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Space race

Out of office: Clintonians and other careerists

Bill Clinton out of office: Join the club
iconWorking the room of the future: The Museum of Modern Art's "Workspheres" exhibit has opened in New York and runs there through April 22. Click here for an office-hopping read on Paola Antonelli, Italian-born curator who has developed MoMA's proactive array of commissioned conceptualizations.  

In this story:

Creative space

Leaving home

'Bunch of nonsense'

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(CNN) -- In the end and under pressure, former United States President Bill Clinton decided the posh, pricey office in midtown Manhattan wasn't worth the hassle.


Any benefits -- convenience, comfort and perhaps "looking presidential" -- were easily outweighed by the potential expense, both financial and political. We're talking an estimated $500,000 annual saving on rent. So he opted for considerably cheaper digs uptown.

Most businesses and careerists don't have to cope with Clinton-style scrutiny -- or the hoopla that surrounded last week's Clinton walkabout on 125th Street in Harlem -- but they do have to factor in a lot more than cost per square foot when deciding on office space.

"There are some professions where you're going to go out get more expensive space and furnish it very well," says Gene Fairbrother, lead small business consultant for the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) in Dallas, Texas.

"You're going to create that successful image that can support your requirement for dollars you're asking your customers. That's a very important part of marketing."


Creative space

graphic Maybe some people just make too much over this office thing. How important is the quality or status or effectiveness of your work space to you?

Look, you spend all those hours there, trying to get something done. It's important. It's your image and your career environment.
It's maybe overplayed by a lot of people but that's understandable. In truth, it's more important it be functional than fancy.
I could run my career out of my trunk. Enough already with the office fixation.
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graphic William Collier's Aura workstation is one of the most widely recognized icons of offices-to-come in use today. Read our story about the mind behind the machine and the development of this self-contained workstation made by Montreal's Poetic Technologies.

Luxury still works for certain businesses, some law practices and financial institutions among them.

But there's been a big change in the last few years in what many tenants are looking for in a workplace, says Mark Berman, executive vice president with Coldwell Banker Commercial in Los Angeles.

He says the stuffy, corporate-style spaces are losing speed. Taking over are what Berman calls "creative spaces" with high ceilings, wood beams, brick walls, skylights, play areas with pool tables.

"They like to provide employees with this kind of entertainment so they'll enjoy coming to work and enjoy working long hours," he says.

While this is an outgrowth of the dot-com boom, it's not exclusive to newfangled businesses.

"I've seen a lot of tenants, even law firms, typically the most conservative, going for these types of buildings," says Berman, who knows of many traditional buildings being refurbished to reflect the new office sensibility.

Mark Weiss, executive managing director for Julien J. Studley Inc. in New York, agrees that many corporations are passing on the traditional -- buying instead the idea of an "urban campus."

"They clearly perceive there's a benefit to having their people near each other in a little mini-city environment," he says.


Leaving home

While some businesses decide what office style works best for them, many careerists are trying to determine whether they need an out-of-home office at all.

San Francisco may be the hardest-hit major city in the ongoing tech-sector quake. As one observer puts it, the companies are belly-up, some commercial real estate may be wide open -- and the people who once manned the computer terminals are "back living with their parents again."

Fairbrother says there are two reasons to pursue an office away from home -- the need for additional space for a growing business and the psychological need to separate from the home.

"Some people are not built to operate out of their home. They can't get away from the kitchen or home or the kids. By going out and renting an office, they may be much more successful than they'd be at home," he says.

Author and consultant Lisa Kanarek, who advises businesspeople considering home offices, says some people tend to avoid working out of the home because of an image they want to project.

"I meet people who say, 'I could work at home but I have clients visit my office every day,'" she says.


'Bunch of nonsense'

Kanarek says home offices and telecommuting remain popular and growing options for some, given the time and money saved by eliminating the commute and car-leasing costs.

graphic The Museum of Modern Art's Paola Antonelli concedes her own office is a mess. But she's waded through that ordered chaos to mount MoMA's "Workspheres" exhibit -- commissioning some designers' attention to the issue of work-to-come.

Others suggest the telecommuting trend is more hype than reality, and that most businesses still favor the out-of-home office environment for themselves and their employees.

"I think corporate America has realized in large part that human beings by their very nature are gregarious and like to work around other human beings," says Mark Weiss, executive managing director for Julien J. Studley Inc.

"The whole notion of telecommuting, which we heard a lot about beginning in the '90s, turned out to be a bunch of nonsense. People like to be around other people."


Clinton's Harlem office deal sealed
February 16, 2001
Freewheeling offices last
February 19, 2001

Julien J. Studley Inc.
Home Office Life
Coldwell Banker Commercial
National Association for the Self-Employed

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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