Demand for commercial office space (and what those demands entail) can change month to month. As a property manager, it’s your job to maintain or even grow revenues despite the dips in leasing activity, all while creating a space that’s comfortable, convenient, and delivers everything commercial tenants demand of their office buildings.
“We tell potential tenants all that’s great about a building environment, and then we tell them that the building’s standard hours are eight to six and that you have to call 24 hours in advance if you need to turn on your HVAC. And by the way, you can’t bring your dog to work,” said Joseph Stettinius, Cushman & Wakefield’s chief executive of the Americas, at a symposium hosted by the New York chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management.
To stay competitive, attract new office tenants, and keep current clients even when the commercial real estate market slows, property managers must stay abreast of trendy amenities, as well as meeting tenants’ basic logistical needs. Consider these six unique office building amenities:
1. Customizable Spaces
Writing for Real Estate Journals, Chicago architect Dan Earles explains that company culture plays a bigger role in office buildings’ appearances than it did 25 years ago.
Beige walls and utility carpeting don’t cut it anymore. Today’s tenants seek buildings that allow them to customize their offices with corporate logos and colors, comfortable furniture and workspace arrangements that can change and grow with the company. Static executive suites and permanent cubicles are not practical for businesses that quickly add, reduce or relocate their employees.
Some property managers are outfitting their office buildings with temporary walls, which enable commercial tenants to relatively quickly reformat a floor plan to use their space more efficiently as their staffing situation evolves, or offer a combination of open floor plans and walled-off areas to enable privacy and greater communication.
2. Pet-Friendly Offices
More companies are updating their perks packages with out-of-the-box options, including welcoming employees’ pets into the workplace. This perk is getting more popular with employers, but in order to make it a feasible option, these businesses need to have the office building amenities and flexible property managers that allow pets and prove the facilities to serve their four-legged tenants.
The Washington Post recently detailed the Humane Society of the United States’ odyssey to set up their headquarters in a multitenant building that would allow all employees to bring their dogs to work. The firm that negotiated the deal said about 20 landlords “flat out said, ‘no’” to pets, but the group eventually signed a 15-year lease for 23,000 sq. ft. in downtown Washington, D.C.
Currently, there are not many commercial landlords who are pet friendly, which may open a new area of revenue for you and give you an edge over local competitors. Buildings that have tiled or hardwood flooring and grassy outdoor areas for Fido’s bathroom breaks are a major draw for employers who want to offer work-life balance to their pet-loving workers without sacrificing productivity.
3. Social & Community Spaces
Sprawling offices with poorly utilized space are inefficient and expensive. More commercial tenants are slashing their square footage needs; on average, they’re allowing about 150 square feet per employee, Paul Schulman, president and COO of Brookfield Office Properties, said at the IREM symposium. To compensate for a smaller office with the same number of employees (or more), many businesses are capitalizing on shared spaces.
Fast Company reports one of the major design trends for this year is multipurpose workspaces with unassigned seating, rather than individual cubicles. Another major trend, powered by stronger and faster Wi-Fi, is the inclusion of dedicated lounge areas to make work more comfortable and enable collaboration.
It’s not just small start-ups that are seeking this inclusive, out-of-the-cubicle option in their offices. Even major firms such as Deloitte have moved away from the rigidity of assigned seating, according to MarketWatch.
Public, multipurpose spaces can help bridge the gap between different departments within a company, but can also foster a greater sense of community among all the businesses that occupy an office building.
4. Thoughtful Transportation Facilities
“Densification,” ongoing urbanization and increasing numbers of driving commuters also impact tenants’ transportation and facilities needs, Brookfield’s Schulman said during the IREM symposium. As urban areas become more densely populated and traffic congestion worsens, this will become an even more pressing issue in coming years.
Still, every office worker has to commute, so end-of-trip facilities (parking lots, access to public transportation and bike racks) are a top priority for commercial tenants. Constructing a bike room with lockers and showers for cycling commuters can be a less expensive, but meaningful, office building amenity.
If your building does not have its own parking facility, try negotiating with nearby parking lots and garages to offer a discounted or monthly membership rate for your tenants. For commercial offices that do have designated parking, consider installing a few hybrid car charging stations.
5. ‘Cool,’ Local Lunch Options
Larger commercial properties often have a combination of food/retail and office space. When it comes to who’s serving food in your building, the providers you lease to may have a major impact on the overall “feel” of the space. Think about your commercial tenants’ brands, and how your food service selections can correspond with their corporate identities, as well as your own.
Going for a universally recognized vibe? Mainstream coffee and sandwich chains may be the best option. If you’re seeking a boutique, hip atmosphere and serving companies with more independently minded cultures, try partnering with small-name, local restaurants.
Even if your property doesn’t have space for permanent food and beverage vendors, it’s possible to develop a sense of community around mealtime. Hosting daily popup lunches with a rotating cast of local restaurants in your building lobby or cafeteria gives office workers a chance to explore new food and beverage providers. Plus, they don’t have to leave the premises for lunch or a coffee break, saving them and their employers time.
6. Flexible Office Hours
Shutting down lights, reducing utilities and closing elevators on nights and weekends may have been an easy cost-control strategy once. But employees who work with businesses outside the United States and need to operate beyond the typical 9-to-5 schedule won’t want to occupy a building that closes down by 6 every evening.
Property managers who can work with a company to tailor a utilities and building-access schedule that lines up with their extended operating hours show they are in tune with the evolving nature of a globalized economy.
Whether leasing rates are up or down, commercial property managers have to stay in touch with office tenants’ changing needs. Offer unique office building amenities that sync up with companies’ goals and corporate cultures to attract and retain great tenants.