Office SuiteMy friend, Peter Fischbach, who owns an office leasing brokerage firm, Fischbach Commercial, has always been a fan of offices suites. These are a group of small offices, generally arranged around a central lobby. There is a break room with coffee etc. along with a room of general office services like copy machines and Internet service. Tenants rent individual offices.

I call them the “Halfway Houses” of office leasing because tenants are generally either transitioning from a home office to a more formal commercial space or settling in after a corporate career to “consult.”

According to Fischbach office suites have been fine investments over the last 10 years.

“They stayed flat or slightly improved in terms of demand during the severe downturn of the recession,” he said, “and were among the first commercial real estate genres to come back. Demand is very strong now, as it is across the commercial office spectrum, but with office suites, I’d characterize the demand as very strong.”

There are two reasons why office suites are popular. They may be enduring or could change next year. Only time will tell.

One is the recession that put a lot of experienced executives on the street. In any crowd of executives there is always a segment what spends a lot of time dreaming about owning their own business. The recession offered a great opportunity. Instead of collecting unemployment and hoping, these brave souls took out on their own and provided a customer base for office suite landlords.

This was true of not only corporate executives, but also lawyers. Many of them had no choice as many large law firms simply dissolved. They opened smaller offices or changed careers.

The second major strength is coming from the opposite direction. We all know that the Internet has  made home-based businesses a realty. Many were getting to the point that inventory was filling up the living room, or a more formal setting for meetings was needed or the spouse ordered the other to “get out of the house.”

As a side note, I think it’s interesting that there are few “open” office suites, where people just grab a desk in the middle of a large room. The successful ones that I have seen have been very traditional with an emphasis on privacy and solitary work space.

A modern open officeArticles in the Washington Post, The New Yorker and the Harvard Business Review all decry the trend to open offices. Office brokers, who are seeing an end to the office building slump, may not celebrate too vigorously if business owners listen to efficiency experts and rather than trendy architects. The trend in working from home is found to be more productive than either traditional office design and open office design.

Among the reasons given for open office being a bad choie.:

Studies have shown that noise levels even among younger workers impairs the ability to think, recall and even do simple arithmetic.

Lots more sick leave in companies with the open office format than with companies with private offices.

Lack of Privacy
Psychologist say that the lack of privacy leads to a sense of helplessness among workers in open offices, hence suppressed productivity and creativity.

Impaired Concentration
The distractions are way more than the nervous systems of even younger workers can abide. Again, productivity, creativity and job satisfaction sink compared to offices with offices.

Nevertheless,  it is said that 70 percent of all offices have an open floor plan.

Do you know which office arrangement provides the most productive workers? Working at home.

New office construction is definitely picking up, but the home office specter is going to hover over developments for some time to come.


It can be tough on the spirit to sit in an office all day. Humans are just now adapting to this mode of working in the big scheme of things. Given that we have been evolving for millions of years, the time we have spent in offices is just a speck. No wonder many are not real comfortable sitting in a cubicle all day.

During those millions of years, we have been outside most of the time. Even 100 years ago most people spent most of their time outside. Our genes are set and calibrated for outside, for open spaces, for nature. We can cope inside, in offices, but we pay a price.

We get drowsy. Our minds wonder. With nothing to see but painted walls, our minds close up. Productivity suffers. Creativity suffers.

Now come a group of researchers from Australia which concluded that, “… an office ornamented with plant life can actually increase employee productivity by 15 percent.”

I’m sure your are chortling, “Do we need a study to tell us that?”

Of course not. But maybe the bean-counters in the upstairs offices (the ones with the plants) will take note and make an investment.

In case you are wondering what plants might work in your office, check out this guide from Lifehacker.

Picking the perfect office plant.

Many hundreds of years ago monasteries dotted Europe and the British Isles. Times were bad. In many cases young men joined became monks because there was no other work available.

There were no printing presses. The only way to publish and preserve books was to hand copy from one text to another. Monks whose handwriting was sure and elegant were tasked to do this copy work.

