What to Consider with Tenant Amenities

02/25/2019 | By Janelle Penny, Christoph Trappe

Tenant amenities are growing in popularity and help recruit and retain employees and occupants in your building. Christoph Trappe and Janelle Penny chat about what they’ve seen at trade shows like the BOMA International Conference & Expo, as well as some things to consider if you’re looking to incorporate some amenities in your facility.

Christoph: Hello, everyone. It’s Christoph Trappe, chief content engagement director with Buildings.com. And today, I’m joined by Janelle Penny, senior staff writer here at Buildings.

Janelle: Hi, everybody.

Christoph: Thanks for joining us for another episode of our podcast. And today we want to talk about tenant amenities. So, this is one area that you might be interested in that I personally really ran into at the BOMA conference last year. And last year, the conference was in San Antonio. That’s correct, right? San Antonio.

Janelle: Yep. That’s right.

Christoph: And I loved it. It was awesome. It was so warm. I was outside in my suit. People thought I was crazy. But the weather was fantastic. But anyway, so we had a lot of vendors, a lot of exhibitors who were talking and showing off tenant amenities.

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Janelle: Yes.

Christoph: So, what does that mean, Janelle? What’s a tenant amenity?

Janelle: It’s something special that you can do for your tenants, and it’s also a great way to distinguish your building from other buildings. They’re usually used as a retention or a recruitment tool. People really like to work at a building that has something special to offer them, whether that’s fitness space, or a full-service cafeteria, or even just a space where food trucks can come in.

Christoph: So, fitness space, that’s one that I see more and more. There’s one company I saw the other day and they have like an entire floor. Their fitness center is actually nicer than some actual fitness centers. So, what should building owners know about tenant amenities? How do they get them? How do they decide what to get? And it can be costly too, probably.

Janelle: It can be. But it doesn’t really have to be. You have to know your budget, and you have to know what your tenants need. If you have a gym nearby, you probably don’t need to put in a fitness space because people will already be going to the nearby workout space if they’re interested in working out.

Location is important, too. If you’re in an urban area, you may not have enough space in your building for a large cafeteria. Space is at a premium when there’s not much space to expand, of course. So, you may want to look at something like agreements with nearby food trucks, where you can have different ones come in on different days of the week and kind of keep it fresh and interesting.

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There are more to tenant amenities than a ping pong or foosball table. Listen to what BUILDINGS has seen trending on industry trade show floors.

Christoph: So, that’s interesting, too. If you add a cafeteria, now you have to, of course, hire people or outsource it, I guess. So, there is a cost involved. How do you weigh the cost versus the payback?

Janelle: Well, again, it’s often used as a tool to recruit employees or to retain the ones that you have. So, it’s hard to put a dollar amount to not having to retrain someone. But you do have to weigh the cost versus your perceived benefit. And also, if you’re already bringing in some catering a few days a week, what is the cost of eliminating that service versus cooking it on site? That’s something to consider also.

Christoph: So, having catered lunches, a lot of companies do that now. Right? And personally, I don’t usually like that as a recruiting tool. Because I’m always on a diet. It’s hard not to eat as much as I’m eating. So, I don’t need a catered lunch. I mean, I’ll eat it, but I really prefer not to. Right?

Janelle: Sure.

Christoph: So, it kind of depends on what your employees are looking for, too.

Janelle: Exactly. Surveying employees is a good idea. If you’re looking at implementing some kind of amenity and you’re not sure where to go first, just seeing what people need or what people want can really help a lot.

Christoph: So, in addition to these ones—I’ll talk about some of my favorite tenant amenities in a second—but maybe what other amenities have we seen that are important to people, that people care about? So, the ones I’ve seen, including last year at the BOMA conference, was the bike parking. I haven’t had a bike, Janelle, since I’ve been like age 16 or 15 or something. I have never had a bike as an adult. So, it’s not like I’m a biker. That’s probably not how you refer to bicyclists.

Janelle: Bicyclists. Yeah.

Christoph: I’m not a bicyclist per se, so I don’t really care where people park their bikes as long as they’re not in front of me. But that’s one thing I saw last year for sure, where do you park your bike? Under an overhang or something and have an official space.

