With a COVID-19 vaccine starting to make its way across the world, tenants will begin readily returning to the office — that is, if they haven’t begun this transition already. To boost occupancy and ease the transition from remote work habits, commercial office owners need to provide real-time communication about what’s been done at the building, what is currently being done, and what will change through a tenant communication app. On top of these updates, workers are also focused on health, safety, and logistics concerns. This means that landlords must establish a back-to-office plan — alongside implementing the right tenant apps and technology stack that can fuel their strategies — that will help ease any uncertainty and safely welcome employees back to office buildings in volumes.
Any effective return strategy will restore faith and optimism in the safety of the workplace while giving owners the opportunity to re-establish the value of their buildings — a critical step towards stabilizing assets and ensuring the future financial performance of modern commercial real estate portfolios. Fortunately, integrations such as a landlord property management app for your building already exist to help with these needs among the over 8,000 proptech companies available in the market. However, with so many different variations of office technology partners in the market, you need to ask yourself: how can you be sure you’re selecting the best app for tenants and your return to office strategies?
3 Key Return to Office Objectives
Before we get into the more technical aspects of procuring the right partners for the return to office, we need to determine the categories of partners and the specific obstacles they need to resolve. As CRE continues to adopt a more customer-centric business model — which shifts the value equation away from the buildings themselves and on to the people who occupy them — tenant sentiment will play the most valuable role in informing goals and action items for property teams.
The latest market data tells us one thing: every return to office strategy needs to address concerns in the key areas of safety, communication, and engagement. Here’s what each means:
- Safety: Office technology can be leveraged to create safe office experiences where office employees will actually feel comfortable working. In order to keep rates of infection low, property teams will need to achieve solutions for contact tracing, managing office capacity, sanitary measures, and space booking needs. This may include everything from a tech-enabled visitor registration and management tool, to easy space booking capabilities, to a capacity management system that can field tenant requests to come into the office on a daily basis. These all contribute to reducing congestion in public areas and establishing touchless experiences, allowing employees to social distance while also avoiding interactions with physical surfaces.
- Communication: Once the technology tools are in place to help with the more physical aspects of office safety, property teams will also need to communicate these changes and important building information to as many tenants as possible. Instead of relying solely on a tenant point of contact, which is typical in antiquated CRE business models, having the power to disseminate information to groups of people directly will establish trust, reduce time spent, and keep everyone informed with real-time updates. Such features on a property management app or platform may include a content section for updates, a community forum, chat and support systems, and even push notifications for important, time-dependent messaging.
- Engagement: In order to keep your tenants and employees engaged, you will need to bring amenities directly to building occupants, as well as to collect data on how people are actually using your buildings. Digital programming opportunities — such as trivia, giveaways, virtual volunteering, fitness and wellness classes, and discounts to on-site retailers — can connect people to one another while also enhancing overall workplace culture, no matter where employees are working.
Additionally, it’s helpful to have a tenant engagement platform or administration portal that can aggregate all these solutions in a single place, as well as gather analytics on your physical and digital amenities. These functionalities — alongside accessing important benchmarking information about your building — can help determine property performance, grade your investments, and guarantee customer satisfaction in an otherwise uncertain time.
Creating Efficiencies in the Procurement Process
After you’ve identified your unique problem set for your portfolio’s return to office strategy — including pinpointing your existing technology systems and how they work alongside each other — you’ll need to focus on the search for new technology partners that can seamlessly integrate into your assets, improve building functionalities, and ensure your tenant’s comfort.
According to HqO Director of Platform Solutions, Reid Snyder, it’s all about asking the right questions: “When looking for these new partners, it’s important to adopt an open, holistic mindset and focus on interoperability. Some initial questions you might ask yourself are, ‘How can these new technologies conform and interact with the existing commitments I’ve made in my building so I don’t need to replace other systems?’ and ‘Are these third-party partners going to work together well and at scale?’”
Selecting well-suited partners eliminates long development timelines as well as misalignment on the end product. The right tenant experience app can even help contribute to an overall frictionless journey throughout your portfolio.
The second main concern in technology procurement is determining how you can trust the quality of the partners that you may find. The solution for this resides in needing a marketplace of pre-vetted systems and amenity providers. Fortunately, the HqOS operating system can provide all the right insights to help inform your decisions. Our growing Marketplace of technology partners can help property teams procure new technologies with ease, empowering commercial office owners to shop for technologies they know will be interoperable with the overall platform, and whose business relationships and deal structures are already in place. Teams can even take advantage of partner profiles to access product demos and images, further helping them determine if certain pre-vetted partners are a good fit for their business.
How Data Collection Informs the Future
As an added benefit, growing your technology ecosystem integrated within an operating system will also give you meaningful, actionable data that feeds into and drives all aspects of your building’s operating system. The more activations that your building features have, the more data points you can combine to paint a more holistic picture of how your building is actually being used by tenants.
Being able to analyze multiple human behaviors throughout any asset enables CRE leaders to tune directly into their tenants’ needs: having such significant intelligence on building occupants helps create a better tenant experience, which in turn increases customer engagement and consistently provides teams with more useful data. This real-time feedback ensures the longevity of any portfolio by eliminating the guesswork and allowing teams to make strategic, informed decisions.
For the return to office, these capabilities also mean the gift of adaptability and agility — when you’re armed with updated knowledge of tenant sentiment around your building’s safety, communication, and engagement practices, you’ll have no difficulties re-adjusting your strategy if needed, as well as providing exceptional customer service to all of your building occupants.
To learn more about how HqO can help facilitate your return to office strategies, download our free Return to Office eBook today!