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Floor model: CBRE has transformed the office space in its headquarters into a showroom of possibilities for its clients

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Every employee's work station has an electric adjustable height desk at CBRE in Saddle Brook.
Every employee's work station has an electric adjustable height desk at CBRE in Saddle Brook. - ()

CBRE brokers have been showing office space for decades, but nothing quite like what they now have on display at Park 80 West in Saddle Brook.

Workstations that can be adjusted to standing height at the touch of a button. Plug-and-play focus rooms and conference areas. Living rooms with couches and lounge furniture.

Not to mention a treadmill desk for all to share.

The 26,000-square-foot space isn't one that CBRE hopes to fill, but the home to its own 120 employees in northern New Jersey. The real estate services firm unveiled its new digs in early April, giving it a showcase that clients can see, feel and experience as the firm guides them into the next generation of office space.

“We're eating our own cooking here, and it helps us advise our clients if we're doing it ourselves,” said Jeff Hipschman, a senior managing director who heads CBRE's New Jersey offices.

“Many elements here are things that our clients are contemplating and implementing in their space design,” he said. “So in some regard we become a test bed, so they can see the various aspects of workplace strategies in action.”

The space is as much about retaining and attracting talent as it is about advising clients, Hipschman said. Both goals are fueling a companywide initiative known as Workplace360, in which CBRE is overhauling and redesigning its offices across the globe to help maximize collaboration and productivity.

Planning for the makeover in Saddle Brook began about two years ago, making it one of the earliest sites in CBRE's footprint to participate. The result is a setting in which employees are encouraged to work virtually anywhere in the office, thanks to the introduction of new technology and a design that creates spaces that didn't exist before.

“What CBRE has provided is a sense of choice in the workplace,” said Dana Nalbantian, a principal with Gensler whose firm designed the space. “You can stand up at your desk, you can sit down ... you can team in a more traditional environment of a conference room, but also in a kind of a living room environment.”

Like a growing number of corporate tenants, CBRE has gone to a layout in which fewer employees have private offices. And its conference spaces and whatever offices are left now have all-glass fronts in order to create a sense of transparency and openness, Hipschman said.

It's a design that seems to conflict with the historical business model of a real estate brokerage, where the internal competition for clients can be fierce and where privacy is highly valued. But Nalbantian said there is every opportunity for confidentiality when needed: all employees have laptops that can be docked at any focus room or conference space, along with mobile headsets and a phone system that allows them to hook into their extensions from anywhere in the office.

What's more, Hipschman said he expects the space to encourage a transition to more collaboration, one that's important as CBRE tries to sell a full-service platform. The firm and its competitors are more than simply brokerage houses, offering other “verticals” or service lines such as project management, research and consulting.

“In our business, it's really about bringing the right expertise to our client … and an environment like this allows you to easily walk over to a vertical expert with a given specialty and collaborate,” Hipschman said. “If the environment is inhibitive to that, you tend to have less of a result of getting to the right expert.”

One of CBRE's global service lines comes from its Workplace Strategy group, whose experts studied how employees used the space in Saddle Brook before the renovation, Hipschman said. It's the same group that advises CBRE clients who are considering new spaces, so bringing those decision-makers to the office is now more useful than ever.

It also plays a key role in competing for talent.

“From the client side, I think most occupiers in New Jersey would be interested in seeing what we've done here,” Hipschman said. “From the recruiting side, we've already had individuals from competitors call us and say, 'I really want to see what's going on over there,' if not come through already.”

E-mail to: joshb@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @joshburdnj

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