Work in the City: Los Angeles

by Li Wen, Dave Bantz, Joshua Breeden, Anthony Brower, Melanie Freeland, Nate Jakus, Arlette Mulford, Tom Perkins and Reg Prentice

LOS ANGELES

Our research into the future of work in Los Angeles revealed three dominant trends: 

  1. The majority of new jobs in the region will be in the service sector and will not require a college degree. It appears that two economies are emerging: a knowledge based economy that is focused around a handful of individuals generating intellectual/creative work, and a service based economy made up of a vastly larger, less-educated population doing the work to bring these ideas to fruition. In short, a knowledge economy supported by a service economy. These two economies will continue to have different relationships between work and leisure and, work and technology.
  2. The dominant existing office space typology for both economies– and for 70% of new office space– is the open-office. Recent studies have revealed negative performance issues associated with the typical open office format. These issues will need to be addressed in the future.
  3. Los Angeles will continue to grow by adding approx 400,000 new residents by 2030, roughly equivalent to adding a city the size of Oakland within the city’s boundary. In the process Los Angeles will become more dense, more congested and by necessity more nodal. A byproduct of this will be real estate cost escalation that will continue to push the limits of density within the workplace.

In light of research revealed in Maria Konnikova’s article “the open office trap” regarding the open office typology’s effect upon worker attention spans, creativity, and job satisfaction we propose to interrogate the open-office format, the dominant office typology of our era.

Could the open office format be modified to reduce stress levels and fatigue and to improve employee performance through physical modifications or will a completely new typology emerge

In parallel, we propose to research the future of the creative workplace in a city that is evolving to become more dense, more congested and more nodal.

The creative economy has historically occupied the edge in Los Angeles. But as the city grows more dense and property values escalate the edge will be redefined. How can the creative economy take advantage of the edge when the edge is constantly shifting? Will this change how we work in the city?

THE OPEN OFFICE

The open office represents a culture of creativity, openness and collaboration but . . .

The open office has issues.

Maria Konnikova’s New Yorker article outline’s several worker performance issues connected to the typical open-office format.

Organizational psychologist Matthew Davis’ research “found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation.”

A 2005 study found “the ability to control the environment had a significant effect on team cohesion and satisfaction. When workers couldn’t change the way that things looked, adjust the lighting and temperature, or choose how to conduct meetings, spirits plummeted.”

“But the most problematic aspect of the open office may be physical rather than psychological: simple noise. In laboratory settings, noise has been repeatedly tied to reduced cognitive performance. The psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic. … Exposure to noise in an office may also take a toll on the health of employees. In a study by the Cornell University psychologists Gary Evans and Dana Johnson, clerical workers who were exposed to open-office noise for three hours had increased levels of epinephrine—a hormone that we often call adrenaline, associated with the so-called fight-or-flight response.”

Other issues with the open office drawn from the 2013 Gensler US Workplace Survey 101 

  1. US workers are struggling to work effectively. When focus is compromised in pursuit of collaboration, neither works well.
  2. Effective work spaces balance focus and collaboration.
  3. Choice drives performance. Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative and have higher-performing employees.

Limiting Factors

The primary limiting factor is lack of mobility related to desktop infrastructure – power, data, and telephone connections- integrated with the workstation. In this model, the work process adapts to the choice of furniture systems that integrate desktop services.

What are the future change factors?

Advances in technology will change the structure of the workstation. With a confluence of advances in computing power, battery life, screen technologies and wireless connectivity the workstation of the future will be entirely wireless. The workstation in 2030 will be as mobile as today’s iPad.

Could this new mobility and flexibility change how we work in the city?

Can this flexibility allow the work environment to adapt to how we work rather than the opposite?

THE CREATIVE WORKPLACE

The creative workplace today is differentiated by:

•    a reliance on teamwork and collaboration
•    decentralized networks of teams
•    spacious workspaces with ample room to work
•    provided by the use of undervalued areas of the city

Limiting factors

The workplace of the future will need to be resilient and flexible to respond to economic fluctuations.

Long term leases stabilize rents but limit a businesses’ ability to expand and / or contract to address organizational needs.

Office mobility requires a significant expenditure on IT services and a large centralized on site IT infrastructure.

What are the future change factors?

IT infrastructure will be network based. Advances in subscription based services will significantly reduce the need for on-site IT infrastructure.

The vacancy rate for office space in Los Angeles is 20% and will continue to be high even with population growth. A glut of underutilized office space and the need for organizational flexibility will drive alternative strategies for creative workplace.

Could the vacant office building become the new edge? Could the office tower be repurposed as the new “garage” for startups?

Freed from a centralized IT infrastructure and a fixed location, how will the creative workplace evolve?

THE FUTURE OF WORK IN LOS ANGELES

IN THE FUTURE, LANDLORDS WILL DEVELOP A STRATEGY FOR REPURPOSING SWATHS OF UNLEASED OFFICE SPACE TO ALLOW FOR A MORE RESILIENT APPROACH TO ECONOMIC FLUCTUATIONS.

IN THE FUTURE THE CREATIVE WORKPLACE WILL IT EVOLVE INTO A MORE NODAL MODEL THAT EMBODIES THE NATURE OF THE DECENTRALIZED CITY

IN THE FUTURE, THE OPEN OFFICE TYPOLOGY WILL BE REPLACED BY A FLEXIBLE WORK ENVIRONMENT THAT WILL TAKE THE FORM OF THE WORK MODE. 

IN THE FUTURE, THE WORKSTATION WILL BE AS MOBILE AS TODAY’S IPAD.  

Read the boards for this project by clicking here.


Published previously on
Gensler | GenslerOn

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