The other one I saw was lots and lots of fitness equipment and being healthy. I actually—we have a treadmill here and I use it quite often for meetings. So, I wonder, are people going to use the fitness center to have meetings, walking meetings next to each other? Or is it just for breaks?

Janelle: Hey, you never know. If a whole team is really interested in fitness, that could be a fun way to switch up a meeting. And you can certainly pitch it that way when you install it, too.

Christoph: Right. What are some other amenities that we’re seeing out in the market that are picking up?

Janelle: I personally am really interested in rooftop event spaces. I think they’re really interesting. Again, another place to have meetings where it’s fun and adds a little interest and a little way to stand out with a meeting.

I’ve seen—the Dansko building has a really nice pergola up there where you can just go and sit and they have nice plantings up there. You can hang out and kind of look at the greenery. So, that’s a really interesting one. Obviously, not for every building, because not every building is built to handle the structural weight of extra soil and people on the roof. But if you can pull it off, it really makes a building stand out, for sure.

Christoph: And that’s what people are looking for, right? If they work for an environment, they look for an environment that’s fun to be in, that’s enjoyable, right? Cool, I guess.

[Related: 5 Things to Consider with Rooftop Usable Space]

Janelle: You want to look forward to going to work.

Christoph: Absolutely. So, rooftop events, so we’re currently recording this in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And it’s a little warmer today. I don’t know how warm it is, like 10 degrees maybe.

Janelle: Yeah. That sounds about right.

Christoph: Oh, my goodness. I mean minus 50 degrees or whatever it was a few days ago.

Janelle: With wind chill, yeah.

Christoph: With the wind chill. And then snow, eight inches yesterday or two days ago, I can’t keep track what day it was.

Janelle: Yeah. Not a good time to be on the roof right now.

Christoph: So, in Iowa, the rooftop might not be a top 10 amenity for sure. But in California, we do have a lot of readers actually in California on Buildings.com. So, that’s one place where you might see them more often, or other warmer states.

Janelle: Sure.

Christoph: I do know this. I was in San Francisco not too long ago. And I was actually at an event that had a rooftop area. And it’s kind of neat, right, to go out, enjoy the outside, the outdoors, I guess. And then also, look out and see what’s surrounding.

Janelle: Yeah. Depending on your location, some places have a really nice skyline view that’s nice for people to look out at from up on the rooftop.

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Christoph: So, what should people consider as they’re thinking about tenant amenities? What are the—is it proactive? Like, talk to your tenants to figure out what they might want? Or do you just want to—should people pitch ideas? Or how do you start the process?

Janelle: Well, budget is obviously the biggest one. And once you know about how much you can spend, you might look at some of the things that you could get for that amount of money. About that same time, you want to do a tenant survey to see what people are looking for and kind of figure out what is feasible and that people would want.

Also, you want to figure out what other benefits things might have, like, if you do think that you could install a green roof with some kind of accessible amenity, another thing about green roofs is that they can reduce your HVAC load on the inside because it’s essentially a very thick layer of insulation up there. So, when you’re doing your cost calculations versus benefit, you really want to consider all of the changes that it’s going to make to your building, not just the tenant amenity part.

Christoph: So, I know this idea for this show actually came from us attending the BOMA International Conference last year. And now, the next one is coming up in June. But you just came back from Nashville, from the International Roofing Expo.

Janelle: Yes, I did.

Christoph: Was there any trend for tenant amenities for the roofs that you can share?

Janelle: Well, actually, there are quite a few green roof vendors out there. And the Music City Center where the show was had a green roof by Sika Sarnafil on it, which was really beautiful. They were doing tours up there, it’s got like a walking path, I think. It’s really nice, so that’s definitely one to look at for ideas.

Christoph: But they didn’t have any events up there? Was it just a tour?

Janelle: I believe Sika was doing tours because they were the people that installed the roof. They didn’t have, like, a nighttime event up there or anything.

Christoph: Yeah. But certainly, that’s something that you can do. Are there any safety concerns when you have people up on your roof? How do you make sure they don’t fall off?

I mean I was in Nashville, actually, I’ve never seen any issues. But I was in Nashville last year, and I went to a game, Tennessee Titans against the Washington Redskins. And I was sitting—where I was sitting, it was like the upper bowl, but it was the first row. And at one point, I’m like, ‘You know what? It’s actually really easy to fall over that little barrier.’ I mean, nobody did. I don’t remember any cases ever happening, but what are the safety concerns? Especially for a roof area?

