By Kate Cohen and Anna Cosens-Hall
After months at home, we are all looking forward to reconnecting face to face. While a general feeling of apprehension lingers, most people are craving the ability to get back out into the world, see work colleagues, and reestablish a sense of normalcy. Office buildings can support those desires with safe, clean and service-based amenities to help reestablish the connections we have all been missing.
Every workplace amenity should aim to provide peace of mind to tenants and evoke a feeling of security. This translates to tangible safety measures such as touchless technology, frequent cleaning of high-touch areas, changes to air handling, and reduced capacity in elevators, conference rooms and other high-traffic areas. Simply rearranging or repurposing common areas or integrating indoor-outdoor spaces can accommodate social distancing while contributing to a feeling of freshness.
The good news is that many preparations landlords are implementing to welcome back tenants are also low- and no-cost ways to promote work-life balance. Why is this important? The time spent working from home has been long enough for new habits to be formed. Tenants will expect their places of work to provide choice and flexibility to keep new practices in place. Building owners can offer creative services that not only help occupants abide by social distancing guidelines, but also cater to the work-life balance of individuals as they return to the office.
Concierge services that were once considered luxury, such as dry cleaning drop-off and grocery delivery, will become commonplace. While on-site cafés and delis are prevalent, it may be pragmatic to set up order-ahead options or delivery to building suites. There are also third-party delivery providers that partner with office buildings to offer a daily rotating menu of restaurant delivery options.
For the near term, office programming will shift away from large gatherings in lobbies to activities that tenants can participate in from the comfort of their own suite while still connecting them to the building. We could also see a growing desire for programs to support the local community and help those in need. Events could include school supply and food collections, blood drives, and fundraisers that allow for more individualized creativity, such as office door decorations.
Spending time together builds a sense of community – something we always value but seem to cherish more after a significant shared experience like COVID-19. While high-density environments will be put on hold, in-person collaboration on specific tasks or projects will still be necessary. To accomplish this, tenants will demand clean, versatile spaces for employees to meet in a safe and comfortable way. In the long term, as a portion of the workforce opts for a more flexible work arrangement, these spaces will become an essential amenity that will support interpersonal interaction once restrictions are lifted.
We are facing a new chapter in how business is conducted, and it will look different across geographies and industries. Questions remain about how organizational culture, workplace layout, tenant amenities, capital investments and daily operations will change. We may not yet know all the answers, but we can begin to infuse amenities and services into office buildings that reflect the current reality and cater to tenants’ desire for safety and cleanliness.
Kate Cohen is a Senior Associate and team leader for The Lab, a holistic approach to commercial real estate. Anna Cosens-Hall is the marketing and communications specialist for The Lab.