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cities tech cities

Tech Cities: An Evolution in Talent, Location, and the Workplace

Erica Ruder • 8/8/2022
As global tech companies consider locations in top tech markets, finding the right place is just the start. From emerging tech to publicly traded, a tech company’s dynamic needs go beyond just location strategy and expand into the creation of workplace ecosystems that attract, engage and retain talent.

The New Wave in the War for Talent – Choice

The war for talent between tech companies isn’t new. For nearly a decade, they’ve battled to attract and retain the most innovative talent especially in today’s “Great Resignation” era, the latest evolution in this battle. But today, there’s a new tool to help tech companies attract and retain talent: offering employees the choice of when, where and how to work. It’s not simply a question of in-office or remote workplace policies. Employees want to feel empowered to choose from myriad working environments, in addition to flexibility around workplace schedules.
 
After many years of globally distributed teams and fierce competition in traditional tech markets, technology companies often have shown geographic flexibility in where they attract talent, leading to an emergence of tech hubs in emerging international markets. Cities like Austin, Nashville, Denver, Salt Lake City, Prague, Dublin, Budapest, Singapore, Shenzhen and Bengaluru are experiencing immense tech sector growth. While these cities are not replacing the traditional tech hubs, they are becoming the hot spots of growth for tech talent due to high quality of life, lower cost of living, proximity to centers of education and access to recent graduates.

“Companies are realizing that in order to differentiate from a culture perspective, the role of the office is important. They need to provide an office environment that entices people to come in, and they are thinking about where they want those offices to be,” says Erica Bubes Ruder, Managing Director, Total Workplace, Workforce Analytics.

 

The rise of these new markets have tech companies navigating legal and jurisdictional nuances and asking new questions, such as how to localize pay, equalize costs of living, provide equitable employee benefits, and allow for time-zone and work-schedule flexibility. Though the answers to these challenges vary, universally employees value choice. In a 2022 survey of more than 10,000 employees globally, 94% said they want flexible hours and 79% want location flexibility (Source: Future Forum Pulse, April 19, 2022) . As tech companies around the world try to attract and retain the skilled and valuable employees they need, many are focusing on offering employees a choice in where and when they do their best work. Our own Experience Per Square Foot™ survey supports this:  giving employees flexibility in where or when they work leads to better employee outcomes.

 

Employees with choice and control over where or when they work report higher engagement than those without choice.

Building an Office to Support Employees as People

People talkingAs technology companies try to entice employees back to the physical workplace, there are several big trends in workplace amenities. Gone are the days of Ping Pong tables and slides. Today’s workplace focuses on amenities to support their employees as people. This means listening to what employees say they want in their workspaces or from their employers. These amenities are no longer just physical amenities, they also are benefits and perks for employees. The most requested amenities fall into three main categories: those that provide convenience, support wellness and build connections.

"The companies that are impressing me today are the ones who are paying attention to their employees personal and professional needs and values, and working together to offer solutions that benefit all" says Marissa Huber, Director, Total Workplace at Cushman & Wakefield.

Amenities that provide convenience can make coming to an office more attractive or easier than working from home. They can help support employees and make their daily lives easier. They include perks such as:

    
  • Dry cleaning on-site
  • Catered food or guest chef days
  • Childcare, elder care or pet care
  • Parking, especially free or subsidized 
  • Public transit benefits
  • Homey, comfortable furniture
  • Quiet rooms and places to focus away from distractions at home
  • Secure package delivery & shipping 
  • IT support & tech lounges
  • Easy commutes
  • Flexible working schedule 

  Similarly, amenities to support employees also include ways to support and enhance employees’ wellbeing, health and whole self. These include:
      
  • Meditation rooms and quiet rooms
  • No meeting days, wellness days or company volunteer days
  • Access to nature
  • Fitness and yoga classes
  • Pets in the office (either employees’ pets or designated therapy animals) 
  • Family leave, both for new parents and to allow employees to care for elders or other family members
  • A focus on creating a culture of psychological safety for all, where employees feel they can be their authentic self in an inclusive environment
  • Emphasis on and acceptance of employees taking time off to recharge
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Access to coaching, healthcare, and wellness advice 

  As companies encourage employees to come back to the office, there is a greater emphasis on using the office to help build connections, both between employees and between the employee and the company itself. In a 2022 survey of more than 10,000 employees around the world, the reason employees like coming into an office was the ease of socializing with coworkers followed by easier collaboration. To build these employee and employer connections, tech companies are providing the following amenities:
       
