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Who’s Responsible For the Office Experience: Landlord or Tenant?

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The future of our workplaces is changing. For years now it has been trending in a connected, networked, experience-oriented direction. In days past, workers came into their buildings in the morning, accessed with a physical key or keycard, and left in the evening. But that narrative is changing. Fueled by the pandemic, advanced services like touchless access, desk booking, and on-site staff make the future workplace anything but traditional.

As real estate commentators we talk at length about what this workplace transformation looks like, from challenges executing it to opportunities to enhance it. But less often do these conversations consider whether the various amenities, services, and perks that modern buildings come with are provided by the employing firm (i.e. the occupier) or by the landlord. 

The distinction is an important one. While both landlords and occupiers both work to promote employee experience, neither party can fully control tenant experience by themselves. Think about it: a landlord who wants to implement a neighborhood rewards program without the input and participation of tenant businesses might wind up featuring discounts for businesses that the employers of occupiers aren’t interested in. And a tenant who hopes to introduce touchless access without coordinating with their landlord will only be able to create a touchless experience in their individual suite and the spaces within it. In both of these cases, tenant experience will invariably fall short of what it could be. 

In steps technology. A number of tech companies have sprung up to offer platforms designed specifically to improve tenant experience (TEx). Most of these platforms use mobile apps to help employees connect with their offices, buildings, and communities. But as we discuss in our newest report, where we uncover all the services TEx platforms typically offer, and explore how landlords can use these and other technologies to improve the quality of their tenant experience, the platform itself is only one part of the experience equation. Other elements are under the control of other decision makers, yet it’s the total of all of them that adds up to the experience of each individual occupier.

For landlords looking to upgrade their tenant experience game, or tenant firms looking to keep employees longer, a tenant experience platform can be a great way to offer a wide range of different services and amenities all at once. But simply subscribing to a platform is not enough. Whether you’re a landlord or an occupier, there are many other areas of experience that are outside of your ability to really control. Consequently, landlords and occupiers must take it on themselves to make sure that the tenant experience plans and platforms that they are looking to implement line up with the TEx plans of their partner, whether landlord or occupier. And since most occupiers are probably going to be busy with their core business processes, whatever they may be, the reality is that this responsibility will more than likely fall on the shoulders of the landlord, whose primary job is, after all, providing space. 

The good news is conversations about perks and amenities should be easy ones to have. Unlike discussions of lease terms or pandemic-era rent payment, office services and amenities are typically nothing but good news for everyone involved. Consequently, it shouldn’t be too hard for landlords to get input and buy-in from their tenants here. Who doesn’t want to talk about all the cool perks and fun amenities they want? 

But the hard part is trying to understand exactly what people want from their tenant experience technology. The relationship with work varies depending on the organization and the individual. While some people may want events and networking others might just want to do their work and go home. Tenant experience apps need to be as flexible as the opinions around them are diverse. There are two ways to understand what is wanted from a workplace experience platform. The first, most obvious way is to ask them. Surveys and interviews can help put valuable context around workers’ wants and needs. This usually needs to come from the occupiers themselves.

Sometimes people don’t know what they want until they have it. This leads us to the other important method for understanding what parts of the workplace are most important to creating a good experience: studying what people do. The ways that workers use a building or engage with an app will help explain what problems need to be solved. If the access control feature isn’t being used then maybe workers are less worried about touchless entry. If conference rooms have little to no vacancy then more meeting room space might be necessary. If people are not coming to the community ice cream social then maybe it’s best to just stick to work related tools. These insights have to come from the building management and from the apps themselves.

For office experience to improve both the landlords and the occupiers must be involved in the process. Tenant experience apps have become a collaboration tool of sorts for these two often disjointed parties. By providing a common way to interact with end users and sharing important information about a building’s use, TEx technology is bridging the divide between lessor and lessee. Who is responsible for the experience that a building creates? Everyone. Now, we finally have some tools to help all of the parties involved start working together.

Associate Publisher, Propmodo Research
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