Creating the 21st Century Workplace: Creating High-value Common Area Experiences
Written for Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA)
The war for talent is on. Savvy tenants are looking for workplaces and entire buildings to be places that their employees want to be and that keep them productive. Employees increasingly want experiences more than things. We see this in consumer purchasing habits, with more being spent on the experiences of travel, restaurants, and activities relative to hard durable goods.
The same thing holds for the 21st century office environment. To stay competitive, today’s office building needs to provide more than just amenities and one-off events. The focus now needs to be on delivering compelling daily experiences that facilitate creativity, connection, and wellness for tenants.
These experiences are best delivered in the common areas: atriums, plazas, skyways, and even elevator bays. These spaces drive the brand for the building as every tenant and guest has to pass through them. And, because they are solely cared for by the property management team, valuable experiences can be easily delivered in a way that benefits every tenant.
Here in the Twin Cities, we’ve all seen the multi-million dollar transformations of common areas in buildings like Capella Tower and Washington Square. But can these value-added experiences be created without a major capital overhaul?
The answer is yes!
How to Create Valuable Experiences
Valuable experiences are created by the interplay between the physical environment, the management of that environment, and the activities, uses, and events that occur within that environment.
We can determine what the right combination of these elements to create value, by thinking through what people want to be able to do in your building’s common areas. Once you have developed this list, examine your common area spaces; are they conducive to fostering the uses, activities, and experiences your tenants’ desire?
Let’s see how this process was used and value created in an existing space, with a relatively modest budget.
Case Study: 333 South 7th Street
In 2014 CBRE management and leasing team wanted more out of the ½ outdoor lawn area of the 333 S. 7th Street tower. The space was attractive and well maintained – befitting a Class A building – but the space was not used for much; as a pathway to the building, as a place for a smoke break, and the occasional tenant event. In their effort to make it a valuable place, they engaged The Musicant Group.
Engagement and Research
Rather than rolling out a fully formed initiative right away, we engaged with tenants through interviews and online surveys to determine what they wanted. We discovered that tenants wanted movable seating that would allow them to enjoy the lawn alone or in groups and more things to do in the space itself. We then engaged with building engineers and security personnel to ensure that any future improvements were scaled to meet their existing capacity.
Rollout and Messaging
We took the feedback from all parties and determined that outdoor beach chairs and lawn games were the most value-added elements to introduce. We then paired these additions with a multichannel communications effort – naming the space “The Turf Club”, adding signage, and email promotions – to spread enthusiasm and excitement about the place and the experiences therein.
And the process is never done! Every season we have reengaged with the management team and tenants to evaluate what worked, needs to be enhanced, dropped, and added. Through this process The Turf Club is now home to weekly concerts, outdoor fitness activities, monthly happy hours, and an ever-increasing amount of tenant events of all sizes.
So what was the value created by taking this existing space and adding a modest, but targeted, amount of new furniture, fixtures, programs, management systems, and communications?
As a visitor to the space, it passes the smell test. During the summer months, the lawn is always filled with people: having meetings, grabbing lunch, taking a break, or discussing business over a game of bag toss, bocce, or ladder golf. Through end-of year surveys, we’ve found that due to the Turf Club:
Bob Traeger, General Manager of the building, states, “Tenants absolutely want to stay in this building and renew their leases, in large part, because of what we offer their employees through the 333 Turf Club”. The leasing materials now feature the Turf Club front and center in making the pitch for being in the building.
Testimonials from tenant employees certainly bear this out:
The Secret Sauce
To close, any space – outdoor or inside - can become a more valuable place. The secret sauce is the process that determines what tenants want to experience and delivering it through a combination of physical enhancements, programming, management systems, and communications.
By Max Musicant, Principal, The Musicant Group
The Musicant Group Team