Citigroup’s New Office Plan: No Offices Bank adopts open layout in new headquarter.

 

FROM THE WORLD STREET JOURNAL WEBSITE.

The layout at the new headquarters is minimalist and more egalitarian. Because most desks aren’t assigned, employees must lock up their family photos and personal tchotchkes each night. Everyone gets a window view—but no one gets complete privacy.

Mr. Corbat, who started his career on the cacophonous Salomon Brothers trading floor in 1983, pushed for the new design even though he knows it won’t be universally popular among the staff.

“There probably is the occasional person who says, ‘I’ve spent most of my career in an office and I don’t want to change that now,’ ” said Mr. Corbat. “But weighing that against the benefits to the rest of the organization, that’s a risk we’re comfortable taking.”

While researchers disagree about whetheropen offices foster communication or encourage distraction, Mr. Corbat is in the former camp. He says he was inspired by another Salomon alumnus— Michael Bloomberg, who as New York City mayorworked from a desk in the middle of City Hall.

The wall-less workspace is meant to flatten hierarchies, something banks have traditionally been built on. Former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill had a fireplace in his office when he ran Shearson Loeb Rhoades from atop the World Trade Center. Mr. Corbat’s current Park Avenue office, at more than 600 square feet, is larger than many Manhattan apartments.

Mr. Corbat said he wants to encourage communication among employees who typically might not talk to one another, and is particularly excited about a “town square” area on the ground floor.

“You’re going to be forced to bump into people,” Mr. Corbat said. “I want people interacting around our business and ideas.”

Mr. Corbat’s new workspace, which measures about 360 square feet, won’t have walls or a door. Instead it features glass dividers, about 7 feet tall, to provide what the bank calls “seated privacy.” Other executives get semiprivate spaces of about 180 square feet.

When Mr. Corbat announced his plans, he made an offer that most workers considered rhetorical: Anyone who has a problem with the design can come talk to me. Ray McGuire, who runs the firm’s corporate and investment bank and its army of highly paid deal makers, actually took him up on it. Mr. McGuire says he feared his staff would be uncomfortable in the new setup, and that could affect how they serve clients.

“When you are in an industry that is reluctant to change, and you manage a group of people who have been successful, a new idea can be difficult to adopt,” Mr. McGuire said. He said Mr. Corbat helped convince him that the new setup will help the bank best serve clients, by fostering collaboration and attracting young talent. Besides, Mr. McGuire added, “A lot of people are out meeting with clients anyway.”

Other financial firms have adopted elements of modern design, but even banks that have incorporated some open spaces have kept private offices for almost all of their senior executives. As part of its research, Citigroup toured the New York offices of rivals such asGoldman Sachs Group Inc., as well as  Facebook Inc. in Silicon Valley.

Only the top three floors at Citigroup’s Tribeca headquarters will be fully renovated when the executives move in next month. Changes to the rest of the building will be rolled out over roughly the next four years. When complete, the skyscraper will have capacity for about 12,500 employees, up from the current 9,000.

The bank says it carefully considered its employees’ concerns. The design—from white-noise generators to walls and ceilings that absorb sound—is meant to minimize the distraction of nearby conversations. Each floor will have multiple conference rooms and small phone rooms for private conversations. The bank is considering “instant fog” for some of those glass-walled rooms. Employees have been told that they’ll adapt by wearing headphones and talking more quietly.

“If you look at the history of trading floors there is an extremely high level of productivity,” said Don Callahan, who runs Citigroup’s operations and technology and is overseeing the renovation. “If we can adapt that to a nontrading floor environment, we’re going to be in great shape.”

Write to Christina Rexrode at christina.rexrode@wsj.com

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8 TOP OFFICE DESIGN TRENDS FOR 2016

FROM FASTCOMPANY.COM WEBSITE.

EXPERTS SAY IT'S TIME TO MOVE IN THESE DESIGN DIRECTIONS TO KEEP WORKERS ENGAGED AND GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR OFFICE SPACE.

BY 

You might think that the reams of analysis done on office space would have by now turned every workplace into a humming hive of engagement and productivity. Earlier this year, we even got an advance look at a research paper that outlined alternative design strategies to make workers happier.

The paper, Ethonomics: Designing For The Principles Of The Modern Workplace—authored by Teknion, in collaboration with design expertslike Joan Blumenfeld, principal of Perkins+Will, one of this year’s Most Innovative Companies—revealed that the workplace is ripe for reinvention.

As Blumenfeld told Fast Company

Workspaces should flex to provide a variety of spaces and destinations for workers to inhabit that promote movement throughout the day. While many companies are doing a good job of incorporating some of these elements into their workplace design, there’s a need for more awareness and implementation of this way of thinking holistically about the workplace.

