How to leverage your property's location and context to build a great user experience
Updated: Apr 18, 2020
As global emphases on PropTech, good workplace design and putting experience first continue to grow, it can seem as though there are specific rules and guidelines to optimize your property regardless of where it is located or what its tenants do. While in some cases this is accurate - finding ways to keep spaces fresh through art is seldom a bad idea, and finding ways to connect tenants is always a safe bet - at other times this kind of advice can be too sweeping, particularly when it gets more specific.
The property business is one that rewards creativity, research and most importantly, not taking general advice too literally. The same goes for building a healthy property community.
For instance, it's one thing to say that "people like to come together over food." It's something else entirely to recommend that office owners in general put a free coffee machine in the lobby. Not everyone likes coffee, for one thing. If your property is located next door to a beloved local coffee shop, this suggestion might not fit either. What's more, plenty of buildings have a particular brand identity instituted by ownership and reinforced by the type of tenants on site. If your brand is refined luxury, cheap coffee will be a surefire tenant turn-off.
The same principle is true for events. While yes, office tenants generally enjoy social events, not all events are built the same way. Offices can be large or small, located in Alaska or Tuscany, full of modern tech tenants or old-school lawyers and financiers. Attempting to recommend specific types of events or activities without addressing the situational specifics of each individual office is a recipe for disaster. For owners, taking the huge amount of advice and thought pieces out there right now, and failing to properly contextualize them, is a sure way to waste money and bother tenants as well.
How, then, can owners make their offices resonate with their location, tenant types, demographics and brand identity?
The process starts with good planning. First, owners should understand exactly who their tenants are. This begins by understanding their industry. While over-generalizing can be a problem, if tenants of a given building generally emphasize a particular business, like tech, construction or healthcare, owners should tailor their efforts accordingly. Perhaps a VR party would go over better at a tech-heavy building than a legal industry one. On the flip side, synergies amongst tenants represent a chance to build intra-office networking. Maybe there's an opportunity to set up a monthly Tech Mixer, for instance?
However, true tenant understanding goes beyond industry to also consider demographics and personalities. These may not be easy questions to just ask about, but between a bit of Google-fu and some strategic conversations with tenant company workplace managers, owners should be able to list the broad strokes of each tenant on site. This information can help owners to provide the right perks and activities, since one size certainly does not fit all. For instance, if a building is occupied by busy workers who are used to putting in 60 or more hours a week, they may not be fans of staying late for a party after hours. In this case, perhaps think about offering more passive perks, like discounts to local businesses.
If a party really needs to happen, owners should at least schedule the party for an easier time of day, and ideally set it up so that workers don't need to spend too much time away from their desks. That means that messy foods like barbecue might not be the best idea compared to wraps, pizza or sushi.
Armed with tenant insight, owners should spend some time carefully considering their geographic context as well. There are several dimensions to this. First, where are they located on the map? Are they in a cold region or a desert? The answer to that question might suggest some customizations owners can make to the typical advice: in hot climates maybe think about iced coffee and tea instead of warm beverages, or if in a cold environment perhaps a big basket of hand warmers in the lobby would be appreciated even more than hot cocoa.
There is a local dimension to geography as well. The Office TV show provides a lot of great inspiration for how owners can make their tenants feel appreciated. In one particularly funny episode, pizza for an office party is mistakenly ordered from the despised "Pizza by Alfredo" and not the beloved "Alfredo's Pizza Kitchen." The revolt of the office staff serves as a clear indicator of the importance of knowing your area as a property owner: whether it is pizza, coffee, or an off-site event, take the time to identify what people really like in the area.
Only owners themselves understand the true nature of their property context. This article isn't intended to be an exhaustive guide to tenant experience or programming, but rather it's meant to help steer owners down a path towards properly leveraging their unique property situation in a way that resonates with occupants regardless of their industry, age or personalities. The property business is one that rewards creativity, research and most importantly, not taking general advice too literally. The same goes for building a healthy property community.
Can commercial buildings have a strong culture? Find out here.
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