Over the past three years, office workers have been curious about the appearance of offices in the new era of hybrid work. Now, people in the Puget Sound area have gained some insights through CBRE’s new office located on the 38th and 39th floors of the U.S. Bank Centre in Seattle. This office has been specifically designed to support hybrid work and prioritize employee well-being. It offers more than ten types of workspaces, including a focus lounge, project room, and experience room.
The Seattle office accommodates around 300 brokers, administrative staff, and support personnel, even though it has a seating capacity for only 233 individuals. Each person is provided with one file drawer and one locker, and upon arrival, they do not have a designated workspace assigned to them. Not even John R. Miller, CBRE’s executive managing director for the Northwest, knows where he will be working on a given day, according to a report in the Puget Sound Business Journal.
“It’s all ‘free address.’ You come in and find a place,” Miller explained during a recent tour of the office. The space is filled with natural light, lush pockets of greenery, artwork inspired by Seattle, and a music playlist featuring local artists. The company invested approximately $300 per square foot, including furniture, which is considerably higher than the average cost of tenant improvements in Seattle, typically exceeding $100 per square foot.
Miller emphasized in the report, “We did not cut any corners. We wanted to have a showpiece our clients could come to and see. We wanted it to sell itself, and we wanted to attract people back to the office.”
However, the provision of only one file drawer and one locker has received mixed reactions from the brokers. Miller revealed that many were initially put off by this arrangement. He, too, had to declutter his accumulated notes and paper presentations spanning nine years. During this process, he realized that he had hardly ever revisited most of the materials.
The new office is part of CBRE’s Workplace360, a platform to demonstrate their Future of Work space standards. These standards include high-tech interactive tools and a diverse range of collaboration spaces to support hybrid work.
When CBRE relocated to the new office on May 1, almost everyone was eager to explore the space, which had been designed and built by CBRE’s in-house teams. Since then, there have been no issues with overcrowding or limited seating availability.
“Not everybody comes in on the same day at the same time,” Miller noted.
Some see advantages and disadvantages in the new office setup. One broker said he wanted “a little more privacy” but appreciated the spontaneous interactions that occur in the open environment.
It has been a learning curve for everyone, he said.
The frequency of employees coming into the office varies depending on the cohort. Salaried employees and brokers are present almost 100 percent of the time, according to Miller, while approximately 70 percent of support staff come in each day. Although CBRE has not set a specific requirement, they encourage employees to work in the office at least three days a week.
Miller mentioned that the new space is roughly 30 percent smaller but offers significantly more natural daylight compared to CBRE’s previous location in the lower portion of the U.S. Bank Centre.
This trend of optimizing office space is widespread, with tenants focusing on efficiency and flexibility. A springtime survey conducted by CBRE, which included over 200 corporate real estate executives, revealed that more than half of the respondents, particularly from large companies, anticipate further reductions in their physical footprints to eliminate unoccupied space. Most downsizing is expected to occur when leases expire.