 

Approaching the New Year seems like as good a time as any to say out with the old walls that block natural light, separation of departments, major investments in public spaces at the expense of the back office and other design elements that bum workers out, and in with creative solutions that bring people together in ways they can be at their best.

We talked to the design experts at Teknion, Poppin, a manufacturer of workplace furniture and accessories, and Workwell Partners, a design firm specializing in creating efficient spaces to see what they predict are the most useful trends for 2016. Here’s what they told us.

TREND #1: HIDING THE WIRES

Scott Lesizza, principal at Workwell Partners says one of his clients’ most requested solutions is help with eliminating wires and clutter from desktops and conference rooms. "Between wires, laptops and other electronic devices, to docking stations, paperwork and personal items, there are many things that can make a room full of open desks appear very disorganized," says Lesizza. Even a $30,000 conference table can look terrible if wires are not well concealed within the table, he observes. "Luckily we are seeing more manufacturers develop solutions that are clean and simple," he says.

Photo: Slyde Charging Solutions

TREND #2: BRINGING THE OUTDOORS IN

Lesizza says nature is having a serious moment in design. Reclaimed wood panel installations, exposed concrete flooring, and incorporating natural flora patterns in fabrics and artwork are all becoming more prominent, along with plant life itself in the form of living walls, he says. "Some of our favorite pieces and projects from the last year take a page from this trend, and also go hand in hand with one of the bigger trends: bringing the home into the office," says Lesizza. "It’s the natural, cozy feeling that a lot of these finishes and details have that will continue to make this trend a popular one throughout 2016."

Photo: Carlo Ponti Photography

TREND #3: MULTIPURPOSE WORKSPACES

Lesizza observes that in his 20 years in the design business, he’s never seen change happen so quickly. "Not only are cubicles disappearing," says Lesizza, "but now their replacement—the bench—is being overtaken by non-assigned seating." The executive suite is still not playing to this trend, however; multipurpose spaces can be utilized for everything from multimedia presentations to casual breakout areas. "We’ll also see more oval-shaped office desks, which allow for a more convenient place for 4-6 people to meet, as well as a shift toward height adjustable tables for standing meetings," he says.

Photo: Peter Dressel

TREND #4: DESIGNATED LOUNGE AREAS

Jeff Miller, a veteran of Apple and Herman Miller who’s now vice president of design at Poppin sees a move toward creating spaces that are the antithesis of rigid workstations. "Lighter, powerful, wireless technology has untethered the workspace more than ever," Miller notes, so offices can be more comfortable, which stimulates relaxed collaboration. "Offices now mandate the inclusion of dedicated lounge areas to make working more enjoyable," Miller says.

Photo: courtesy of DOAR

TREND #5: OFFICES ORGANIZED BY COLOR

"I’m a strong believer that if you organize your work environment with color, it will help your thoughts be more organized and colorful," says Miller. He cites several studies that color boosts happiness, productivity and creativity. "We’re seeing more offices integrate pops of color in unexpected ways and therefore strive to be at the forefront of offering a wide color spectrum of accessories and furniture," Miller explains.

Photo: courtesy of DOAR

TREND #6: COMMUNITY TABLES

Steve Delfino, vice president of Corporate Marketing and Product Management at Teknion says the community table reflects a cultural moment. "People are looking for more interaction at work and in other public settings, including restaurants and hotels where large shared tables are making an appearance," he observes. But the community table has been a meaningful object for centuries, a symbol of kinship or alliance that is now becoming an important part of the work environment, Delfino adds. "Today, the table emerges as a relevant feature of an evolving workplace that now exhibits many of the characteristics of a domicile—more relaxed, more congenial and collaborative," he says.

Photo: courtesy of Teknion

TREND #7: A MIX OF DIFFERENT TEXTURES

Delfino says he’s seeing an increased emphasis on using varied materials throughout the workplace to create environments that influence wellness and productivity. "Products with a rich material vocabulary provide designers with the opportunity to be original and bold—to use color and texture to create a more varied, inspiring and personalized work environment," he says.

Photo: courtesy of Teknion

TREND #8: THE END OF PERMANENT LAYOUTS

Flexibility is something all three design experts are seeing as a growing trend as traditional office spaces, planned in advance with permanent layouts, are giving way to the needs of an ever-changing work landscape. Delfino notes that products designed to have every element move into place and fit together without rules based planning are at the forefront of the office of the future. "Modular components can be mixed, stacked and moved around, offering innumerable combinations for a dynamic and collaborative workplace," he says.

