MovePlan Seattle Roundtable: Breaking through silos to create a broader community
19th December 2022
MovePlan has recently opened an office to support our clients in Seattle. We were keen to host a networking roundtable event to learn more about the local market and make meaningful connections.
Our team invited attendees including those from various industries, helping us to connect with our workplace community in the Seattle market and find out their views on how it has changed since the pandemic and their predictions for the future.
Attendees agreed that there is a desire for employees to return to the office and that the office is not going away, but the hybrid way of working will be here for the foreseeable future.
The consensus amongst the attendees was that many organizations are in a holding pattern, waiting for larger companies to share their insights.
What has changed or been disrupted in the last 12 months in the Seattle market?
The general acceptance among those in the industry is that working full-time in the office is a thing of the past. With many companies now adopting hybrid or agile working policies, this led to the question of what will happen to excess office space no longer needed.
Sohail Abrahams, from Lease & Crutcher, highlighted the length of time it is taking for people to return to the office, leading companies to question what to do with office spaces that are owned or leased, and how the function of these can change to encourage people back.
Simone Hrycenko, from Jet City IT, said there has been a noticeable attempt among those in the corporate market to lease back additional space, as companies switch to agile working practices.
This has resulted in the need for more flexible space, according to our attendees, who said this has now become a long-term requirement rather than a temporary response to the pandemic.
“We are seeing the need for recycling and reusing furniture and requests for storage. Companies are decommissioning space and utilizing coworking offices,” said Mike Stepney, from Hansen Bros. Moving Company.
Cadie Blaser, from Martin Seilg, highlighted the importance of providing spaces within buildings for creativity and collaboration.
“It all happens in the office, it’s so much harder to do virtually,” she said, adding: “We don’t think the office is going away, but hybrid is not going away either. We are seeing larger tenants coming back.”
The impact of sustainability on the industry
With sustainability being placed at the top of the agenda for many companies, the roundtable attendees were asked how this is impacting the industry, vendor services, and financial and physical accessibility to resources. In particular, we were keen to hear about what organizations do when they make a decision to downsize or decommission their space, such as what they do with furniture, particularly with recent news about large companies vacating office space.
This sparked a discussion about decisions made with big moves.
Mike, from Hansen Brothers, questioned how to be sustainable on a budget, citing a client who had downsized and spent a lot of money on a contractor to recycle its furniture. “There isn’t a solution right now,” he said, adding: “You need to be able to separate all the material in the furniture and that takes a lot of time and resources.
“It’s hard to sell or repurpose used furniture especially if it is older. Therefore, it can end up in landfills because recycling is not cost-effective.”
Simone pointed out that E-waste and E-recycle are both accessible and affordable but added that some recycling pick-up companies have now added a small fee due to the rising cost of business.
Requests for sustainable design are on the rise, according to Emily Hope, from HOK, who said this met her own company’s internal efforts and design standards.
“When requested we try to make use of existing components within their current space such as furniture pieces. This could be an opportunity for us to find ways to assist in sustainability efforts, as of right now we usually leave it up to the owner,” she said.
Change in the industry
The week prior to the roundtable, several large tech companies including Meta and Twitter had announced mass layoffs or restructuring that would inevitably lead to a reduced workforce. We asked whether the newsfeed impacted any of the service providers.
The threat of redundancy could result in more people returning to the office to make themselves ‘visible’, according to Emily.
Cadie said: “There is a lot of action in our leasing department specifically a large number of tours. Although signed leases are down, so, there is a lot of wait-and-see how the market shakes out.”
She added that people are planning well in advance to make decisions, resulting in a noticeably high volume of foot traffic. However, the need for space is not immediate.
“People want to be in the office, but it may be too soon to tell how the layoffs are affecting people,” she said.
Attendees were asked what aspect of their industry they want to change.
Here are some of the responses:
“For clients to provide clarity and certainty. To have events/opportunities like this. We don’t usually pull solutions from each other; we work in silos. I would like to see more interdisciplinary solutions and to create a broader community.”
“The Seattle market is going to continue to expand. There may be a shift back to a more standard office than the hoteling option as companies try to create an atmosphere where people want to be and can have some ownership of.”
"We don’t usually pull solutions from each other; we work in silos. I would like to see more interdisciplinary solutions and to create a broader community.”
— MovePlan Roundtable attendee