It’s no secret that the majority of workers prefer working from home. Despite the home environment’s known shortcomings, many workers don’t see the extra work of going to the office as worth the potential benefit of a better workspace and more face-to-face interactions with colleagues. But many companies are still paying for office spaces, either because of existing leases or their genuine belief that in-person work produces better outcomes. These companies are looking for ways to get people back to the office voluntarily, especially since return to office mandates have been met with vocal opposition. This battle has led companies to completely rethink their need for a shared workspace.
Landlords share this struggle. If they do not help their tenants convince workers to come back to the office, it is only a matter of time before they start to see more vacancy and with it a depletion of the value of their assets. Landlords are willing to do whatever it takes to keep occupants happy and create an experience that will entice workers to come back.
One of the ways that forward-thinking landlords have been able to provide value to their occupants is with a digital layer in the form of workplace experience apps. These platforms allow workers to interact with the office physically and digitally. Workers can utilize their app to do everything from unlocking doors to booking flex space or even ordering food and services from their building’s onsite retailers. The use cases for these applications also go far beyond just interacting with the office, they have become a way for people to communicate with co-workers or other people in the building, form communities, and organize events.
Empowering users with countless ways to interact with their office and community drives engagement. This engagement can be tracked and serves as a valuable way for offices to demonstrate their utility. “Engagement happens on many different levels so landlords need to show things like how employees are using amenities and how they are communicating with each other,” said Tom Hanson, Strategic Account Manager for Equiem, a tenant engagement platform. He has seen his landlord clients use engagement data alongside other critical metrics like occupancy rate and cost per employee when renegotiating a lease. “I like to use “actions per employee” as an easy, understandable way to identify highly engaged, or under-engaged companies within a building,” he explained.
Actions can be anything from how many messages a user writes on the platform to how many posts they engage with. These can all add up to much more interaction with the office than many occupiers think. One example Hanson gave was a recent experience with the Nexus Business Park in Melbourne, Australia. The property was designed with a lot of athletic amenities like tennis courts, basketball courts, and even a running track around the entire campus. Australians are known to have a strong sports culture and, true to their reputation, the facilities were well used. Before long, a full-scale basketball tournament sprang up, with workers using Equiem to form teams and, of course, celebrate the winners.
The Nexus Business Park offers its tenants a vibrant campus community, replete with world-class amenities and a thriving calendar of social events. Developed and managed by Salta, a diversified property group based in Victoria, Australia, Nexus Business Park has been able to leverage their strong workplace experience offering to demonstrate value to tenants. In fact, Salta was able to use Equiem data to help renew one of their most important tenants.
Jacob Vagg, Director Marketing and Customer Experience at Salta Property Group explained, “During recent leasing discussions we were able to share valuable insights with our client on the engagement levels of their staff with our Nexus Portal, powered by Equiem. We were able to demonstrate the participation their team members have in events, content and competitions that are delivered by our dedicated Community Manager. We shared how active their staff were in the business community and provided feedback on the types of events that were of most interest to their staff. We were able to provide evidence of Salta delivering a service their team valued above and beyond the office space they occupy. The tailored data we were able to access assisted greatly and we are delighted that our client has committed to a lease extension at Nexus.”
One of the things that Hanson thinks Salta did right was to use a dedicated community manager. By leveraging Equiem’s community management services Salta was able to create a culture within their building, one that none of the individual tenants could have cultivated on their own. “With a relatively small budget, a good community manager can create events that make people want to come to the office,” he said. “They are able to listen to the feedback and experiment with new programming in a way that keeps a building’s offerings from getting stale.”
Even if buildings are not able to hire dedicated staff to interact with the community, giving every tenant in the building a way to interact often compounds each tenant’s social budget. Hanson sees a lot of promise with their new tool, Equiem One, which acts as a building-wide social media platform where tenants can post content and create invites for other building occupants. This represents a new era in office management, one where managers are able to piggyback off of others in the building to make for a more eventful, interactive workplace. Now occupants won’t just see the office as a place to interact with their co-workers, but as an important hub of their social lives.
Companies everywhere are looking to cut back on unused space and unnecessary expenses. But most of them are also aware that the value an office can have for an organization is still being defined. Landlords can help them understand the way that they use space to try to convince them to renew their lease but a better approach is to become a partner that helps them understand their own organization. By providing useful metrics about how employees are using the workplace, landlords can change tenants’ perception of their office from an annoying expense to a competitive advantage.