The Amenities Tenants Really Want

05/29/2019 | By Janelle Penny

Today’s tenants and occupants expect more from their workplace. It’s not just about a desk and a chair anymore, and the evolution of what tenants need and want puts more pressure on building owners and facilities managers to provide and deliver amenities that will attract and retain top talent.

Not long ago, going to work was a different experience. Now, with technology and busy schedules, amenities that were barely available even a decade ago—like working anywhere, connecting to building controls or even food trucks—might be expected or could offer a competitive advantage.

Deloitte’s 2019 Commercial Real Estate Outlook notes that commercial real estate companies should reimagine tenant experience by weaving technology throughout the tenant life cycle. This can help strengthen tenant stickiness and therefore valuations.

[Related: Connected Buildings Save Money, Improve Tenant Experience]

Keeping up on office design can help attract and retain tenants, and incorporating many of the below amenities can be worked into a redesign or retrofit. Often, it’s thinking about how to update and modernize a space for how today’s occupants use it.

One way to keep up on the newest trends and what’s available is by going to events. At the 2019 BOMA International Conference and Expo, network with your peers to find out what they are doing, learn about the latest trends and ways to maximize your building, and head to the Expo to see the latest innovations from over 450 companies.

BOMA International Conference & Expo 2019Register Now

A panel of commercial real estate experts discuss tenant amenity trends.
(Photo: A panel of commercial real estate experts discuss tenant amenity trends. From left: Jim Tainter, Jeanne Wood, Sam Schaefer, Brian Harnetiaux and Amanda Heismann Gray.)

The employee experience is defined by three factors, according to Jeanne Wood, senior associate vice president at CallisonRTKL

  • Culture (HR, benefits and what the building feels like as you walk in)
  • Technology 
  • The built environment

“Bring those three things together and talk about them with tenants,” Wood said. “Ask employees and tenants what they’re looking for, and don’t stop at the tenant point person. Go deeper to find out trends and identify what’s happening.”

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During the 2018 BOMA International Conference and Expo Tuesday General Session sponsored by BOMA Cornerstone Partner Yardi, a panel of industry experts discussed New Tenant Amenity Demands: Creating a Better Workplace Experience

Moderated by Jim Tainter, managing director of the Landlord Services Division at NAI Partners, in addition to Wood, the panel included:

  • Brian Harnetiaux, BOMA Fellow, senior vice president of Asset Management at McCarthy Cook
  • Amanda Heismann Gray, CPM, general manager at Lillibridge Healthcare Services Inc.
  • Sam Schaefer, managing director and global head of Property Management for Leasing & Corporate Outreach at Tishman Speyer

“We get so rooted in getting a deal done, getting a tenant in and having them happy,” Tainter added. “We might be missing opportunities if we’re not creating an amenities package.”

Exciting Ideas for Tenant Amenities

Not sure what to offer to attract new tenants? The panel offered a wealth of ideas, from food options to office space solutions. Could these ideas be a good fit for your building?

Rotating food vendors:

One of Wood’s clients has access to a large industrial kitchen. The client’s employees are used to easily accessible urban amenities with lots of food choices, but the building is in a suburban office park with slim pickings nearby.

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“They decided to talk with restaurant owners in the area and see if they’d be willing to come in for one- to three-month spurts,” Wood said. “That way, you have a rotating restaurant there and you don’t get bored of the grilled cheese sandwich. They’re also experimenting with whether the food is prepared on-site or whether they do things ahead of time and people just pick it up. Get creative with what you have.”

Food trucks:

If you live in a location with mobile food vendors, consider inviting some of the food trucks to set up shop near your office. The vendors will love the guaranteed traffic and your employees will be excited about the constantly changing options.

“People love food truck Wednesdays where you have a different concept showing up every week,” Tainter said. “It adds a little more diversity and flavor.”

Harnetiaux manages a campus that has become a food truck destination. Three trucks with different cuisines visit every day.

“We created plug-in stations. They turn their generators off and plug into the hard line so they’re quiet,” Harnetiaux explained. “We have seating areas surrounding them. Now we have people who drive to our campus every day to have lunch, which we never thought would happen.”

[On topic: 5 Trending Tenant Amenity Ideas for Your Facility]

Need-based amenities:

For healthcare facilities like medical office buildings, covered drop-offs and valet services are crucial building features, Heismann Gray noted. That’s because people visiting the building often have mobility impairments or other issues that make it hard to get around.

[More BOMA 2018 coverage: Microsoft Azure IoT for Smart Buildings]

“The shorter the distance we can have them walk, the more likely they are to be on time for their appointment and the happier the doctors are,” Heismann Gray added. “The other challenge with mobility is wayfinding. It’s amazing how many patients come in to see their doctor and have no idea what the name of the practice is. They just wander in and say, ‘I’m here because my stomach hurts. I don’t know who I’m seeing.’ That presents wayfinding challenges, especially with the rotating medical staff you often have now. Using digital wayfinding helps them, just like you’d find at a conference center.”

Accessible rooftops:

“We’re seeing a lot of rooftop gardens, event space, observation decks and fire pits in common areas. That’s something that came over from multifamily,” said Tainter. “These are things people are slowly starting to see as something that can differentiate their building from the norm or the expectation.”

[On topic: Vegetative Roofs: 3 Tips for Planning Maintenance]

Coworking spaces across portfolios:

Existing clients often look for short-term service space when they’re traveling, said Schaefer. “If they’re a client of ours in New York, we’d like them to be able to lease space from us on a short-term basis in London or Shanghai or Sao Paulo, Brazil. We try to put ourselves in the best position to meet near-term demands and not concede that business to a third party, but to offer it to our own clients directly.”

This article was originally posted in June 27, 2018. It was updated on May 29, 2019.

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