They sat on stools in large rooms called scriptoria (places for writing). Each monk was assigned a piece of text to copy. Thus they labored day in and day out, slowly and doggedly copying the Word for the benefit of generations to come. They maintained strict silence.

There was no need to collaborate. Each monk had an assignment. He either completed it or did not. If he completed his assignment, he got another. If he did not, he was punished. The performance metric was simple: how much scripture did we produce this month?

Scriptoria were among Western Civilizations first offices. They were factory-like operations with simple production goals and little if any competition.

Until recently modern offices followed a similar production model.

I just visited a prospective client who is looking for an office redesign. Currently the business functions along a long corridor, barely wide enough for two people to pass one another without bumping shoulders. Tiny offices line both sides of the corridor. They all have doors. The business is a consulting firm that caters to a special niche industry.

What the owners want to explore is an open space office. Through my input and through reading and visiting other businesses, they have caught on to the fact that open offices encourage communications among employees. Communication engenders ideas and faster solutions.

Yet, just as important, people need to have quiet space where they can write, or program or crunch numbers. So it’s a balancing act.

Landlords are becoming more and more amenable to switching from the enclosed boxy model to the open model. Depending on your local leasing market, you may be able to get some development funds from your new landlord or at the very least, a few months of free rent to help make the transition. Check with a good tenant rep to find out what’s happening in your local market.

Is modern office design reverting to the scriptorium model?

Here are some fun office spaces courtesy of Forbes to get your creative juices flowing. office


Microsoft office.



Google Office




Moving offices or even renovating them always gives everyone in your business a fresh perspective about their job.

With the shrinkage in office space taking place in every sector, designers and owners need to be creative in the ways in imagining and implementing creative new office features.

Your first step is to figure out how to pay. In that pursuit consult with your tenant broker and let him be your contact with the landlord, who is your best source of funding.

If it’s a tenant’s market, the landlord may grant you a reasonable build-out at his expense. At the very least she may finance it with several months of free rent.

Here are some trending ideas in new offices.

Frosted Glass Partitions
One of the problems with a small office is the, ahem, it’s small! It’s small, but you don’t want it to look small. A great solution is frosted glass partitions. These have the advantage of offering the open and airy feeling of glass with a measure of privacy from the frosting.

This conference room in Google’s New York office is open, yet the frosted glass keeps its occupants from being ogle bait.

Collaboration Space with Writing Facility
The white board has recently giving up prestige to the old fashion blackboard, but you should follow whatever pleases you and your associates.


As you can see, the folks at Lumosity chose white.


Whereas this executive chose black for her think and reminder board. The black does tend to compress the space.

Paint Colors
Which leads us to the obvious. Small spaces need lighter shades to appear bigger. When asked, I would add lighter neutral shades.

This is a very small office, but remains spacious because of the muted grays and black highlights.

Amenities Room
We have all heard about the creative playrooms at Google and other high tech offices. These companies place a high value on creativity.

Those of us with far less money to spend must be even more creative if we are going to offer a space luxury like an amenities room.

If napping is an important value in your operation (many researchers are increasingly touting the value of napping), then a small space with a sleeping recliner might be the solution. Just figure out who gets to nap when!

Napping recliner


Modern ergonomic furniture is changing the look (and feel!) of the modern office. With current thinking warning that too much sitting is as harmful as obesity, furniture makers have stepped up with standing desks as well as some unusual and mega-comfortable seating.






















The Knoll Generation office chair purports to move with the posture of the sitter, whether in intense spreadsheet analysis or just napping. You can read more about it here.




Japanese office furniture manufacturer, Okumura, markets these ergonomic work stations. Purportedly, function dominates form, as the assemblage looks like a cross between the Star Ship Enterprise and a dentist office. This is an office designer’s challenge. An area rug or two here along with some plants might be a good start to soften things up. I would love to see this in situ, if anyone as a picture. From Freshome.




You know the standing desk craze has caught on when Herman Miller steps up, literally. The company is renowned for chic, stylish office furniture. This model is adjustable to any height, from standing right back down to a standard sitting desk. More here




This desktop model might be the way to go for the ergonomically conscience, but budgetarily constrained. It sits on the top of a regular desk and is adjustable to any height, including sitting. It’s called a Kangaroo. From Treehuger.





