Guest Blog: Without Great Technology, the Tenant Experience Suffers
By Wilco Wijnbergen, CTO and co-founder, infinitSpace
The way businesses use office space has changed irreversibly since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. But that is not to say that office space has become redundant – far from it.
How companies approach the post-pandemic workplace will naturally differ from what we had seen before 2020. However, as many companies have come to realise, there is still very much a demand for a physical work environment. From onboarding new team members to collaborating with colleagues, some aspects of a job are just better suited to in-person interactions.
With that in mind, business leaders are taking a more intentional approach when it comes to their use of space. The way a building facilitates collaboration, inspires productivity and creativity, and meets different tenant needs are becoming key considerations for those re-evaluating their current set-up.
Flexible working, having been in play well before the pandemic but having come to the fore since the Covid-19 crisis began, is now widely recognised as a viable long-term option. A survey of UK businesses carried out by CBI Economics in July this year, for example, found that 93% plan to adopt hybrid working models, and only 5% expect to work entirely from an office.
A separate study of UK businesses by Knight Frank revealed that 81% felt they need to implement a new workplace strategy, with 47% believing their real estate strategies will include a greater amount of flexible, serviced or coworking space. Almost two thirds (63%) anticipate there being a greater focus on the design and specification of their offices.
To prevent a divergence between what buildings currently offer and what businesses increasingly demand, commercial landlords must think carefully about the purpose and function of their buildings. Luckily, refitting existing office space to enable tenants to connect, collaborate and innovate on those days that they travel into the office is not as gargantuan a task as it might first seem, so long as sophisticated technology is put at the heart of the process.
Technology will make or break the tenant experience
Now more than ever before, the tenant experience is key. No longer will employees be satisfied with a binary choice between working at a desk or in a designated meeting room.
Offices need to become destinations – whether that is an environment where individuals can escape from distractions at home, or find opportunities for networking. An environment that facilitates everything from individual workstations to collaborative spaces and social hubs will sit high on the list of priorities for businesses eyeing up new office buildings.
At the same time, businesses are on the lookout for spaces that reflect their brand and culture. To encourage employees to venture into the office, these workplaces must support their personal and professional needs. The growing importance of wellness cannot be ignored, for instance, with landlords now increasingly expected to provide facilities such as on-site gyms, healthy food and drink options, and locations where post-work classes can take place.
The expectations are high. So how can technology alleviate the heavy burden on commercial real estate (CRE) landlords looking to ensure their buildings attract tenants both now and long into the future?
Starting with the basics, tenants will expect to be able to seamlessly pre-book and manage their spaces based on their working patterns on any given week, day or even hour. Yet reserving meeting rooms through an app or online platform is just the start.
The workplace of the future must solve common pain points that inhibit workers from returning to the office. As well as creating opportunities for people to collaborate easily, have face time with managers, and reconnect with work friends, employees need other positive reasons to venture in.
Exploring sports facilities; getting insights into the availability of different activities; learning about and registering for community events; browsing networking opportunities; buying goods or services through an online marketplace – these are all functions that tenants will expect to be able to carry out through an integrated, all-encompassing app. They should be able to discover who else is in the building, and which service providers are operating in the local area.
These developments are simply a logical consequence of the age of on-demand.
Creating an interconnected community starts with having the right tech in place to facilitate these activities and extend the value of an office space. By offering a digital bridge between employees and their workspace (even when people are not in the office), a comprehensive app will serve to support both sides of the hybrid working model.
Supporting effective communication
Landlord and tenant relationships have also evolved during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are now entering a new era of greater collaboration. Technology has a crucial role to play here, too.
An app, for instance, would enable any issues to be acted upon quickly. Whether it’s as simple as highlighting a lack of hand soap in the bathrooms, or more technical issues like repairing a faulting TV screen in a meeting room, a centralised hub will allow tenants to flag issues directly with the help desk and have them resolved quickly. More long-term suggestions for improvement can also be raised through such apps to ensure the building is constantly evolving in line with tenants’ requirements.
Not only can tenants quickly interact with their community manager, but they can also connect with other tenants within the building. Businesses in a similar line of work, or those looking to forge new partnerships, will be able to see relevant information and interact directly through the portal. To keep all members involved, regular newsletters and announcements can also be distributed to promote awareness of key developments taking place within the building and forge a stronger community.
Data, data, data
For commercial landlords or those operating the building, utilising technology has another important benefit. By collecting data points as tenants engage with their office space, they will be able to constantly re-evaluate and improve the building.
Technology and data can highlight ongoing trends, what amenities and facilities are being used, which features are falling out of favour, and how people move around the building. These insights will help landlords to predict needs of occupiers and make adjustments to ensure their building continues to deliver a positive tenant experience, even as working patterns and habits evolve.
Well-designed office spaces will be a key factor in businesses persuading employees to return to the office, as well as in attracting new talent. Technology will support those that want to work independently – as well as those that want to come together for more social and collaborative aspects of their work. Whatever setup is chosen by businesses in the future, having a strong digital infrastructure in place will no doubt support their vision, and CRE landlords will no doubt be investing in this area over the coming year.