Inside CBRE’s Workplace360 Transition in Downtown Minneapolis

Inside CBRE’s Workplace360 Transition in Downtown Minneapolis

Blake Hastings, Managing Director, CBRE


I should’ve added “tour guide” to my title after we opened our new CBRE office in downtown Minneapolis at LaSalle Plaza in June. We’ve been bringing people through the new 34,000-square-foot, two-story office ever since. Our partners and clients are eager to learn how we consolidated two offices and 192 employees into a free-address office and enabled employees to be successful in this new work environment.

The new Minneapolis office is part of CBRE’s global Workplace360 initiative, the company’s leading-edge approach to workplace strategy designed to promote flexibility, mobility and productivity through technology-enabled,100 percent-free address and paperless offices. This initiative has been successful in dozens of other CBRE offices around the globe and employee feedback has been overwhelmingly positive—in our headquarters office in Los Angeles which opened in 2013,more than 90 percent of employees surveyed said they would not want to return to a traditional way of working.

While CBRE’s Workplace360 offices around the globe take a similar approach to workplace strategy—all are free-address, technology-enabled and paperless offices— the implementation in each market is as unique as the local culture. As such, our transition in Minneapolis brought its own opportunities and challenges. Here we’ll share a few of the concepts at work in our new environment that we find garner the most interest from our clients who are considering their own workplace strategy initiatives.


Suburban to Urban Relocation

CBRE consolidated a large suburban office in Bloomington and a smaller, downtown Minneapolis office into one downtown location. By moving downtown, we joined 25 other companies that have relocated downtown over the last five years totaling nearly half a million square feet, according to CBRE Research. We believed moving downtown would help us attract and retain talented employees, expand our reach for clients and provide great local amenities for our people.

The location change was a big transition for many employees at the suburban office. To ease the transition, we collaborated with Zeller Realty Group and the city of Minneapolis for a learning town hall at our new space prior to construction to help employees envision themselves downtown and learn about services, restaurants and cultural opportunities nearby.


Free Addressing

Free addressing means employees no longer have assigned desks or private offices – even our leadership and most experienced professionals. Instead, they are free to choose where they sit each day, allowing them to cater their workspace to their schedule and the task at hand. Our new office has nine different work environments to choose from including desks, private focus rooms, informal seating areas, team huddle rooms and a social café area.

Free addressing also allows us to use our space more efficiently. Our utilization studies show that people are only at their desks 48 percent of the time; in a free address environment we can maximize space that would have otherwise sat vacant half the time.  The 34,333-square-foot office at LaSalle Plaza is slightly smaller than the combined square footage of our two previous offices, but we are able to grow our headcount by 20 percent through reducing the total square footage per seat.

In order to do this, CBRE Workplace Strategy expert Tiffany Bagley says a company must have a deep understanding of how and where its employees work.

“What you see when you walk into our office is the end result of understanding the way we work and the goals we have for our business,” said Bagley, a Minneapolis-based member of CBRE’s global Workplace Strategies team. 

She likens the process to baking – many of the ingredients are the same, but the ratios and the way the ingredients are mixed together make all the difference between a brownie and a cake.



Compared to the desktop computers, dial-up modems and corded telephones of decades past, today’s technology means employees are no longer chained to their desks. In CBRE’s new downtown Minneapolis office, all employees have access to cutting-edge technology that promotes their ability to freely move throughout the space.

Universal plug-and-play technology allows employees to connect wherever they are and access everything they need to complete the task at hand. Each employee simply needs his or her personalized wireless earpiece and laptop to work anywhere in the office and take advantage of the multiple work environments. Employees can freely move from workstations to huddle rooms to private focus rooms—while staying connected at all times.


Encouraging Collaboration

Like many companies, we knew the large meeting spaces in our previous office were underutilized. In fact, according to CBRE’s 2015 Space Utilization research report found two- to three-person meetings were observed to make up 59 percent of all meetings, however the most common meeting room size was a six-person room.

In the new office, employees are able to choose from a variety of different work environments, including small private huddle rooms where two to three can gather around multiple screens to large, open areas perfect for a team meeting or brainstorm. At the center of this collaborative space is the “Heart,” a café-like setting that serves an entry, gathering and social space that naturally facilitates collaboration through unscheduled interactions across departments and lines of business.   Likewise, our R.I.S.E. Café on the second floor of our office pulls people out of their neighborhoods and into one central location for meals and socialization.

Collaboration is further enabled by technology, which allows employees to to share information, files, and presentations with each other, whether at a desk, in a huddle room or in open, collaborative space.

“By fully-equipping these spaces with the plug and play technology our employees need, they are able to share information and collaborate more effectively,” said Bagley.


Local Culture

As we welcome clients from all over the world, it is important that our space tells the story of who we are and our local culture. CBRE Senior Project Manager Jodie Leppa, who oversaw the build-out of the LaSalle Plaza office, says the office blends the tried and true approaches from CBRE’s Workplace360 initiative with a unique design.

“While we have global standards for the size of our offices and the types of workplaces we provide, the aesthetics are all regional,” said Leppa. “In our Minneapolis office, we drew inspiration from from everywhere in our state to achieve a unique design that reflects the local culture.”

These elements are uniquely Minnesotan, from the flannel and plaid upholstery on the chairs and rug in the Rise Café, to the iconic ‘Welcome to Minnesota’ wall based on a vintage postcard. Our "Heart" features a map of the city etched on glass. The staircase connecting the office’s ‘neighborhoods’ and our whole layout is inspired by the Mississippi River running through Minneapolis.

To further capture the culture of the Minneapolis office, we installed an employee photo wall with images from a casual photoshoot. These pictures highlight everything that’s important to our people – from fly-fishing and firefighting to local food and Villanova basketball.

This transition has not only improved the way we work and created a more engaging environment for employees, but it also benefits our clients.

For a long time, we’ve helped our clients navigate these transitions to new office environments—now that we are working this way ourselves every day, we are able to provide even better insights to our clients on how they can implement these strategies in their own offices.  Today, when they visit our office on the 19th floor of LaSalle Plaza, our clients can actually experience these strategies at work.

Posted at: 10:03 am on September 7th, 2016

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