As we no longer need to “go to work” to be working, today’s office buildings need to serve as unique destinations that motivate and inspire people to go into the office; to connect with likeminded people, learn new things, feel connected with the brand and culture of their company and increasingly have access to amenities and services that support their life and wellbeing at work. Traditional amenities, like coffee shops and gyms, are of course expected, but simply not enough. To stand out, landlords are increasingly moving towards unique services and experiential offerings.
When it comes to creating a great workplace experience, there are many challenges to be solved, from managing the varying expectations of five generations in one environment to supporting various workplace requirements alongside change and growth to managing aspirations against budget.
User-centered design methodologies are critical to incorporating employee insights into decision making before any investments in amenities are made. These insights are critical inputs into the design process – where employees share their needs, wants, problems and preferences, so companies can curate experiences that will be meaningful, not just plentiful.
The workplace ecosystem is complex. Unfortunately, without a consistent way to measure “experience” and the corresponding workplace elements that drive it, many companies can make costly investments that either deliver sub-optimal results or even damage employee engagement levels. Unless budget and resources are unlimited, companies will need a thoughtful approach to stay ahead when it comes to amenity offerings. The art is in understanding employee needs and diagnosing the best fit for your organization. A sustainable solution with the end-user in mind and business vision aligned to ensure that there is an iterative process in place that can be adjusted as organizational priorities change.
Competing on a Global Scale
Companies in EMEA have an enormous diversity of offerings; with UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nordics and Germany at the forefront and other countries playing catch up. On one end of the spectrum, there are trailblazing companies that provide an immersive brand experience alongside every amenity an employee could need, including on-site hairdressers and makeup artists. And on the other end, companies in other parts of Europe require employees to bring their own drinking water to work.
However, as the war for talent intensifies, companies in EMEA are increasingly viewing their workplace as a differentiation tool to assist them in attracting and retaining talent, as well as enabling employees to work more effectively and collaboratively whenever they come to the office. This new experience and people-centric focus is driving increased expectations for more amenities and services by occupiers and is changing the expectation from landlord provisions and specifications. An example of this is the largest commercial office development in London - 22 Bishopsgate - a 1.3M SF tower with more than 100,000 SF of unique landlord managed amenities and services designed exclusively for the use of the 12,000 people in the building. This project redefines the typology of towers by using the amenities to create a vertical village where the landlord managed and curated experiences activate the community and business ecosystem so both people and business can thrive.
Similar to EMEA, APAC is a tremendously diverse region with markets at different levels of maturity. Australia has been at the forefront of recognizing the value of social amenities and services in buildings for many decades. As early as the 1990s, the intense competition for talent led forward-looking corporates to promote a culture focused on social values and creating work environments to support community events and services.
In reflection of this amenity and community-based focus of occupiers, corporate offices across Australian CBDs have been actively transformed to create more permeable ground floors with a wider array of uses. It is now commonplace to see areas dedicated to events, food, community installations and bespoke spaces to encourage customers to use facilities to co-create with the business. The success of these spaces has further motivated landlords to continuously consider the realms of what is possible to actively blend office and retail environments to create a greater sense of community and drive higher investment value.
Beyond this, typical facilities in APAC include on-site kitchens with free food, gyms, rooftop terraces, outdoor gardens and shuttle bus services for offices located outside of CBD areas. These types of amenities have weaker adoption rates outside of Australia but this situation is changing. Just last year, Singapore legislated a requirement for bike-parking in all new property developments to encourage people to take up cycling and shift towards a more “car-lite” society.
Looking to the future, the need for workplace amenities is expected to grow across the region. Over the next decade, approximately 800 million members of Generation Z will enter the labor force in Asia Pacific alone – more than all other geographic regions combined. India, China and South East Asia, in particular, are forecasted to see the greatest numbers from this generation (see article on page 28, “Creating spaces for everyone: bridging the multi-generational gap”).
The injection of this demographic windfall into the workforce is expected to impact all aspects of CRE, but especially workplace strategy. Generation Z is a generation that brings with it a level of expectation, from seamless integration between the physical and digital worlds to a workplace that reflects their cultural values and lifestyle. Amenities will be at the forefront to help drive collaboration and greater connectivity to colleagues and the company brand.
Companies in the Americas, particularly in the U.S. technology sector, have been at the forefront of using their workplace as a driver for talent retention and engagement. As many of these facilities programs reach maturity and evolve, most companies are looking to broadly support employee wellbeing as a strategic priority, not just through amenities. The definition of wellness has expanded to include a range of services and programs focused on actively boosting performance and social and emotional wellbeing, not just employee health. Facilities are becoming even more experiential by including rock climbing walls and meditation rooms, and onsite services are expanding to offer full-service salons, personal errand running and childcare facilities.
Much of the expansion and contraction of offerings comes from user-based insights – a deep understanding of what is important to the employee-base, and then doubling-down on those specific areas. Companies are seeing the benefits of designing amenities programs based on employee feedback instead of chasing trends.