Does the Right Office Space Attract the Right People?

 Why Office Design is More Important than Ever

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By Player Murray

It wasn’t too long ago that many of us in the real estate business felt like we were heading toward a completely “mobile” business. Nowadays, we can do practically everything from our phones, tablets and laptops, and going “paperless” has become more and more common. Given how much business we can accomplish on the go, it would stand to reason that the physical office space is becoming less important to our agents, but I propose that just the opposite is true.

Three years ago, after listing and selling real estate since 2006, I took over as managing broker for one of our company’s offices –Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices York Simpson Underwood Realty—and two years ago, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to move our office and start with a fresh space. We were in a roughly 8000-sq.-ft. building from the 1970s that resembled every other real estate office in our Cary, NC-market. The idea that someone might just walk in and ask if there was an agent to assist them with purchasing an $800,000 home was about as far-fetched an idea as any. The layout of the office was closed off, choppy and lacked character; it didn’t offer any idea about what kind of people worked there or what they rr-pmurray-office-coffee-area-3Apr14were doing.

Our new space is a welcome contrast to our old office, the love-child of an Apple Store and a Starbucks. It is inviting, open, bright, and most importantly, it is transparent. Literally, it’s see-through; our conference rooms and offices are all glass, as are the touch-down spaces for agents looking for a quiet area to make calls or focus on prospecting. The waiting room was replaced with an open, client-centered space, which has a coffee bar—complete with a Starbucks machine—and satellite TV with bar seating in place of traditional furniture. Our conference rooms fill the area between the front door and agent offices, and have flat screen wall mounted computers to use for presentations or when going through listings with clients. I should also mention that we’re now located in the middle of a retail shopping center development surrounded by stores, restaurants and people! It is the office of the future.

But after two years working here, the most surprising result of this new office isn’t just having agents who like the new space, it is the fact that this space brought those agents out from behind their desks and created a collaborative energy that I had never seen before.

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The center of the office has a great work-station arrangement where most of the new agents work throughout the day; with the transparent layout, the more experienced agents in the outer-wall offices can’t help but see the newer agents working together. It has drawn the experienced agents to the communal workspace and allowed for the sharing of ideas—both new and time-tested—by all. That has been the biggest benefit of redefining the space: When everyone can see each other and feel the energy of the office, it becomes a magnetic force that draws them together.

rr-pmurray-office-quiet-cubes-3Apr14As an added result of this design, we’ve attracted new and young talent. My new agents love the space, they love the feel, they love the energy, and they love being able to easily interact with experienced agents. The modern office design has connected these young professionals with a generation of successful and seasoned agents. The agents who’ve been in the office for a long time are re-energized, and eager to help the new ones succeed; in fact, the middle of the office has become the place that both new and experienced agents spend most of their day. I should mention that even my own office door and wall are glass, and that my door is rarely closed. But even on those few occasions when it is, I can still feel the energy, and that feeling is contagious.

PLAYER MURRAY is one of the managing brokers at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices York Simpson Underwood Realty. He is also a member of the REthink Council. Visit www.playermurray.BHHSYSU.com for more information or follow Player on Twitter @playermurray.

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