Photo: courtesy of Teknion

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Where to Go for Sumptuous Festive Dining in Manila

Manila may not be the best Filipino destination if you want to have the best dining experience but it has a number of great places where you can enjoy sumptuous dining for whatever occasion.

The following are some of the top picks you should consider.

Casa Roces

Offering Spanish, Asian, and Filipino dishes, Casa Roces is one of the highly-rated restaurants in Manila. It is located in 1153 JP Laurel corner Aguado Street. San Miguel, Manila. Its wooden interiors and cozy atmosphere present a warm welcome to every diner. Full bar service is available. Casa Roces is famous for its Malacañang frozen soufflé, choritos en balsamico, loacker milk hazelnut torte, fabada ala Casa Roces, and crispy lengua. The restaurant is open from 10AM to 10PM daily.

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6 Ways in Handling the Challenges of a Shrinking Office Space

Office space is not cheap especially in major cities. While the Philippines continues to have some of the cheapest office spaces in the Asia-Pacific region, cheap is not really that cheap in the perspective of local businessmen. That’s why companies could not easily expand their offices to match their growing number of employees.

The prevailing setup involves the use of cubicles for most employees with the rooms only limited to the use of officers or those who hold sensitive functions. Most employees will have to deal with the disadvantages and inconveniences of being in the same area ineffectively separated by cubicle walls. There’s just no privacy in this setup. A human resource officer who occasionally talks to a superior regarding the suspension or sacking of an employee will have to bear the awkwardness. There’s also the danger for everyone to unwittingly share too much information. Additionally, not everyone may be able to tolerate the distractions caused by other employees near them.

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6 Reasons Why Real Estate Is An Excellent Investment

There are many reasons why real estate investments are better compared to other forms of investments. Shelling out money for real estate could be better than investing in stocks and is definitely better than simply keeping money in the bank. Of course, it’s not a perfect investment but in general it comes with more advantages than disadvantages.

The following are the top 6 reasons why you should consider a real estate investment.

  1. Value Appreciation and Cash Inflow

This is one of the best reasons why you should consider a real estate investment. Land, in particular, very rarely loses its value. Instead, it keeps appreciating over time. You may not do anything about the land you bought and wait for the area to progress and you can expect the land’s value to considerably increase as the years pass. Even better, you can use the property to make money. You can erect a building and have it leased. If you don’t have the capital, you can engage in an agreement with a contractor for a profit sharing scheme.

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10 Basic Rules to Help You Become a Successful Freelance Writer

Freelance writing is not for everyone. Not everyone has the ability to handle the challenges and drawbacks of freelance work. However, if you are really determined to succeed in doing freelance writing, you can impose the following rules on yourself to boost your chances for success.

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How Small Businesses Can Get Big Clients

Attracting big clients is something small businesses should not hesitate to set as a goal. There’s nothing wrong with being too ambitious in running a business. It is something that should even be encouraged. It’s not impossible for small businesses to compete with bigger businesses for clients that are traditionally served by bigger and more established firms. Big potential clients will not prevent themselves from doing business with a small business as long as they get what they need and want.

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5 Great Destinations for Productive and Successful Workshops

Seminars and workshops should be held in venues that provide the best environment for discussion, teaching, and learning. Also, they should help boost the image of the company. They have to leave a good impression to all participants by being in a convenient location that is well-equipped, well-lit, properly ventilated, and comfortably-sized.

The following are 5 highly recommended spaces or venues for workshops, seminars, or other activities involving 20 to 50 persons.

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APEC’s Impact on the SMEs in the Philippines

Meta: What are the specific benefits of APEC 2015? Is it really worth spending P10 billion, massive inconveniences, and public anger on?
Has APEC really made impact? Did it really leave something beneficial for the country? These are important questions to ask and discuss considering the billions of pesos spent for the event and the massive inconvenience it has caused the public.

In his speech at the APEC SME Summit, President Aquino said that he couldn’t help but be “impressed by what APEC has been able to achieve.” You may ask, what specific achievements? In the eyes of ordinary Filipinos, the APEC Summit is nothing but a major inconvenience. Not many can see beyond the encumbering closing of roads, no-pay holiday declaration, and the temporary solutions to the unsightly parts of Manila.

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Don’t Let the Wrong People Prematurely Scale Up Your Startup

Stephen Forte, managing director for a global early stage VC fund, shares an interesting story in a post on e27. He tells the story of a friend he recommended for a project management post at a startup company. This friend was highly qualified but the startup company decided to choose somebody else, somebody who could brag of having project management experiences at big companies. His friend spent most of his professional life at startups. Forte is wondering if this was a good decision on the part of the startup.

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