Our experience economy has prompted a shift in Real Estate from the buildings to the people that occupy them. Tenant experience is and will continue to be at the center of what will make – or break – the success of a building.
For much of the past 25 years, tenant experience has been focused on the physical. Often referred to as the “amenities arms race”, we have filled our spaces with foosball tables, yoga rooms and coffee stations worthy of Starbucks. Has it made a difference – yes! But, while amenities have improved tenant experience, it has come at a cost. Each new addition takes time and space. Furthermore, the use of amenities as a differentiator is risky– many can be easily replicated in similar buildings.
The days of relying on physical space to drive experience are far behind us. Whereto? What now? This is the era of technology to deliver tenant experience, enable the real estate market, and help properties differentiate.
While the benefits of tenant experience are well understood, the details of what that experience is – and how to get there – can be nebulous.
We need to start with the right question. It is not as simple as asking tenants what they want. As humans, the things we claim to want don’t always correlate with what we need, and what will ultimately drive our satisfaction with a service.
Let’s go deeper, and a little wider. For most of us, our workday experience starts long before we plant ourselves in our desk chair. Our day starts when we first log in, pull in the parking lot or enter a lobby. We must think about the innovative bells and whistles that delight us AND the foundational pieces that we take for granted until they stop working.
Think of the tenant experience from the bottom up. What are the must have pieces, nice to have pieces, and pieces that are the icing on the cake?
Safety is the foundation. Tenants must feel secure to be able to work. It is so foundational that it is often taken for granted. Even underestimated. When things are smooth, we don’t talk about it. The second it is breached, we yell. Even worse, we lose trust.
COVID has thrust safety into the spotlight. It has also changed what we need to feel safe. We are all much more attuned to air quality, contact surfaces and crowd controls. But perhaps the biggest change is the degree to which we need to be informed to feel safe. We want to know about risk levels, safety protocols and what choices are available to us to mitigate any potential threats.
As we return to work, we need to think about safety through three lenses –
- what we measure,
- what systems we connect
- what we communicate.
What we measure with respect to safety is broad but does not need to be complicated. We need to take audit of all dimensions of people traffic, air quality, cleaning protocols and room temperature.
The systems we connect are critical – they will allow us to collect data from various points AND act on them. For example, the population and traffic data from security card swipes can be paired with temperature control, cleaning protocols or prioritization of elevators.
What we communicate from these systems can change the tenant experience dramatically. Our feelings of safety are largely driven by optics and our perceptions based on what information we have access to. The data collected and processes in place can be communicated to tenants to reassure them that the foundational aspects of safety are in check. Data can also be shared with tenants to help them make informed decisions about work times, building routes, and collaboration spaces.
When we hit all three lenses, the building becomes more efficient, and the tenant experience is amplified.
Technology can be an enabler of connecting once disparate and siloed systems. When the systems are running in a more connected and integrated way, this allows for greater flexibility and adaptability to changing tenant volumes and expectations.
Connectivity is essential for tenants. It frequently ranks as one of the most important aspects of tenant experience. It can satisfy tenants but has an even stronger ability to drive strong dissatisfaction when it does not work well. It must work well, everywhere, all the time.
Post COVID, connectivity will be a key differentiator as tenants face choices about remote vs. on-site work options. There will be increasing expectations for connectivity to be fast, secure, and ubiquitous. We expect that tenants will have little tolerance for previously accepted dead zones. The familiar image of dropping a call or losing WiFi/data in the elevator will become a nostalgic meme. No longer will people wait to enter a parking garage for fear of dropping out of calls. As data heavy applications (downloads, YouTube etc. ) become personal and business standards for tenants, dead zones will not be tolerated.
Connectivity solutions must include the full spectrum of wired, cellular (4G, 5G) and Wi-Fi.
Technology can allow for the transition from home to office and the various hybrid options in between. It will also allow for the ability to work beyond the four walls of a tenant’s leased space. Food courts, courtyards, flex spaces and collaboration areas will be even more desirable places to work than before.
Working from home during COVID required flexibility and creativity. In the early days, many struggled with nomadic workplaces throughout their homes, managing calls from yards and porches. As days became months, many came to embrace the imposed flexibility. Our office became the place we happened to land that day be it the kitchen, the porch, or the couch.
As we return to work, tenants will want to keep this flexibility. The static cubicle and desk they longed for at the start of the pandemic will now feel restrictive. Solutions will need to ensure that tenants can:
- Work beyond their cubicles or desks – including outside when feasible
- Collaborate when and where it happens
Technology allows for this seamless transition from one work area to another and back again throughout the day.
This flexibility needs to extend beyond walls of the workplaces as well. It is predicted that many tenants will adopt a hybrid approach to home vs. office. Workplaces need to ensure calls, meetings and collaborative sessions can work with the hybrid model in mind and enable all tenants.
- How do we engage the people that are still remote?
- How can we make meetings seamless without microphone muting and/or background issues?
The right technology solution will leverage IT, AV and security to create spaces that will engage those in the room and those who are virtual.
Technology can ensure that workers feel connected and engaged with their teams wherever they may be. The right technology will adapt for lighting and noise levels and ensure a safe and secure connection for people in the office and those that are remote.
Customizable and scalable
COVID prompted a rapid and unprecedented migration to digital technologies. Companies adopted and invested in solutions like never before, and users adopted new platforms and applications with equal parts bravery, excitement, and empathy as we all learned to use them.
This migration will continue long past our recovery from COVID.
Building solutions must meet the demands of today and be nimble enough to accommodate the solutions of tomorrow. This can only be achieved with a strong, thorough, and intelligent backbone that allows for rapid adoption of new technologies and scales for future needs.
The return to work has prompted many questions about how to design our workspaces and how to support them with technology. And so, before we invest in the next café, games table or work pods, let’s ask ourselves:
- What does the tenant truly need?
- What will drive their satisfaction AND avoid the great drivers of dissatisfaction?
- What will future proof your buildings and workspaces?
While not the only tool in the shed, technology is by far a no regrets move with the biggest bang in the short and long term.