To Win And Keep Top Tenants, Landlords Should Focus on the Happiness of Their Employees

Traditionally the words “happy” and “work” rarely appeared in the same sentence. After all, people didn’t often seek joy at the office. But, that seems to be changing. More and more people want their jobs to be a source of happiness just as much as a source of a paycheck. Many of the most progressive companies are listening. They have made concerted efforts to foster happiness for their employees and are already feeling the benefits from it.

“Happier employees do better on all fronts, from day-to-day health to productivity to career advancement, and this consistently perks up the bottom line for the organization as a whole,” according to “The Four Keys to Happiness at Work,” an article in Greater Good Magazine, (published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley).

Happy employees have been proven to be more productive, according to an interview with Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project. The article states that having happy employees results in less employee absenteeism, burnout and stress. This is backed up by research from the US Labor Department that estimates that at any given time about 3% of all employees are absent from their jobs. When employees are happy, they are less preoccupied with themselves, more focused on their work and are willing to take on new challenges.

The article goes on to state that happy employees are better leaders. They become more resilient, less risk-averse and can more easily bounce back from failures. Happiness has also been shown to make people more creative. They are less worried about the day to day tasks and can dream of new possibilities. Teamwork also benefits from happiness. Happy team members are more likely to help others and tackle the big issues confronting them at work.

So, if happiness is so important to organizations, shouldn’t office landlords be doing more to promote it for their tenants? Chase Garbarino, CEO of HqO, a tenant engagement platform thinks so.  “Happiness in commercial real estate is a form of currency,” he asserts. “The more you have, the more your property is worth.”

His company represents one of the ways that both corporate occupiers and landlords are driving happiness among office workers in the modern workplace. Tenant engagement focused companies like HqO are using a building-specific mobile app, a variety of building management software, and a dedicated engagement team to activate amenities. They are becoming a preferred portal for building occupants to connect to the physical work space to schedule events, book classes, procure services and so much more. These digital connectors are able to bring the world outside the building into the property. Deals from local retailers and transit information can be accessed, while building services can be easily ordered. Tenant engagement platforms can track every interaction and give important metrics about what actually makes office tenants happy.

Chase told me of an HqO client that used the platform to better understand what restaurant would could have been the best fit for a large mixed-use building’s retail space. Initially, the team working on the property had proposed a fine dining option but surveyed tenants redirected the company since having an upscale dining spot on property only ranked seventh on their overall priority ranking. This created a CAPEX savings of approximately $2 million. Further, the research indicated that a pop-up pharmacy solution would be more highly valued and could offer immediate returns.

Providing the right amenities in a building prompts a spike in tenant happiness, and measuring the results can steer employers and landlords to offer up whatever is most desired. Chase and his team have learned that some of the most impactful services are those that save tenants time. The delivery of personal services can be difficult to schedule outside of work hours. By offering things like on-site dry cleaners, nail and hair salons or medical services, landlords are able to make a meaningful contribution to their occupants daily lives. HqO has found that during any given month, 23% to 50% of tenants could be interested in services such as on-site eye exams and manicures.

At the building level, HqO recommends landlords use its tenant experience platform to take a test and learn approach to uncovering experiences that delight occupants and increase a sense of community in a building. In this way, landlords gain insight into the preferences and makeup of any building’s tenants, and then optimize on an ongoing basis. 

Data on some top amenities and services across buildings.


Personalization is another offering that HqO found to be very well received and a driver of tenant satisfaction and happiness. For example, giveaways focused on employees personalizing their workspaces are popular. When plants were offered for desks, 30% of tenants in any given building claim them via the app when available. 

Altruistic events, such as blood drives and food donations, are other methods of bringing office workers together that have been shown to increase worker happiness. People like to know they’re making a difference in others’ lives and appreciate that their building and its management are helping to facilitate it. This can also help foster a sense of community that can start to permeate the entire occupant base. Add recognition for that work, or really positive reinforcement for a job well-done, to a landlord’s offerings and happiness spikes even further. Beyond praise, employers can give rewards to top performers in the HqO app, where monetary gifts can be added to a mobile wallet. Those rewards can be redeemed for retail experiences and services that are listed in the app.

Boosting community engagement and happiness by taking such steps improves relationships with landlords and ultimately enhances building owners’ satisfaction. When building tenants are pleased and spreading the word, a property’s prestige soars, which can prompt real-world improvements to a building’s performance. At the 1.35-million-square-foot Innovation & Design Building in Boston’s Seaport area, rents have increased from $28 per square foot to $84, or by 200%, since Jamestown, the property’s management company, acquired the asset and set out to modernize the tenant experience. In 2018 they enlisted HqO to help strengthen the community. 

You can’t make everyone happy, especially when they are at work. But with the thoughtful use of new digital tools, buildings are better able to understand and boost tenant happiness. This translates into a financial gain for the building management but more importantly, it can have a profound impact on peoples’ lives. So much of our day is spent at our workplaces that any positive emotional impact people can get from their workday can substantially increase their happiness. For some people, work and happiness don’t go hand-in-hand, but thanks to technological advancements and cultural changes in the workplace, that number might be shrinking.


Building the Future at NYC Real Estate Tech Week
Join HqO’s Chase Garbarino at Propmodo’s kick-off to NYC Real Estate Tech Week on November 11, 2019 at The Times Center in Midtown Manhattan.
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