Moving Forward

Lessons and Considerations from Knoll’s Manhattan Relocation

Office relocations are often borne out of a moment of compression for an organization. The lease is expiring. The office is bursting at the seams. A functioning space no longer inspires or represents the brand.

No matter the driver, a move is a deeply layered affair, intertwining financial, operational, human, and brand considerations. But out of this urgency lies an incredible opportunity. A move is a once-in-a-great-while moment to remake an organization’s physical presence, reshape its environs to match evolved work styles, and refresh its brand message to stakeholders.

For Knoll, a New York office move presented a particularly unique moment. As a company that has been at the forefront of space planning and workplace design for more than 75 years, a chance to implement its own experience and expertise was a defining opportunity.

Background: The Knoll Move

New York City, where Knoll was founded, is home to an office housing the executive and design teams, the regional sales force, the marketing and communications group, and the company’s flagship showroom.

In 2004, Knoll moved into its Ninth Avenue office at the crossroads of Chelsea and the now-trendy Meatpacking District. “The under-developed neighborhood was an inexpensive, edgy location with vast floor space,” says Knoll CEO Andrew Cogan.

After nearly ten years and the expiration of a non-renewing lease, Knoll packed up its loft-style Ninth Avenue office and relocated to a glass-and-steel mid-century modern office tower in the heart of Midtown Manhattan’s bustling Sixth Avenue, also known as the Avenue of the Americas.

Executive Summary

When preparing for an office relocation, a number of key considerations come into focus. Examining (1) financial and organizational priorities, (2) shifting work styles, and (3) rapidly changing technology are critical to successfully crafting a high-performing workplace:

Financial and Organizational Priorities

  • Today’s real estate markets are challenging, making smaller square footage a trade-off to meet functional needs
  • Post-recession organizations have discovered that slimmer physical space can still sustain productivity
  • In an era of dispersed workforces and more employee churn, the office becomes an even more important cultural and brand marker

Shifting Work Styles

  • Work has increasingly shifted from individual, heads-down ‘cubicle’ work to more group, collaboration work; creating various informal work spaces is key to increasing productivity
  • Meetings have evolved from infrequent, formal, large-group occasions to frequent, casual, and breakout-style brainstorms; office layout should reflect this need for collaboration space as well as refuges for concentration

Rapidly Changing Technology

  • Furnishings must be a flexible platform for employees to connect and display their technology and be a neutral platform for adapting future technology
  • Workflow now includes document collaborating, videoconferencing, and cloud computing, all requiring fluid access to power and data
  • Implementing familiar hardware and software systems across the office increases the usage of technology investments