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What amenities are tenants looking for?

In our last report, we wrote about the low and falling unemployment rate and the potential effects it has on the market.  One of the results of a tight labor market is that companies have a difficult time attracting and retaining the skilled workers necessary to grow their businesses.  Sometimes, upping salary is not enough.  Today’s employees tend to weigh the amenities an employer provides, along with offered benefits and retirement packages when making career decisions.

The idea behind thoughtful building amenities is not new or complicated: provide potential tenants with a space they will enjoy being in and they will be more likely to lease said space because they will be happier and, hopefully, more productive.  It’s part of the reason why hot startups, top companies, and new buildings incorporate creative and amenity-rich spaces that are changing the way people work and interact with workspaces.

A trend we are seeing in build-outs is the incorporation of a company’s ethos in the physical space.  uShip, a local logistics and shipping broker, repurposed shipping containers as conference rooms when it designed its space just south of Lady Bird Lake.  When RetailMeNot built out its five-floor downtown HQ, it gave each floor its own retail oriented theme.  And Vrbo’s new HQ in The Domain incorporates an interior design aesthetic based upon various travel destinations around the world.

 

The Hyatt HQ in Chicago grounds employees in a space of tactile comfort that reflects the company’s mission of creating elevated guest experiences (Photo courtesy of Gensler)

 

It is also becoming more common to see companies and buildings providing sophisticated food, beverage, and recreation amenities for their employees and tenants.  An employee at the new Oracle campus southeast of downtown has access to an on-site cafeteria with free refreshments, a fully stocked gym, game rooms, and even a flag football field.  Larry Ellison, Oracle co-founder, and chairman, comments on the reason for an amenity-rich space- “We want to develop the kinds of facilities where you feel good about coming to work every day.”  River South, a new mixed-use development under construction just south of Lady Bird Lake, markets amenities such as a large fitness studio, ample parking, as well as bike storage, plenty of natural light, outdoor spaces and a top floor sky lounge with a full-service bar and outdoor seating.

This concept is not new or unique to Austin.  In Houston, the proposed Texas Tower plans to provide its tenants with loads of natural light, decked out fitness centers, dining options, cold storage for groceries, and an abundance of green space both inside and outside the tower.  As unemployment rates fall and demand for skilled workers increases, companies are looking for creative ways to attract and retain talent.  John Mooz of Hines, a real estate investment, development, and management firm, states that “a hyper-amenitized building […] is intended to be responsive to the recruiting and retention needs of all of the tenants.”  Mooz feels so strongly in the market for modern amenities that he goes on to say, “An owner that does not employ a strategy of revitalizing an older-generation asset is at serious risk of losing market share.

One concept that companies are trending away from is the previously popular pure open-plan office, in which employees sit side by side, usually along long tables, with little to no privacy barriers.  Pure open office is great for a company’s balance sheet as it affords a high employee per square foot ratio and the configuration is supposed to promote collaboration and productivity.  But, that theory is being tested as recent studies and surveys find that open office actually inhibits communication and collaboration.  Modern office configuration theory suggests that providing employees with the freedom to choose from a mix of workspace types with varying levels of privacy leads to more productive and happier employees compared to open office alone.

 

Kettal makes furniture that allows for a flexible, open workspace with movable walls that allow for private workspaces on-demand (Photo courtesy of Kettal)

 

Today’s cutting-edge offices incorporate the company mission and ethos into their physical spaces while providing a variety of workspace types that give employees the freedom of choice in how and where they work.  Leading companies are finding this space design concept to promote well-being and creativity on an individual employee level, which directly influences the wellbeing of the organization.  Gensler, a global architecture design firm, sums up this idea well in a recent report:

Ultimately, across many industries, companies are adapting to the changing nature of work by refocusing on a workplace that offers balance, variety, and a sense of purpose. Those characteristics are key to creating a workplace that puts people’s needs at the forefront. And that, in the end, is what will help companies win the high-stakes war for talent.

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