How CBRE Is Untethering Its Employees

CBRE Group in LA has turned itself into a laboratory for new work environments the developer might want to lease to you someday.

Employees in the company's downtown Los Angeles Hope St. office, on the top two floors of a 26 story building, are "untethered." 

According to a report Friday in the Ontario newspaper the Record, part of the McClatchy chain, workers--by that CBRE means everyone from bottom up, and top down--sits wherever they want.  Whenever they want. Though reservations are accepted.

Employees conduct business inside the CBRE Group headquarters that occupy the top two stories of a 26-storey building on Hope St. in downtown Los Angeles. There are no assigned desks and employees can sit wherever they want.

The idea goes well beyond Mayor Mike Bloomberg's public importation to New York City Hall of the open office model his news and data company has championed. 

The article says that even CBRE's 

Chief Executive Robert Sulentic books an office by the day and shed many of his possessions as part of the big move last month.


"No family pictures, no tokens, no nothing that is mine," he said.


Improvements in technology have made framed photos outmoded. "I have lots of family pictures on my iPhone," Sulentic said. "Five years ago, we didn't have that."


When the boss leaves the office at night, he takes everything to an assigned locker or home in a briefcase.

Everyone in the company's 200-person office were given no choice by management.

The experiment's goal--remember, CBRE is a real estate company--"was to reduce rent costs by using its office space more efficiently and to create a template for other CBRE offices around the world."

But the company sees it as a belwether example "for other conservative white-collar firms pondering how to reorganize their workplaces to make them more efficient and appealing to young employees weaned on wireless technology," the article says.

The office has 10 "neighborhoods" where like-tasked employees can gather in clusters.  The work stations are set up throughout the space, which the article describes as "a cross between an upscale hotel lobby and a coffee bar." Workstations have telephones, keyboards and monitors.  They accommodate employees for sitting, standing and "even walk[ing] on a treadmill while they work."

Yes, there are conference rooms, "healthful snacks and numerous 'hydration stations' with filtered water," and, in a throwback, "small booths for making private phone calls."

The article suggests others are looking at the arrangements, including a big law firm, Littler Mendelson.

There are no reports, as yet, of untethering here in NYC.


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