Workforce & Workplace
Workplace Starts at the Front Door
Kevin Rettle
Kevin Rettle
Vice President,
Global Offer Development - Universities
Sodexo

The demand for a quality worklife isn’t confined to corporate offices. For most employees the workday experience begins and ends in the lobby of the building, and developers and building owners are reconsidering what design features and amenities will make their properties attractive to a new generation of tenants. To be competitive, Class A buildings, whether they are new construction or repositioned properties, now feature active entry lobbies with great curb appeal — a concept that has evolved dramatically since the 1970s and 1980s, when the office tower was designed more as a corporate icon than as a vital part of the work experience. Set back from stark entry plazas, the sleek lobbies were treated as voids, sheathed in stone and dark glass.

Gone are the grand spaces that were little more than marble-clad passages to the elevators. Today, the focus is on the two-story experience of the building. Lobbies are being redesigned as public rooms, at a human scale, that extend toward the street to capture and contribute to the streetscape. Treating the lobby as the link into the entire building means considering everything the tenant or visitor can touch — hardware, doors, counters — as well as the overall palette as part of the larger workplace.

Ground-floor retail space in earlier office buildings was usually confined to newspapers, gum and maybe flowers. New retail spaces include upscale restaurants, shops and gyms, and communal areas Many of the design features reflect changes in the lifestyles and work patterns of office workers. Financiers, lawyers, and others involved in international commerce work when global markets are open, keeping people in the office, in the gym, or at the coffee shop for 18 to 20 hours a day. In addition, high-tech workers, people in creative professions, working mothers, and others working flex time come in early or leave late — schedules that keep offices and supporting amenities busy day and night.

Reconfigurations of street-level space also are responding to newly vibrant central business districts where residential towers share neighborhoods with office buildings that together keep people on the streets past 11 p.m. Business districts are constantly evolving as demographics change, new uses are introduced, and public expectations and perceptions shift. Buildings that engage neighbors and offer new amenities have a major role to play in the well-being not only of their tenants but also of their communities.

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