Expectations can be dangerous. The disconnect between what is expected and what is real is no different when it comes to occupiers and landlords. What people want is simply not always what is offered and with so much buzz, and confusion, around the return to the office and talk of flex space, occupiers are expecting more than when they left. However, only in rare circumstances can one place support everything that occupiers want.
One answer is to not depend on a single location but to connect multiple places within a city or multiple cities across various regions so employees can access what they need. To bridge the disconnect between what is desired and what is available, landlords have an opportunity to offer a compelling campus-like network to their tenants. In a company’s campus, the workspace isn’t limited to the amenities in just one building but is expanded across all the buildings available within a portfolio. In this environment, both resident and flexible tenants can have access to a wide range of services that are accessible across the campus.
What does a campus environment mean for the adoption of flexible offices? According to Senior Analyst for Smart Workplaces, Ibrahim Yate, it will have a positive impact on the number of flex adopters. “A campus increases the exposure to flex space instead of having it all centralized at one location that may be inconvenient for the majority of the workforce to get to,” he said. Expounding upon a recent Verdantix report, he wrote, “Workers can use a regular office one day and a flex office the next day and compare the two. This is important for the trend of a dispersed workforce because you need to have locations near where people live.” Yate added that being closer to workers also means you could be closer to clients, but added that these campus environments can be “quite a difficult task to actually do.”
To support this campus flex workstyle, there needs to be a substantial and trusted tech backbone. Unfortunately, this is the most common disparity between occupants and landlords. Almost 46 percent of occupiers believe access to higher quality tech is a key driver of flex space offerings but while 70 percent of landlords understand tech is either an essential or important component in flex spaces, many are still falling short of occupiers’ rising digital and experiential expectations. The report also revealed that over half of occupiers are willing to pay a premium of 20 percent or more for a tech-enabled workspace, making the challenge more appealing to landlords.
While the pandemic accelerated the adoption of flex, flex has been growing in the office space for years. “The pandemic has accelerated the use of distributed office models and the requirement for employees to access their work from wherever they’re working on any given day without the need for multiple logins, security, or privacy concerns,” stated Jeremy Bernard, CEO, North America, at essensys. “If a landlord can’t fulfill the 25-item checklist of technology and security requirements of an enterprise customer, they’ll find a workspace provider that can.”
But technology isn’t just about enabling productivity and the business of the tenant, it’s about optimizing the entire portfolio. “With higher awareness of the facilities and resources on-site, it’s likely to increase utilization,” said Yate. “The other key advantage is preventing chaos.” This chaos only comes when the demand for assets or amenities on campus has increased enough to require assistance from tech to filter it. Yes, it’s basic crowd control, but, as Yate put it, the tech is for “awareness, utilization, and coordination.” The resulting experience is consistent and seamless, enabling tenants to move from one location to another on the same secure network, accessing what they want and when they want it without barriers or disruptions.
The software and technology connecting buildings across a campus can be a differentiator between landlords and vital to their brand. “Offering a wider portfolio of space, services, amenities, and flexible terms to a broader addressable market can help strengthen brand identity for a landlord,” said Bernard. But it’s not just beneficial for the landlords’ brand, but for the tenants’ too.
A common weak point of flex space is that it lacks the essence of the tenant’s brand. A company’s name on the door still feels like a flex space. The next level of flex will have that personalized feel and, according to Yates, Industrious, who recently joined Propmodo on a webinar “How Office Building Owners Can Use Tech to Prepare for the Flex Work Revolution,” is leading the charge on that.
Technology is an important part of a brand, whether it be landlord or tenant-centric. “People are craving collaboration, connectivity, and experiences after more than a year of being constrained due to the pandemic,” said Leanne Sheraton, Senior Vice President of Marketing at PayPal. “Brands that inspire people with new possibilities through experiences and new channels—and content and products that enhance connections between people—will resonate.”
For better or for worse, we’re all figuring this out as we go. Both landlords and tenants. Tenants are making assumptions about what their space needs will look like and what their employees want, or are doing it based on as much data as they can get. Landlords are trying to keep up with trends and create an environment that not only attracts new tenants but retains the ones they already have. The common thread is the software and technology that creates a seamless in-building experience for the occupiers. Maybe we’re making it too complicated; “If you can get the products you offer and the impact it has on your brand to align with what the customer wants, you can sign big deals,” said Yates. “That’s the benchmark to aim for.”