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The working world is constantly in flux, and the commercial office market must adapt to keep up with changing business needs. The last several years have changed people’s relationship with the office; hybrid or flexible working is here to stay for most organisations. To maximise value and limit capital investments, occupiers of commercial office space increasingly expect more from building providers and landlords. In the face of this, commercial office buildings should become more than just a collection of office floors by transforming them into vibrant communities that foster valuable experiences and give something back to the broader communities in which they sit.
The debate on the pros and cons of being in the office has raged for years. While there will always be exceptions, most organisations still understand the importance of having some variation of a physical office for employees. The amount of time those employees spend in the office is highly variable. Still, the quality and experience of the space are increasingly non-negotiable as people want to make their time in the office different from their day at home – asking their employers to ‘earn the commute’. Research shows that 74% of companies see ‘positive employee experience’ as the most significant driver for their real estate strategy, closely followed by ‘talent attraction and retention’ (68%). Considering their importance, occupiers will increasingly expect building owners to help them satisfy these growing expectations.
The workplace experience doesn’t begin when employees or visitors enter an occupier’s floor or area; it starts as soon as they set foot in the building, making the arrivals journey and communal areas crucial in setting the scene.
Multi-functional spaces/communal areas within a building that all tenants can access are an amenity that many tenants seek to enhance the workplace experience. Examples include lobbies, lounges, terraces, event spaces and recreational facilities. Increasingly, outdoor spaces, courtyards and biophilic design elements are considered necessary for well-being. These spaces offer various environments that encourage interaction and collaboration and, in some cases, elevate the office from a place to do work to a place to spend time, with management services and club-like facilities.
Workplace amenities aren’t just for show: they have tangible effects on productivity and employee satisfaction and shape perceptions of tenants’ corporate cultures, making them crucial areas of focus for building providers and landlords to differentiate their properties from the competition.
How can building providers meet occupiers’ expectations?
I. Enhance the use of common areas
The pivot to hybrid working resulted in many organisations seeking to reduce their office footprint to take advantage of cost savings and a lower environmental impact associated with lower concurrent occupancy. This means tenants increasingly seek opportunities to leverage shared, landlord-provided facilities in common areas.
This might include co-working hubs offering collaboration space, informal meetings, and hot desk facilities (as well as opportunities to flex capacity). Larger but less frequently used gathering spaces, such as conference rooms or auditoria, may also be appropriate for tenant sharing. Depending on their configuration, such facilities may offer an alternative to dedicated client hospitality suites. Other options that enhance the employee experience include mailroom/delivery lockers, dining facilities and multi-use spaces like a coffee bar that converts into a cocktail bar in the evening, all of which provide building providers with options for practical value-add propositions.
II. Buildings as neighbourhood activators
Buildings can activate the streets and areas they occupy by contributing to their local ecosystems' economic and social vibrancy while enhancing occupier experience and value. Facilities like gallery spaces, temporary exhibitions, pop-up retail outlets or space for non-occupier events encourage integration with the community and make the area more attractive to local enterprises. These, in turn, provide desirable amenities to occupiers, creating a virtuous circle that enhances the benefit they take from the real estate.
III. Convenience and convergence
An increasing expectation for flexibility and work-life balance makes building provider facilities in common areas compelling. This can include providing a range of essential and complementary services such as childcare, fitness/wellness, healthcare, dry cleaning, retail and hospitality, supporting the employee experience, enhancing loyalty and drawing people together.
IV. Technology-enhanced user experience
An exciting trend that is set to accelerate is the adoption of property technology or ‘PropTech’ to enhance commercial office space. This includes leveraging Internet of Things (IOT) devices, sensors, applications, and automation to streamline property management and provide an elevated user experience to occupants and visitors. Building owners should seek opportunities to leverage PropTech to differentiate their offerings and build a competitive advantage.
V. Efficient and reliable building operations
It’s not just about the aesthetics and functional amenities but also about the building and facilities management that tie all these together into a complete package. This includes everything from the welcome journey, safety and security, wayfinding through the building, maintenance, and upkeep. Each of these contributes to the quality and character of the building and can make or break the user experience.
The future commercial office will not be defined by occupiers’ self-contained areas but by combining these and the surrounding shared spaces and facilities. Building owners should seek opportunities to incorporate high-quality shared spaces and facilities to remain competitive. Not only will these features attract prospective tenants, but they will also contribute to more productive, satisfied and engaged workforces.
The modern workforce demands more from their workplaces than ever before. We can create an environment that meets these evolving needs by transforming multi-tenant office buildings into dynamic, community-focused spaces.