Going to work in a major office building may get to be as much fun as taking a holiday cruise.
And this is coming about because some multitenant buildings are so impersonal and just plain dull.
To help make tenants--and the employees of tenants--happier and more a part of the building's social structure--some building owners are putting on mix and mingle activities.
Does this pay off?
"Yes", says Bob Ortiz, senior vice president, Cushman Realty, who leases many downtown high rises.
"It's increasingly important for a building's tenants to develop a sense of community because it makes for a better working atmosphere. Major office buildings want major tenants, and these are the firms that want to attract and hold the best employees."
Movies, Art Shows
Crocker Center, in downtown Los Angeles, tries to build a sense of community within its tenant population by taking advantage of its facilities, as well as by producing activities for its tenants. The center's atrium and patios provide places for people to enjoy each other's company. Crocker Center activities include noon movies, art shows and evening outings.
Crocker Center's variety of restaurants also serve as meeting places. Those who produce office activities say that most events involve eating.
Warner Center, in the West San Fernando Valley, offers a variety of activities and services for its tenants. These include noontime "brown bag" lunches which often include entertainment, such as ballets, musicals and fashion shows. The center also provides aerobics, concerts and UCLA Extension courses.
Dr. Marianne McManus, USC clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science, says office activities can support company team building.
Included in Design
"Team building," she says, "is not something an employer does in one two-hour seminar once a year. It happens when people meet together and exchange ideas."
Developer Irwin Daniels agrees and emphasizes the importance of designing buildings so there are places for people to congregate.
In his new building, The Center in Beverly Hills, 9336 Civic Center Drive, Daniels created a garden level and plaza level, for tenants to meet with each other.
Daniels also says that part of this sense of community comes from what the owner does in the area of public service. For example, starting Monday and for a week, at his building at 1880 Century Park East, Century City, clothing will be collected for use by the homeless of Los Angeles. This project is being undertaken in cooperation with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Architect Terrence Glassman, says that part of the need to develop a sense of community in the work place stems from changes taking place in work itself, as well as in American social life.
"In this information age, getting people to meet and exchange ideas has taken on a new importance," he says.
"With the increasing use of computers, people can do their work at home, so that the purpose of an office is, more and more, becoming human interaction."
Glassman also noted that Los Angeles, especially downtown, is unique for its lack of street life in the evenings, thereby increasing the need for organized social activities.
"One would not expect a similar need in New York for building owners to do what Los Angeles buildings owners are doing."
Glassman and psychiatrist Marvin Marsh deal with some of these issues in their course, "Architecture Planning and the Social Sciences," given at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Santa Monica.
Does the term "sense of community" accurately describe what building owners are trying to create?
Probably not, since most real estate professionals and social scientists seem to define the term in different ways.