Chase Garbarino is the co-founder and CEO of HqO†
It’s no secret that we are in the midst of a seismic shift when it comes to workplace evolution. And for the commercial real estate market, this shift is multidimensional. It concerns landlords, tenants and employees, and not necessarily in that order. But by asking the right questions, we can better identify and address the motivations and beliefs of these different parties as we continue our transformation of the workplace.
Working with Verdantix, my company recently interviewed corporate landlords and employers as part of: a survey about their plans in 2022† These leaders represent people from all over the world and are responsible for millions of square feet of space and hundreds and thousands of employees. Looking at the results, I see certain synergies that exist between most landlords and tenants, with a few divergent areas. I’ll share some interesting highlights from the research below.
The office: crucial for success
Landlords want occupied space, so it’s clear that filling those spaces is the number one concern for them. Likewise, most employers want to occupy these spaces, whether they have an in-office or hybrid work environment. In fact, the survey results show that most employers firmly believe that the office promotes communication, collaboration and creativity in the workplace. So it’s no surprise that these two audiences usually align around the value of the office†
What may come as a surprise is how optimistic both landlords and employers are about the future of the office in the next two years. They both expect strong demand for offices. However, in the very short term, landlords are more pessimistic than employers, suggesting that rented square footage is affected by workplace transformations.
Employers, on the other hand, see employees returning to the office for a certain period of time and are more positive about the near future of the rented property. In general, both landlords and employers agree that there is no return to the office plan that will return us to a workplace experience that mirrors what we saw a few years ago.
Creating mental and physical space for great work
Space, and the way it is configured and used, is under pressure to deliver better results. The open floor plan and other designs that worked pre-Covid are no longer optimal — a fact already obvious to many landlords. They know that they need to create spaces that work for employers and their employees and that those spaces need to look very different from the past. Landlords are aware of what their tenants want and need, from flexible workspaces to improved amenities to better environmental conditions, and they are working to meet these demands.
On the other hand, employers know what their employees want.
• Flexibility, world-class technical resources and an office experience that makes the commute and time investment worthwhile.
• Configurable workspaces that accommodate a variety of activities are a major draw for an office environment.
• Spaces, places and policies that can bend and shrink based on the needs of the team at a particular point in time.
In general, employers want spaces that get people excited to come to the office for meaningful work. When these items are covered, employers feel like they can focus on getting what they want in the office.
And just as employers do their best to bring their teams together in collaboration, communication and camaraderie, landlords also need to know that it can’t always be all work. Over 90% of the hosts surveyed by my company hire (or have) hired tenant experience teams to better understand and meet the needs of their tenants. Impressively, they say these tenant experience teams now have the same amount of influence as portfolio managers.
Technology enables transformative experiences
Landlords have many employers who demand better communication, coordination and insight into the inner workings of their buildings. In addition, landlords agree that technology can foster better tenant/employer relationships by creating a modern communication channel to highlight special features, events and opportunities in their buildings. They are looking for opportunities to communicate more effectively and more frequently with their tenants, and they see technology as the facilitator.
In fact, the survey found that 80% of landlords believe that employers are very interested in comprehensive mobile applications for building. Tenant experience teams are deploying digital amenities that augment the physical amenities tenants have come to rely on to reduce even more friction in the workplace.
Employers may feel that there is already an abundance of current workplace technology, but they should remain committed to finding the best tools to simplify communication in the office, improve employee engagement and increase productivity. I’ve noticed that employers are open to better communication with their landlords – and certainly with their employees. Focus areas include visitor management, access control, food and drink ordering, parking and energy monitoring.
It comes down to
At the highest level, most landlords and employers are optimistic about the future of the office, while understanding that major changes are needed. Without a roadmap for managing hybrid work environments, they rely on modern solutions to inform them about their next big investments. Ultimately, technology and office space transformations are key to balancing employee expectations and creating a workspace that maximizes productivity and engagement. Knowing these things should prompt you to ask yourself: Is your workplace future-proof?