Tech Helping Tech: Construction Trends Driving Firms to Different Workspaces and Locations
By Albert De Plazaola, Global Principal, Strategy, Unispace
Technology firms are starting to branch outside of city centers and open offices in outskirts, suburbs, and mid-market cities. These locales offer less expensive facilities, plentiful space to enable social distancing, and – in some cases – very attractive tax incentives. This pivot to the mid-cap markets has another major advantage; the tech industry’s most coveted talent appears to be making a similar move out of the big cities.
Today, the tech sector’s talent pool consists of a variety of generational groups, working styles, and personality types. This diversity of experience and thinking is a powerful driver for innovation, and as such will require a more dynamic approach to the workplace, especially for an industry perpetually engaged in a war for top talent.
On average, the tech industry has a very high employee turnover rate, an 18.3% globally. In assessing the cause of this churn, many tech firms have started to explore the impact of personality type on employee engagement and long-term retention, seeking workplace solutions beyond a “one size fits all” model to appropriately address employee needs.
To better understand their workforce, tech firms have started to use various personality assessments. Leveraging this methodology, many researchers have found a marked predominance of what are generally called introverts among computer professionals, particularly software engineers. These engineers have different workplace needs than other types of employees, some of which appear in mutual opposition to the goals of the business. It’s a challenge to be sure, but it possible to offer concentration-conducive workspaces engineers need while activating shared office space. Ideally, this supports the strategic collaboration and innovation behind industry-changing ideas, products and services.
It’s all about the engineer
Currently, there is a major talent shortage in tech, with a particular lack of software engineers, typically the industry’s most coveted talent base. Despite rising unemployment numbers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, technically qualified candidates are becoming increasingly hard to resource and onboard. This talent gap is particularly glaring considering tech companies are hiring whenever and wherever they can. For example, at Google, software engineer hiring was up 12% in 2020 despite Covid-19 and related economic contractions. Even with rises in hiring, 41% of IT hiring managers say finding tech talent is becoming harder every year.
In addition to challenges with attracting talent, the national average tenure for software engineers is just 35 months, a very fast cycle time when compared with other roles and industries. This average is even lower in the areas surrounding major existing tech hubs, such as San Francisco (27 months) and Seattle (28 months). This kind of constant turnover is disruptive and costly, and one that the physical workforce can tangibly help mitigate.
Deloitte argues that workplace amenities will continue to be a key element in attracting and retaining tech talent. While amenities like in-office dry cleaning, massage therapists, hair salons, bars and even nap pods-are attractive to new employees, the future is going to require more. The focus will need to be about how to attract and retain introverted engineers, and how to unlock and harness their inherent value onsite.
Simply put, the workplace will need to enable the life of the software engineer, not impede it. This efficiency, in turn, translates into an improved work/ life balance for employees, building loyalty, supporting productivity and, ultimately, reducing turnover.
The power of people
The next evolution of the tech workplace will hinge on thoughtful, human-centric space design; a new workplace framework that encourages play and offers specific working style options for different types of workers.
By leveraging quantitative and qualitative data to create a workplace that maximizes space utilization and balances every individual, their personality, workstyle and role, tech firms can create their own competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining top talent.
The agile workplace framework, Propeller, adapts according to each individual’s work and personal circumstances, their locations (office, home, and/or hub), their confidence around other people, and the experiences they need to have, to maximizing productivity and sentiment. Flexibility is key, with movable and multi-purpose fixtures and furniture, and partitions and walls which can rapidly transform spaces from one function into another. Being able to quickly reconfigure spaces provides in-the-moment benefits and experiences for every team. This includes the appropriate atmosphere for every occasion, with variable lighting, room-scale, soundscapes, olfactory stimulants, textures, technology, wellness amenities, and much more.
This agile framework is ideal for any industry, creating a workplace strategy that is customized to achieve companies’ business goals and meet their people needs. Using data, workplaces can be designed to support varying roles and personas, like software engineers, while providing pathways and spaces for interaction and collaboration as it fits into their workday.
As there has never been so much turnover in real estate, tech companies have a unique opportunity to capitalize on sublease space. Millions of square feet of office building space- including those occupied by tech companies- are currently underutilized. CBRE reports a 42% activity hike in their “Tech 30 Cities” from the end of 2019 to August 2020, revealing that there is more sublease space and co-working options available than at any other time in history.
For tech companies, this rapid change requires a cogent, enterprise-level real estate strategy that enables maximum flexibility for unforeseen peaks and valleys in workplace occupancy and space needs. Even in unpredictable markets, this can ensure a resilient global portfolio and a satisfied workforce.
Check out Unispace’s new eBook for more information.
About the Author: Based in San Francisco, Albert is a strategy consultant with extensive experience in people-centered design and change strategies for private and public institutions. By leveraging design thinking and a user-centric approach, he moves beyond the typical motivations to explore how meaningful change can occur to foster greater organizational responsiveness, adaptability and innovation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.