From Imagining Spaces to Making them a Reality – Building the Workspaces of Tomorrow
Senior Occupancy Planner, Erin, shares what it’s like building and optimizing the people-centric workspaces of tomorrow.
April 18, 2023 3 Minute Read
Tell us how your journey led you to CBREFrom a very young age I wanted to be an architect; I would spend hours and hours drawing floor plans. I have notebooks filled with layouts for everything from small cottages to mansions, to fully laid out senior retirement centers. When I went to college, I started out in Industrial Design, before switching my major to Architecture. Ultimately, I ended up graduating with a degree in Interior Design. Interior Design felt like a happy medium between Industrial Design and Architecture that I could make an impact in. After graduating, I discovered the world of Workplace Design and Corporate Interiors. Laying out the floor plans felt like a real-world puzzle that in the long run would impact how people work, interact and collaborate with each other daily.
I worked in corporate and commercial architecture in New York City for about five years and loved the conceptual and creative aspect of each project. When COVID happened in 2020, people were trying to figure out how they would work together in this new remote/hybrid world. I decided I wanted to transition my expertise to a more strategic role around space planning, programming, and helping clients execute their wider company goals.
Since joining the Occupancy Management team at CBRE in 2021, it’s been interesting to navigate the impact of COVID on workplaces and workflows. Because of COVID, the corporate and commercial workplace looks totally different than in years past. We’ve been able to develop a more inclusive workspace that’s accessible to all, independent of location. When you boil it down, Occupancy Planning is really about optimizing how people work together, collaborate and feel connected.
What exactly does an occupancy planner do?Before I found out about the position, I hadn't really heard of Occupancy Planning. I found out that it tied together the sides of work that I really enjoyed—it's a little bit of creativity, a little bit analytical, a little bit managerial. Transitioning to Occupancy Planning helped me focus on what I loved doing for clients: solve the puzzle of their unique workplace.
Occupancy Planners work with clients to provide thoughtful and efficient workplaces in response to business goals. Always having a client’s goals top of mind, we take real time data, interpret it, extrapolate it and then create an informed solution that ultimately helps people better connect with each other and their spaces. Because of my background in workplace design, I’m always trying to provide strategic guidance on how to optimize a client’s workplace through thoughtful space planning.
On the point of better connecting people with spaces, how does your work impact people as companies continue to navigate the back-to-office and hybrid work?Traditionally, Occupancy Planners dealt with only physical spaces. Now that we’re working in a fully hybrid world, Occupancy Planners have to consider both physical and virtual space. At the beginning of COVID we stripped location out of the conversation. We were able to look at the current model, discover what was and wasn’t working, and uncovered better workspaces and workflows. Fast forward to 2023, and we are able to better utilize physical space, while also considering what hybrid spaces look like, what tech is integrated, and what software is best for certain use cases. We now understand and respect that where you join from should not determine your involvement or engagement level. We're able to be more thoughtful about how people can really work together, collaborate, and how they can feel connected, whether it's in person or remote. Our goal for the client is to deliver a workspace that's accessible to everyone, agnostic of location.
How do you navigate being a part of CBRE and working day-to-day with a dedicated tech client?I think it's important to make an effort when you're navigating two companies. Everyday I'm totally in the client's world – I understand their culture, who's who, etc. For me, it’s taking a step back and making sure that I’m being intentional about connecting with CBRE because it’s such a great company.
From day one, my manager’s support has been really great. He encourages me to connect with other colleagues that sit within occupancy management and have monthly syncs. We even do different activities like virtual happy hours or holiday parties. It’s making sure you’re adding time to your calendar to thoughtfully connect with your colleagues.
I also feel like my manager always has my best interests in mind. We have weekly syncs, and he's always willing and available to talk things through. Not only does he want to make sure that the client is happy and getting what they need, but he also wants to make sure that I'm set up for success. He’ll ask me things like how can he support me better? What are my goals for five years from now? Having that sort of mentor and manager - someone you can go to and speak candidly with has been really, really helpful. I think having that within such a big company is great.
With navigating an active work life, what does down time look like for you?I recently got engaged, so I'm in the thick of wedding planning right now. We’re getting married in December of this year, so there’s lots of coordination happening. We also have two dogs (Maverick and Knox), so we spend a lot of time with them. I like being creative, I like painting, I love to read, being outside—just spending time away from the computer and screens, trying to get out there and do something different.
To learn more about careers in occupancy, visit our job search page. https://www.cbre.com/careers/consulting-careers
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