We have ushered in a new era of flexibility for the American workforce. Remote work was first seen as a pandemic phenomenon and has now become a part of everyday vernacular. The number of remote workers in the United States tripled during the pandemic, and while many are going back to the office, working from home at least part-time has become the norm. This means that many Americans are no longer participating in the traditional routine of commuting to a designated office space. This shift has inevitably impacted the landscape of commercial real estate on a national scale, with office buildings from New York City to San Francisco experiencing record-high vacancies this year.
The struggles of the office sector have created an opportunity for residential buildings. People may not want to commute to the office daily, but they are happy to have a place near their home where they can work from time to time. This has given rise to more offices in mixed-use buildings. Now, the architects of mixed-use buildings, which typically combine retail and residential spaces, are reimagining the commercial areas to accommodate the need for workspaces closer to people’s residences.
Instead of designing mixed-use projects with space for traditional retailers such as jewelry stores or clothing boutiques, designers are now increasingly incorporating space for creative offices and co-working facilities. These spaces cater to the unique requirements of remote work. Plush furnishings, advanced technology, ergonomic workstations, and seamless connectivity have become integral elements of these workspaces, ensuring they meet the comfort and technological standards expected in today’s work environment. What’s perhaps even more powerful is the way that landlords can surround workspaces with a vibrant ecosystem that includes stores, restaurants, cafes, gyms…you name it. A synergistic tenant mix and creative activation of space can create the kind of truly dynamic environment that people want to work around.
A compelling example of the new paradigm for mixed-use buildings can be found in Los Angeles’ Warner Center neighborhood, which is currently undergoing a remarkable transition from a traditional office park to a thriving downtown area featuring multifamily living, shops, retail, and office spaces. Among the projects contributing to this transformation is The Q Variel, which opened its doors in 2021.
The first-floor commercial space at The Q Variel is dedicated to a creative office environment called Q Work. This space covers 6,500 square feet and is thoughtfully designed to cater to the needs of remote workers. It features a luxurious coffee bar, a well-equipped kitchen, conference rooms, and communal seating areas. Q Work has been strategically designed with bright colors and an inspiring atmosphere to spark the creativity and productivity of remote workers. It offers a choice of enclosed, private offices for quiet individual work as well as comfortable couches that foster collaboration and social interaction, recognizing the importance of both focused work and social connection in the remote work landscape.
A few blocks away, The Q Topanga, a sister property of The Q Variel, also houses a “Q Work” location that stands at 8,800 square feet. These two large offices showcase the area’s growing demand for modern and flexible workspaces if you are willing to put in the work. The evolving needs of a remote workforce have forced the office industry to innovate and adapt, and I think these types of mixed-use buildings are a great example of that.
As creative office spaces continue to pop up in mixed-use buildings, the benefits extend into the surrounding community. Offices that are located in densely populated areas have proven to provide an economic boost to the community; just look what happened to some downtowns when offices went empty. Finding ways to bring offices close to where people live and play will only enhance the economic vibrancy of our neighborhoods and hopefully support the growth of local enterprises.
Well-designed mixed-use space fosters a sense of community among residents and workers alike. These shared spaces encourage interaction, networking, and collaboration, contributing to a strong sense of belonging within the neighborhood. This sense of community enhances the overall satisfaction of residents, making it a more desirable place to live and work.
Architects and designers are redefining the boundaries between work and leisure, enriching the work experience for remote workers. The remote work revolution has undeniably transformed how we work and live. The property industry is still in the process of adapting to these changes, but it will take time. As the remote work trend continues to grow, architects will remain key players in shaping the way we live and work. The role of architects in the evolving world of work is not limited to structural design but extends to creating environments that foster creativity, collaboration, and work-life balance. Architects are instrumental in redefining the boundaries between work and leisure, ultimately leading to a more flexible, accommodating, and enriching work experience for remote workers.