CRE experts weigh in on the future of office buildings
Three commercial real estate (CRE) experts recently joined a webinar, “Tips to Enhance Tenant Experience & Grow Occupancy in Office Buildings,” to weigh in on the importance of tenant experience at CRE office buildings. Panelists included:
- Tim Curran, President, Property Management Technology Group, JLL Technologies
- Caralynn Starnes, Vice President, Senior General Manager, One South in Charlotte, NC
- Shelly Just, Associate Vice President, Global Implementation, HqO
Continue reading for a recap of their discussion along with information all property owners and operators should know if they plan to grow occupancy at their office buildings. (Hint: Think proptech).
1. Improve the office building environment
“That first phase of getting folks back [after the pandemic] was about safety. Is the building safe and secure? Am I going to be able to move around the building? Is it going to be clean and sanitized?” said Curran in the recent webinar discussion. “Now it turned into, ‘How do we attract people back to the building?’”
“This is a more challenging time than ever,” concurred Just. “With hybrid work arrangements, the demand for office space is still there, but the use of the space and footprint might look slightly different.”
She said tenants have set higher expectations for their office spaces, mainly because companies want their employees back in the office. “Tenants are putting more expectations on landlords to create an environment and a building that people want to come to,” Just said.
Proptech solution: Artificial intelligence for tenant comfort & sustainability
All this begs the question, how do you make your buildings sustainable while also ensuring everyone is comfortable and safe? It can be difficult to find that perfect balance.
The good news, Curran said, is that the industry can tap into artificial intelligence (AI) to help balance air quality, temperature, and energy usage in commercial buildings. Curran pointed to modern technology as an example.
“It is in the background monitoring millions of data points, 24 hours a day, and it’s fine tuning. It is reprogramming the building management system (BMS) continuously,” he said.
That means if you’re finding it to be difficult to manage indoor air quality (IAQ) while also adhering to sustainability mandates at your buildings, you’re not alone. Many property owners and operators are struggling with the same thing. However, with AI, you can finally be hands-free and let technology manage sustainability at your buildings.
2. Create commute-worthy properties
“The recipe for a commute-worthy building would mean creating and delivering an environment that’s packed with a hospitable atmosphere, desirable spaces, and intentional content,” said Starnes.
“It’s not just about the physical building but the experience in general. Everyone knows hybrid is here to stay,” added Just. “Employees want a better and more meaningful sense of community at their workplaces. So as landlords, there’s more to think about now more than ever about that experience you’re creating. Is it frictionless? Is it convenient? Is it safe? Is it secure? Do employees know what is happening on the days and weeks they’re coming into the office so they can plan their trip?”
A commute-worthy office buildings means spaces that support productive work, convenience, and social interactions, said Just. “Property teams can do this by improving access to office spaces, adding new technology, and ultimately, improving those workplace connections,” she concluded.
Proptech solution: Software to streamline communication & collect data
“We’re able to extract quite a bit of data,” said Starnes when referring to the technology her teams use at One South. “Our general use day-to-day, the largest use case, is our ability to communicate and to be more closely connected to our tenants.”
By collecting rich data from tenants, Starnes can create reports and analyze all the information collected. Her reports give her a better idea of how tenants use certain spaces, the satisfaction level with work orders, and even show her what events are being attended, down to the individual tenant.
“Now, we are not just talking to tenant reps but we’re able to reach the individual, which is so important in getting people, and keeping them, informed, involved, and integrated into everything that’s going on,” said Starnes.
“We have the ability to silo down our audience […] and reach folks in several different avenues and directions,” Starnes said. “We’re able to see what people are interested in, what they’re responding to when they see notifications, and how they’re interacting with this tenant app, so we know how to better contour the content that goes along with it.”
3. Add amenities to improve tenant experience
Top amenities are being added to properties to make the office more appealing to tenants and their employees. Starnes said the amenities they’ve chosen to implement at One South are:
- Lounge spaces for quiet enjoyment
- Private meeting rooms
- Sports simulator
- Streaming studio
- Private wellness rooms
- Curated coffee bar
- Weekly tenant activities
Just said HqO research shows there are three main must-have services and amenities to bring tenants back to the office:
- Informal social interactions
- Meeting spaces
- Technology/buildings apps
“There is opportunity for landlords who are trying to partner with tenant companies to increase the day-to-day occupancy of their building,” said Just. “An elevated experience helps build stronger workplace connections, which in turn leads to better business outcomes like increased net operating income (NOI) and boosted productivity.”
Proptech solution: Mobile app technology to connect with tenants
“Any digital platform that connects you as a landlord and owner to 100% of the population is important. Historically, everything was filtered through one to two contacts, and it was difficult to decide what the broader population wanted, how satisfied they were, if they were happy, and what their experience was in the building,” said Just.
The solution to that? A mobile app that connects tenants with property teams, and vice versa, for continuous communication.
“It is an amenity for them,” Just said. “It’s one app for the whole property that provides that added layer of convenience and reduces some of the friction they may encounter when they’re considering coming into the office.”
Just added, “[Tenants] are looking to the building environment and experience to play a role in how they attract and retain talent to some degree. So, positioning an app, or technology, as an enablement for them may open opportunities to collaborate with tenants who don’t see it as necessary.”
Interested in hearing more insights from the experts? Watch the full on-demand webinar today.