Guest post by Margy Sweeney
Office workers have it made in today’s market. Apps serve up property-centric fire-eating dancers, manicures and kickball leagues. Operable windows bring the sky inside skyscraper tenant lounges (weather permitting). And giant sea creatures adorn tenant-exclusive buses with zero emissions and quick, exclusive trips to the train. Midwest landlords are embracing amenities from the luxurious to the absurd, in the quest to shape buildings that become destination communities, delighting employees and bosses alike.
So who’s paying for all this—and why?
It’s counter-intuitive, after all, that in a landlord’s market, building owners and corporations alike are investing significantly in amenities. But not all buildings are created equal. At today’s record-high office rents, “location, location, location” is just the beginning. Class “A” landlords must deliver on sky-high tenant expectations, or lose the battle for the top tenants in the market. Attracting top-dollar tenants, or creating must-have corporate spaces, is all about delivering an employee experience that helps win the war for talent.
That’s a lot to ask from an office building—even a trophy property. What’s a landlord to do?
Winning the War for Talent means bringing workers to an office space that they brag about to their friends, and where they feel part of a larger community. There’s a snob factor at work—but it’s not about marble floors and high end finishes. It’s about aligning with values, connecting with a community, and delivering a professional lifestyle worthy of a city’s best and brightest. Charged with these high expectations, landlords and corporations are delivering by getting more creative than ever before.
Midwest landlords and corporations are making their offices spaces crave-worthy, reinventing once-staid properties, infusing them with a sense of life and creativity. (That’s where the sea creatures and fire-eaters come in.) Here are a few fun new ways building owners and tenants are challenging assumptions, and delivering employee experiences that take the “Dilbert” out of their offices:
Craving: Healthy, CSR-friendly green buildings and transportation
The Fixes: LEED certification and investments in workplace wellness have become “table-stakes.” To up the game, creative investments can delight and transform a worker’s experience even outside the front lobby. 601W Companies, which owns both Prudential Plaza and Aon Center in Chicago’s East Loop, has announced that its tenant shuttle service will become the first privately run, 100 percent zero-emission electric bus fleet in the country. This launch marks the culmination of a three-year process between 601W, JLL, which manages the buildings, The Telos Group, which manages leasing and marketing, and Proterra, the world’s leading innovator in heavy-duty electric transportation. Available exclusively to tenants of both buildings, the buses feature creative and colorful exterior bus wraps that will play to the Fleet’s nautical theme featuring various sea creatures.
Craving: Airport lounge-quality spaces for creating community and increasing productivity
The Fixes: Challenging the limits of an office building’s “skin,” White Oak Realty recently engaged Wright Heerema Architects to build out a new amenity floor at the top of its 29-story office tower at 200 W. Jackson in Chicago’s Loop. One feature: The Notch, a four-seasons hospitality lounge open to everyone who works in the building, with windows that open out to the city when Chicago’s weather permits, and a bar and recreation area designed to give employees a break from the daily grind. Golub & Company’s 625 North Michigan likewise provides a tenant lounge complete with windows that open, allowing the sights and sounds of Michigan Avenue in, and offers a pool table, a big-screen TV and event space.
Craving: Communities that connect workers beyond the boundaries of their individual work areas
The Fixes: Tenant lounges are one way to create a setting for interaction within an office building community; the next step is what companies and building owners do with those engaging settings once they are built, and how to integrate their use into everyday professional life. JLL studies show that more than 80 percent of meetings include only two to four people. So instead of offering the conventional office design consisting of individual desks and large conference rooms in their global headquarters within Chicago’s Aon Center, JLL is shifting its attention to huddle rooms, open work areas, cafés and a club space that promote collaboration and productivity.
For multi-tenant environments, community means connecting workers from multiple organizations. The Building Social mobile app and services platform brings crave-worthy experiences and amenities such as mani-pedi days, building-sponsored kickball leagues and happy hours that feature extraordinary entertainment like fire-eaters and top-shelf liquor. Social media and live events come together, shaping a building community that encourages workers to mix, mingle, and enjoy their office experience—with all members of the property’s community.
Culture: what tenants really crave
From changing a building envelope to creating a multi-tenant building community, challenging assumptions is at the core of each of these ideas. As companies focus more on experience, and less on simply putting proverbial “butts in seats,” buildings that build a culture will ultimately enjoy an advantage when positioning their spaces as weapons in the war for talent.
For corporations, investment in creative amenities drives employee engagement scores skyward. For investors, building a culture within a property can help attract the most desirable tenants. But the bottom line isn’t about glitzy spaces or expensive events—it’s about culture, and the employee experience.
Start with building the setting—then use culture to make your offices truly crave-worthy.
Margy Sweeney is an entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience marketing and publicizing commercial real estate. She is the founder of consulting firm @TeamAkrete.