Real estate writers have a lot to say about the declining need for office space. They site less storage requirements because of digital storage and the ability of employees to work from home, as two primary reasons.

Another small but important factor in the downsizing trend is LED lighting. LED lamps use a fraction of the amount of power as conventional lighting and put out a fraction of the heat. All the while they generate a healthy, off-white light that’s kind to the eyes.

The office not only saves space, but also money with lower electrical electrical bills.

And LED lights are chic. They express on contact a modern and with-it vibe that bolsters employee esprit de corps and customer confidence.

3 LED lamps in 3 colors

LED lamps come in a variety of colors.


They also come in a huge variety of shapes. This configuration suggests the old goose neck desk lamp, but it’s only a faint reminder.











The light-producing innards of an LED lamp give it a huge range of possible designs. The lamp becomes sculpture.











This model looks like it’s an extension of the desk. It perhaps runs the risk of being too institutional. You can imagine a row of these looking something like the visitors’ room in a prison.

Executive Summary

LED lamps:

1. save space
2. generate a lot less heat
3. cheap
4. longer lifetime
5. save power

Moving to a new offModern Officeice? Moving your home-based business to genuine commercial space for the first time?

You are going to need a checklist. What I’m suggesting here are the essentials, but it’s just the beginning.

At the top of your list put two key personnel that you will need and who will save you lots of money and frustration when you move to your new office.

The first is a tenant representative or tenant rep or tenant broker. Call her what you will; each term refers to the same specialty. A tenant broker can help you with every aspect of your relocation, from offering a list of locations to check out based on your needs to negotiating with your potential new landlord. She will add lots to the list I’m about to offer.

The second is an architect or interior designer who is experienced with style and functionality of office space.

If either of these people do not add lots to what I’m about to suggest, find another and start over.

There are many changes taking place in the design of commercial offices. For example law offices are undergoing modifications for the first time in centuries. Professionals can bring you up to date on the latest trends and save you money on gains in productivity

The List – Moving to a New Office?

  1. Make a budget. Setting up a new office should not be an investment that eats into your reserves unless you evaluate that it’s worth it. Making a budget will help you analize the benefits of a new office.
  2. Research well on the kind of location best suited for your business. The little secret in the office leasing business is that most locations are decided by how convenient it is for number one, the boss, and secondarily the key employees. Talk to your tenant broker.
  3. When you are looking for an office space for a fast growing business, you will usually want to rent or lease. Growth opportunities can be created along with your landlord and your tenant rep. They can be conceptualized by your designer.
  4. Too obvious, but often tragically overlooked: make sure the office space matches up to the city’s building standards. Contact your local building department or have your tenant broker do it.
  5. Do you need to have clients over? Make sure the rooms are airy and comfortable. The whole building should be decent and appealing.
  6. What about parking for you and your clients?
  7. You are going to need convenient power outlets, phone jacks.
  8. Check out the restrooms. They can tell you a lot about the landlord.
  9. Entrance and egress: elevators, fire escapes, stairs.
  10. Do you need a local network server so that you and your employees can share, disseminate and store information and data. Maybe the wiring is in place. Maybe not.
  11. Make sure you have plenty of latitude in laying out the space. You need to work with your interior designer to get the best workflow and best look you can for you and your employees. You all are going to spend an awful lot of time her. Make sure it’s pleasant and productive.
  12. Your own work area should be accessible to your employees and yet have privacy. Needless to say a tasteful pleasant décor will benefit you and your clients.
  13. Is there room to expand? Here again, your designer can help you down to the last square foot.
  14. Rent or buy your office equipment and furniture frugally. You can give your office a decent look, comfort and productivity without breaking the bank.
  15. If you have a battery of sales personnel who are out on fieldwork most of the time, do not plan expansive spaces for their work stations. A long extended table along a wall can do fine.

As I said before, this list should grow, especially after you discuss your plans with your employees, perhaps your customers, your tenant broker, and your interior designer.

Enjoy your new office!