Janelle: Yeah. Having people up there, you’d really want to put on some kind of a railing or some other barrier. That may even be required by code. I’m not sure. So, that would be something to check out with a building inspector or some other local code official to see what’s required if you have people going up on the roof. At minimum, some kind of fall protection for people that are going to be accessing it would be important.

Christoph: Very interesting. So, then ping pong tables, that’s version one of tenant amenities, right? People putting those in their offices, I guess?

Janelle: Yeah. The classic recreational spaces. Some people like foosball. That’s another really popular one that people have been doing for a while.

Christoph: I know people have been doing them, but have you actually seen people use those? So, every time I go anywhere where they have them, I never see anybody use them. So, are they just decoration? Or do people actually use them longer term?

Janelle: You know, it’s hard to say because I’ve never worked somewhere that had a foosball table. So, I don’t know if I just—when I visit those buildings, if I’m just not catching people at the right time? It’s hard to say. But I’m sure they wouldn’t keep it if people weren’t using it.

Christoph: Well, I worked for a company once that did have a ping pong table. And the only time I used it was when I needed an office space. So, I used the ping pong table as my desk.

Janelle: Nice.

Christoph: So, it made for a fun Instagram picture, but certainly—and nobody came in and said, ‘Christoph, you have to get out of here because we have our game of ping pong.’

Janelle: Yeah. ‘We’re having our ping pong meeting. Please leave.’

Christoph: Ping pong meeting. Great. What else do people need to think about? Any other last thoughts?

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Janelle: You know, it’s really about knowing your building and knowing your tenants. So, really I’d just look at your budget and look at what your tenants want and what they need, and maybe assemble a committee. If you have multiple tenants, get some representatives from the different tenants to weigh in and try to find something that works for the most people.

Christoph: So, is a tenant amenity, is it something that has to be fun or not like work related? Or can it be other practical things?

Janelle: Sure. It can be all kinds of things, like, a collaborative space could be a tenant amenity if it’s got some kind of special aspect to it, or let’s say maybe flexible furniture. I know there’s some chairs out there where you can sit, or you can perch, or leaning nooks, things like that.

Just things that set you apart, really. It’s not just a desk and a chair. You’d expect to have that, but you might not expect to have, let’s say, a treadmill that you could swap out for a desk, for example.

Christoph: So, like, having stand up desks, for example, that could be a tenant amenity.

Janelle: Yeah.

Christoph: Some of those things. I was at some conference, and now I’m currently blanking on the name, AHR Expo, which is, of course, HVACR in Atlanta. And I saw some things there that are very practical. I don’t know if they’re necessarily tenant amenities.

[Related: Highlights from the AHR Expo Floor]

But one that comes to mind, there was a product that was cooling the room quietly. So, now, in a lot of conference rooms, of course, you have the thing blowing on you to get it cool. And this was the no-air something. Like, is that a tenant amenity, too? Or is that too practical?

Janelle: You know, it’s hard to say. It’s like, what phrase do you put on really comfortably cooling that isn’t blasting with noise all the time? One HVAC thing I would definitely consider as an amenity is there’s an app that—I wanna say it’s called “Comfy.” Tenants can use it to get like a 10 sec blast of either heating or cooling when they’re too cold or too warm. And it’s very customized, but it actually ends up saving energy because people don’t just adjust the thermostat and then leave it on all day.  And often that 10 second burst of conditioning is enough to make someone feel more comfortable without actually having to just leave the heating or air conditioning on.

Christoph: Right. So, it’s really about how do you create the best environment for the people that are in the space. And, of course, that’s important because, if you’re an employer, for example, you want to keep the people. If you’re a building owner, you of course want to keep your tenants, right?

Janelle: Right.

Christoph: So, if it’s a terrible experience, why would anybody ever stay? So, the design certainly is important. Great. Well, thanks for joining us today, everyone. Thanks for listening. That was Janelle Penny, our senior staff writer, and Christoph Trappe, chief content engagement director. Certainly, they’ll be more on tenant amenities at this year’s BOMA conference, which is in Salt Lake City, June 22-25. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in.

Janelle: Thank you.

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