*This is an excerpt from our report The Next Era for Australian Office Owners and Operators. You can read the full insight-laden report here.
With an increase in choice of where to work from and an increase in barriers to coming to the office, property owners, managers and developers, are being forced to view their occupiers as customers. It is no longer enough to provide a space where work happens, it is a space that people want to go to.
To attract, and even more importantly to retain high-value customers, property managers will need to start listening to what customers want.
It is crucial to engage early with existing customers and start a dialogue to understand their position and build out a roadmap for customer satisfaction. How has their business been operating? Has remote work been effective? And how do they intend to operate as more people return to the office?
As Andy Saull, Head of Research & Strategy at Pi Labs points out, this proactive research is the essential first step to take.
'There are so many different drivers behind remote vs in-person – the key going forward is understanding your occupier. There is no silver bullet. You have to ask, what do they want, what is their demographic, what is their daily job function and how do we provide for that? Find out what your customer wants.'
Brad Krauskopf echoes this sentiment which completely changes the dynamic of creating office space.
"The concept of building a workspace won't be the same in five years. Organisations shouldn’t put square meters at the heart of their decisions. Workers need a space and place that they can't get elsewhere. It’s beyond photocopying. Workspaces fulfill the need for personal connections so now it's more about what the opportunities are for wellness and social initiatives."
Rethinking how office space functions
The next era for the office is one that is centred on delivering experiences employees cannot get at home. We have seen that typical tasks can be done just as well, if not better while working remotely, so how can companies gain buy-in from employees and build excitement around commuting to an office? By providing a hospitality-like experience that’s more akin to going to a hotel.
Forward-thinking developers are taking the lessons learned from hotels and applying them to the modern office space, and it’s because of this shift in mindset around customer service.
Where hotels must ensure an exceptional experience to drive satisfaction and repeat business, building owners must now do the same in the face of shorter lease lengths and greater leasing options.
Nuveen Real Estate, one of Europe’s largest office landlords with a c.€7 billion portfolio, recently announced the launch of an operating platform to provide innovative and flexible solutions, tailored to each asset and occupier.
These solutions could include concierge services, fitness and wellness initiatives, and enhanced food and beverage offerings with the aim to create spaces where employees want to be, that contain experiences that cannot be replicated at home.
“Hotels provide a very good indicator of how to create brands and experiences that bring ideal tenants, says Krauskopf.
“Landlords have access to capital but might not have the expertise in the day-to-day functions so would need to partner with operators who are experts in particular spaces. It's not one size fits all, you would pick the right operator for the type of space.”
“Long gone are the days of the cubicle-style offices,” says Sean O’Connor.
“Instead, companies will be incorporating more breakout spaces, more greenery, and more amenities, such as the end-of-trip facilities including showers, lockers, and bike racks. It’s really about bringing in a better atmosphere for the workspace.”
“As for smaller companies, I look at it from the side of serviced offices. So they'll be looking at going to smaller physical offices, but being able to utilise shared space on their floor with other tenants. That way they’re not paying for excess space and square metres, such as board rooms, meeting rooms and bathrooms, and instead using the shared space amenities.”
Guiding customers to their desired space
While office owners may not be wholly responsible for an office fit-out and specific design elements, acting as a guide and advising your customers on their options helps to foster longer-lasting tenant-landlord relationships. These are some design elements to consider:
Collaboration areas & quiet hubs
Companies miss the ease of collaboration in an office environment. People want a space to come together, be creative, and share ideas. That could pave the way for more meeting rooms or breakout spaces that support this. On the other side, there will still need to be quiet areas for focused work and engaging with customers to find that balance will be key.
“Spaces where people can take calls quickly or just duck in and duck out will be important. That’s where technology starts to come into play so that there is a seamless transition between your working spaces and your meeting spaces. When you’re working from home, it’s so easy to just log on to a meeting and also do multiple meetings in a row, without the travel and other associated hassles. So office spaces have to consider not only connecting people internally but also easily and quickly connecting people externally using technology.”
- Simon Hayes, Director, PwC Australia.
Furniture plays a hugely important role in the ambience of the workplace and in providing a safe, relaxing and comfortable environment. The right furniture can:
- Make offices look spacious
- Promote employee collaboration
- Improve employee wellness
- Increase workplace interactions
- Optimise employee productivity
Furniture can also inadvertently be a cause of indoor air pollution. While it might not be possible or practical to change existing materials, it is a good idea to choose products that emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) if your furniture or flooring needs replacing.
Where furniture is placed makes a huge difference, too. Tracy Wymer, Vice President of Workplace Strategy at Knoll, told us how a simple reconfiguration of a meeting room with taller chairs at the back, lower chairs further forward and a 360º camera at the front made hybrid meetings much more inclusive. Wymer also says that more ‘thoughtfulness around tech, thinking about the field of view and acoustics,’ can create an all-round ‘richer experience’.
Lighting is a crucial part of office design that can have a crucial impact on the way employees think, feel, and work.
A study by Cornell University demonstrated that common office-related ailments like eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision are reduced by 84% with the introduction of controlled daylight into a workspace. And a study by Future Workplace found that 1 in 3 of the workers surveyed considered comfortable light important for their daily health.
Where natural light is harder to come by, other lighting solutions can be built in through the right choice of products. LED lighting offers sustainability benefits, and many now have a CRI of 95 or above, meaning that they closely mirror the colour spectrum of natural light.
To ensure employee comfort, companies should provide different types of seating, from flexible seating solutions like stacking chairs, to ergonomically designed chairs for employees to sit on each day. In order to have a high level of comfort and support, chairs should have:
- A seat that is adjustable
- Lumbar support for posture
- Armrests that adjust
- The ability to swivel, enabling easy movement
In some cases, employees may prefer to stand at their desks, so it is great to give the option of an adjustable desk if possible.
‘I would like to see all offices provide blended environments that meet the needs of the modern office worker. This should include spaces designed for Zoom calls, collaboration spaces and areas to do quiet, focused work. We should be focusing on quality over quantity, using the reduction in full time office workers to provide workers with better space across the same footprint.’ - Tom Wallace, CEO, Re-Leased
This is was an excerpt from our report The Next Era for Australian Office Owners and Operators. The full report is now available, it has been packed with relevant research, advice and more!