  • Purpose-built spaces for different job functions (focus rooms, collaboration rooms)
  • Spaces for training and team meetings
  • Spaces to bring teams and departments together to spur collaboration
  • Spaces that relate to and spread company values (Employees want to work for companies that share their values, so bringing those values into the physical space is key.) 
  • Team building days and activities
  • Opportunities for learning and workshops
  • Sustainable spaces and sustainable practices
  • Spaces and amenities that are welcoming to all and embrace or reinforce DEI 
  • Places to experiment, especially for tech employees who create physical products
  • Places that create opportunities for bonding and company culture sharing
  • Spaces to create trust and develop comradery among employees 

Tech companies no longer chase amenities simply for what is cool or trendy. Today, they are finding success by embracing their employees as people, providing amenities that support their lives, needs and desires, while creating solutions that make it easier and more fulfilling for them to do their work when in the office.

 

The Rise of Innovation Districts: Mission Bay

More than 40 years ago, a group of San Francisco visionaries across real estate, government and business created a plan to redevelop the Mission Bay area. They sought to bring together residential neighborhoods with a biotech-oriented commercial district and a life sciences campus for the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). Today, the Mission Bay redevelopment project houses 3.4 million square feet of commercial office and lab space and 6,400 residential units.

Mission Bay helped set the stage for future innovation districts — dense, mixed-use urban areas with affordable housing and opportunities for education, entertainment and recreation. These walkable hubs, where people can live, work and play, are anchored by tenants with strong research or education focus, like universities or hospitals.

“Successful Innovation Districts offer a variety of spaces to tech companies and their employees including; retail, education, workplace and residential all sitting within public realm” says Nicola Gillen, Cushman & Wakefield’s EMEA Lead for Total Workplace.

Mission Bay and other innovation districts have become a natural solution to the ongoing questions over what workplaces should look like in a post-pandemic world. By design, innovation districts offer a balance between work and home, exactly what employees seek right now. Innovation districts also offer:

     
  • A strong sense of place and brand, with local, authentic connections to community
  • Accessibility to public areas, shared working spaces and amenities
  • Flexible buildings for change of use and continuous improvement
  • A combination of high-tech digital and physical elements:
    • Wi-Fi networks, radiofrequency identification (RFID) tags, digital kiosks, high-speed broadband internet, sensors (environmental quality and occupancy), AI (face recognition, access control) website and community apps 
  • Community focus with a clustering of talent pools, mentors, investors and developers
  • Access to free incubators, lab and/or studio space, research, mentoring and investment
  • A place to experiment and pilot new technologies

Today, there are more than a dozen innovation districts around the world. Below are a few examples of innovation districts being built or already flourishing:

    
  • Singapore - Jurong Innovation District – Anchored by Nanyang Technological University, Jurong encompasses the complete supply chain of four companies in one location and offers housing, health and wellness facilities, recreational spaces, dining and shopping and green areas with walking and cycling paths.
  • Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Saigon Innovation Hub – Built on three pillars of academia, government and industry, the Saigon Hub offers ecologically designed residential spaces, public transit and an educational district with 12 universities.

  • Tempe, Arizona - Arizona State University (ASU) Novus Innovation Center – Located on 335 acres, Novus features a mix of office, retail and residential development that continues to attract technology companies with its access to the University.

  • Newport News, Virginia - Tech Center at Oyster Point – Currently in development, Tech Center at Oyster Point will be located near the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), the world-renowned research center, and will include 250,000 square feet of retail space, anchored by Whole Foods and a 288-unit apartment complex.

  • Barcelona, Spain - 22@ Innovation District – this former industrial space combines multigenerational employment, housing and live-work spaces through five knowledge-intensive clusters: Information and Computer Technology (ICT); media; biomedical, energy; and design.

  • Eindhoven, the Netherlands - Eindhoven High-tech Campus – This is a high-tech ecosystem that features a wellness center, conference center, restaurants, social services, and seeks to become the most sustainable campus is Europe by 2025. 
Tech Cities: The Global Intersection of Talent and Real Estate
In this report we assess how tech cities are competing for business across key talent, real estate, and business environment metrics.
view full report

KEY CONTACTS

Elisa Konik Oakland Advisory Group Leader
Elisa Konik

Executive Managing Director
Lake Tahoe, United States


+1 (516) 297 2271

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Erica Ruder Chicago Manager
Erica Ruder

Managing Director, Total Workplace
Atlanta, United States


+1 404 853 5258

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Marissa Huber Miami (image)
Marissa Huber

Director, Total Workplace
Miami, United States


+1 (786) 7925202

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Nicola Gillen
Nicola Gillen

EMEA Lead, Total Workplace
London, United Kingdom


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