Workplace Experience: The 2021 Guide
The recent influx of digital technologies for the commercial real estate industry has left the modern workplace experience looking drastically different. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re now witnessing decades of progress being achieved within a single year. Current-day health and safety concerns are accelerating what was once a trend, and have solidified technology as a legitimate building standard.
The value equation for properties everywhere has officially shifted from buildings and location to people. In order to triumph among growing hybrid work models and successfully meet tenants where they are, landlords will need to first understand the true return on investment (ROI) of the physical office, and then create smart spaces where people actually want to work.
All this, and much more, can be achieved through digital tenant engagement strategies and data collection. With over 8,000 proptech companies in the market, it’s no surprise that this can be a pretty daunting task for property owners. Enter technology partners such as HqO, who can help landlords create end-to-end tenant experience solutions without the added technical complexity.
HqO’s tenant experience platform goes beyond proving the value of the physical office — ultimately, it aims to solve the major business issues of attraction, fragmentation, and differentiation for CRE leaders. Access to this technology during a time of significant digital growth will give landlords insight into important data — both in their buildings and at scale — to help them learn more about their building occupants, experience the new value drivers of CRE, and become more responsive to tenant needs by offering the best aspects of both a physical and digital workplace.
Read on to learn more about the latest workplace standards and value drivers.
Redefining the Workplace Experience
The modern workplace experience is now being centered around employee experience (ex), also known as tenant experience — though that isn’t always the case. Here are three common outdated approaches to workplace experience that we’ve seen in the market:
- Investing ONLY in physical amenities and services to differentiate your assets. Physical amenities alone — such as fitness centers and conference rooms — no longer necessarily differentiate your assets. Tenants already expect them. Furthermore, in the age of COVID-19, these physical amenities may not add any real value on their own. Amenity build-outs can take years to plan and often cost millions of dollars, wasting valuable time and money for needs that may have shifted with market preferences before you can deliver them.
- Using little tenant or building data to make decisions. The data that property managers collect is often unstructured, coming to them through many different, disparate systems and a select group of tenant representatives or other stakeholders. This makes it difficult to uncover actionable insights. Typically, asset and property managers know very basic things about tenant companies, such as how much square footage they occupy, their lease expiration data, and their industry. However, little is known about what tenants and employees actually do in their buildings, and what they consider to be valuable. Without granular tenant data, it’s almost impossible for CRE leaders to understand how tenant companies make decisions about their workplace.
- Leveraging disparate, unintegrated technology systems. Property managers often struggle to identify quality partners due to having to navigate a vast technology landscape that may or may not already work with the systems in their buildings. In the end, this creates an unwieldy building ecosystem of technology tools. Without streamlining the process, it can be incredibly difficult to manage the complexity associated with such a wide array of partner technologies. The systems become disparate, prohibiting a seamless end-user experience and the ability to scale across multiple buildings in a portfolio if desired.
These approaches leave something to be desired and complicate mandatory building processes that ought to be streamlined for efficiencies. Instead, taking a new, customer-centric approach — which is the result of the commercial real estate industry’s value shift from the buildings themselves to the people who occupy them — requires a focus on blending the physical and digital workplaces to create engaging and memorable experiences. The modern workplace will differentiate portfolios and meet tenants where they are — even those who have adopted more flexible and hybrid work models.
This new employee experience framework gives building occupants more control over where and how they want to work, causing the workplace to transcend the four walls of the office building. This also means that the industry has reached a point where improvements to the physical office environment can no longer enhance the tenant experience on their own — rather, technology is needed to bridge the gap between the physical office and the digital workplace, while also connecting dispersed employees in a way that is both engaging and thoughtful. Such omnichannel office experiences can include everything from plugging into a building’s various technology systems to ensure that the building occupant journey is tech-enabled, to increasing digital programming through virtual amenities that all can partake in.
Employee Experience Best Practices
At HqO, our customers demonstrate this new employee experience model with success. Here are just a few employee experience case study stories that involve omnichannel engagement:
- In early 2018, Bulfinch launched HqO across three of their suburban assets in Needham, MA — 75 Second Avenue, 117 Kendrick Street, and 250 First Avenue — totaling nearly 400,000 sq ft. As a forward-thinking company that seeks to utilize technology for the next wave of great tenant experience, Bulfinch sought to attract and retain its tenants by providing the best workspace possible and ensuring an amenity-rich work environment. Through the HqO app, they connected tenants with food vendors, fitness and recreational classes, and more. They also took advantage of its data collection capabilities, helping them curate what works and what doesn’t work for their tenant base and eliminating much of the guesswork normally associated with property management tasks.
- In February of 2018, National Development launched HqO at their 1.3 million sq ft business environment complete with office, retail, and restaurant space, nestled outside of the city in Burlington, MA. At the time, The District had already boasted a lively environment and several tenant-focused events, but the large nature of its campus meant that they needed a more streamlined way to reach and connect every tenant and employee. Through the HqO app, they were successfully able to disseminate information to everyone, spreading their workplace culture to people they were previously unable to reach.
- In July of 2020, JP Morgan launched HqO at Foundation Park, a 260,000 sq ft business park, just to the west of London, UK. Foundation Park’s management team needed to communicate important return-to-workplace information — such as updated health and safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic — in a quick and effective manner. They also sought to digitally translate the connected nature of the park through a mobile platform. To achieve this, HqO delivered notable custom solutions around transportation, including a real-time tracker of the shuttle bus that supports commuting to and from the property. Foundation Park also provides service and resource booking for on-site amenities, a neighborhood guide that aggregates key facilities and services available in the local towns, their own bike share scheme, and virtual workplace events for its active users.
Ensuring a Positive Experience for Tenants
The workplace experience examples reveal only a few strategies that can be leveraged to create a positive experience at work for any tenant. While it’s easy to become a negative experience at work example — which can lead to customer dissatisfaction, fragmented technology systems, and inefficiencies in your various processes — this can be avoided by adopting an omnichannel mindset by bridging the gap between your portfolio’s physical and digital workplaces.
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