demanding that spaces be Instagram-worthy, i.e., impressive-looking enough to post on social media.

SoCal Real Estate spoke witih Scott Wetzel, a VP in JLL’s Irvine, California, office and a Millennial himself, to discuss the elements of an Instagram-worthy office and what else younger employees are requiring of their workspaces now and in the future. (See some recent examples below the interview.)

Scott Wetzel | Courtesy JLL

SoCal Real Estate: What makes an office Instagramable today?

Wetzel: In Eventbrite’s highly cited poll, 72 percent of Millennials stated that they would rather spend money on experiences than material things. For the Millennial (and non-Millennial) human condition, this emphasizes the importance of experiential design … and can you snap a pic of it?! It’s well known that everyday experiences (even some of the most mundane, e.g., your commute to the office) are worthy of a Snap or Instastory post. On the surface, this appears as vanity, but it hints at something deeper: employees want a sense of place, purpose, and community — often more than compensation. And whether it’s acknowledged or not, they want a platform (i.e. office space) to promote it. So, when trying to unwrap the “why” behind the banal “creative-office” tagline, it’s important to remember that the youthful-leaning tech companies that first adopted this environment did so because it reflects the university experience they just left and carries it forward to the modern workplace.

Aside from the visual aesthetics, what office qualities are most important in attracting and retaining younger workers today?
Similar to the Eventbrite poll, 47 percent of Millennials surveyed by Reality Mogul said they would rather spend money on traveling than on a home. Translation: mobility is key, regardless of locale. And mobility without destination isn’t very enjoyable, so creating touchdown locations within your office space, project, or campus is paramount to achieving experiential design. As Motley Crue once famously said: amenities, amenities, amenities. And it’s key to acknowledge that everything isn’t solved by a ping-pong table. People need places to focus and places to congregate, to operate privately and to interact publicly, to plug in and to unplug. The greater the variety, the greater the mobility — and thus, the better the workplace experience.

What will younger employees avoid at all costs in their work environment if given the choice?
A bad boss. Environment is key, but the cultural component will always win out over the physical. That’s a common thread amongst generations: Millennial, Gen-X, or Baby Boomer. But oftentimes we see that companies who place an emphasis on the ethos of their company reflect this in their tangible work spaces. Houzz, Alteryx, Xponential, and Stance are at the cutting edge of the new-age workplace. Things you won’t find here: a water cooler, vending machine, dropped ceiling, visibility-blocking work stations, poor natural light, lack of indoor/outdoor access, or one or two conference rooms.

What new office amenities do you see coming down the pike?
Technology can be a time-suck (e.g., Instagram), but it can also be a time saver (e.g., Postmates, UberEats, Doordash, Cortana, etc.). Future office-space amenities will include a personal assistant/concierge service for tenants and their employees. By offloading the burden of pre-9 a.m. and post-5 p.m. errands, building concierge services will help employers maximize work output during the 9-to-5 grind. Projects like Intersect, Park Place, Boardwalk, and The MET all offer the standard package of services that include dry-cleaning, auto-detail, conferencing, fitness centers, and on-site cafés. But these workplaces of the future also include grocery services, gas fill-ups, bike shares, Uber drop-offs, meditation rooms, and hosted tenant events. Just because it’s corporate doesn’t mean it has to be soulless.

3D Systems’ open and collaborative office space in San Diego is designed to maximize views and natural light. | Courtesy Ware Malcomb

The Starr Atrium at Edwards Lifesciences in Irvine, California, is a unique office gathering space and meeting area. | Courtesy Tangram Interiors