Luckily, there’s plenty of demand to go around, according to The Speak Easy executive director Danielle McDowell. The Speak Easy used to “graduate” its companies once they reached 10 to 15 employees, but the departing colleagues missed the camaraderie of coworking. So in 2016, The Speak Easy opened a suite for coworking and micro-offices in downtown’s Morrison Opera House building, in part to accommodate larger companies. “You’re not just renting an office from us,” says McDowell. “You’re becoming part of a tight-knit community.”
Owners of traditional office space here are racing to give their properties a face-lift in order to offer that community feel. Buildings are renovating conference rooms, lounges, game rooms, and fitness facilities for companies to share, instead of building them out individually. The old rule of thumb for offices called for 250 square feet of space per employee, but that has shrunk to about 150 square feet for new ones. As traditional cubicles downsize or disappear entirely, some building owners are redeploying the reclaimed square footage almost entirely to shared amenities.
Several office buildings, including Salesforce Tower and Market Tower, have been particularly active in making these improvements. WeWork likely won’t be far behind. “We’re already seeing a lot of competition among companies for employees,” says Jenna Barnett, executive managing director of the real estate brokerage Newmark Knight Frank. “As an employee interviews for a couple of different technology jobs, I think the real estate now plays into their decision on where to go.”