How Cushman & Wakefield’s Newest Office Embraces Inclusive Design

The pandemic didn’t just change the office market by lowering occupancy rates. It has also had a significant impact on office design. Employees working remotely had more control over their surroundings during the pandemic than ever before, raising expectations of what offices should look like. As companies try to entice workers back to their desks, these heightened expectations are being reflected in the workplaces themselves. Employees accustomed to working from home want to show up to an office where they can be themselves and feel welcomed. Companies have been working overtime to provide these types of workplaces.

Cushman & Wakefield’s newest office in Boston took many pages out of the emerging design playbook that leans heavily into inclusivity. The design process was democratic and included feedback from all 170 employees who would use the space. The company held ten focus groups, explicitly asking workers what features they wanted. “We knew if we asked people what they wanted and incorporated that feedback, it would get more people back to the office,” said Kelly Mann, director of the Total Workplace Group at Cushman. “Most of the requests weren’t a heavy lift, and it made it so it’s everyone’s office space.”

The new Boston office is one of more than 400 for Cushman & Wakefield and the company’s latest space. Architecture firms SGA and Dream Collaborative renovated the space before Cushman moved in last August. No decisions have been made on renovating other offices, but the new configuration could provide a glimpse of future design at other Cushman locations. The brokerage vacated 35,000 square feet of space at 225 Franklin Street and moved into a smaller space of 27,000 square feet at 125 High Street. Cushman asks Boston employees to come to the office two to three days per week, but the guidelines aren’t mandatory.

Cushman & Wakefield’s newest office space in Boston is about 26 percent smaller than the previous space but feels larger due to its design. (Image: Cushman & Wakefield)

The theme of Cushman’s new office is about serving every worker, no matter what their needs. Mann said the Boston office has many workers with neurodiversity challenges like ADHD and depression. Ten years ago, companies weren’t having these discussions as openly, but they are now. “Younger generations’ expectations for wellness and mental health are much higher,” said Gable Clark, president of interior design at architecture firm SGA, which helped design the space. “So, we thought, ‘How can we design a space where everyone thrives?’”

Factoring in neurodiversity came in many forms. One way was the Bill Russell room, a nod to a Boston basketball legend, where employees can “get their energy out.” There’s space for golf putting and a ‘quiet lounge’ for introverts who need a quiet moment. Cushman’s new office is inclusive in other ways. Located on the 24th floor, employees wanted everyone to have access to views of the city because of their significance to Boston. Previously, only senior executives had the best views from their corner offices. The new office has been designed so everyone can enjoy the cityscape. Cushman employees say the energy and movement you can see from the city from the 24th floor infuses back into the office. The extensive windows also bring in more natural light, which helps workers who have migraines.

The breakroom’s more prominent location is another nod to inclusivity. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the office. In the previous space, it was confined to a hidden part of the office. The idea behind the breakroom’s more pronounced location was to make the space more welcoming. Brokers like to bring in clients where there’s coffee right at the entrance, and they mingle with the rest of Cushman’s staff. The inclusivity of the design even focused on the office’s colors. During focus groups, employees asked that they de-emphasize the trademark Cushman red featured prominently in the old space. They felt the red was too aggressive. The new office has a primary color scheme of off-white shades and green, gray, and light brown.

The Bill Russell Room is designed to help employees “get their energy out” and have a quiet moment. (Image: Cushman & Wakefield)

The office was also designed with Boston pride in mind. One of Cushman’s Washington, D.C., offices has an area they call The Arena that functions like a hotel reception area. It was designed that way purposefully because many government clients come in. Design ideas for the Boston office were different, and the company wanted the office to reflect Beantown. The Fenway Room is a multi-purpose space for formal and informal gatherings. The room isn’t baseball-themed, but it’s the heart of the office, similar to the famous ballpark, which is the heart of the city. Each conference room is named after a historical female figure from Boston’s past. All of Cushman’s offices nationwide are similar in many ways, but they reflect the cities they’re located in. What works in D.C. or Chicago may not work in Boston.

Another interesting feature of the new Boston office is what’s been called an ‘optical illusion.’ Although the space is smaller than the old office, many workers said it looked bigger when they first stepped inside. The design reduces the number of private offices and adds more areas for group gatherings compared to the previous space. The result is a layout that better uses the available space despite less square footage. More glass in the design also makes the space look bigger. More architecture firms might use a similar trick in an era of shrinking office spaces. The average office square foot per employee shrank by 22 percent last year, according to CBRE. Cushman’s previous Boston office space was about 26 percent larger than the new space. 

While it may be smaller, Cushman’s new office was planned to give a welcoming feeling where employees can move about. The brokerage aimed for the comfortable vibe of a hotel where employees can curate their experiences more and have more control over their environments. The design baseline incorporates solutions that address the diversity of its staff. It puts employee comfort and well-being first. In the post-pandemic era, when the expectations for workplaces are higher, inclusive designs like those in Cushman’s new Boston office are quickly becoming the norm.

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