The Office as a Destination: Why a Hospitality-First Mindset is Mission-Critical

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The office as we know it is changing. This is partially due to the global pandemic, which forced the majority of the workforce to adopt remote options as health and safety concerns skyrocketed. On the other hand, office trends were starting to shift well before COVID-19 became a household name. New ways of thinking about the workplace can be pinpointed back to WeWork’s initial success in 2010.

The WeWork concept revealed a great opportunity for commercial real estate (CRE): a focus on providing community, flexibility, and convenience for tenants in a way that fit their specific needs. Now more than ever, this sentiment rings true. Flexible workplaces are no longer an ideal that employees haven’t experienced. Global surveys reveal that 73% of employees want flexible, remote work options to stay. However, they also prove that employees still want to use the office for social and collaboration purposes — with 67% of respondents indicating they want more in-person opportunities following the pandemic.

This line of thinking means that today’s workplaces are quickly becoming destinations for collaboration, creativity, and social exchange. By learning from the hospitality and retail industries — which have already perfected digital-to-physical experiences — office owners and property teams can address the needs of tenants and elevate the workplace to remain competitive in the market.

Navigating this transition, however, isn’t as simple as it seems. It all starts with defining a hospitality-first mindset, and determining which tools are proving to be the most helpful for building communities as CRE makes the shift.

What is Hospitality in the Workplace?

The hospitality industry has been around for years, but CRE leaders found a revived focus in the customer experience — or more specifically, tenant experience (TeX) — during the early days of the pandemic. This is due to forward-thinking hotel operators who recognized they could support a hybrid workforce by repurposing and upgrading parts of their facilities.

One prominent example of this was when Marriott International Hotels made changes to their Marriott Bonvoy travel program. They began offering day passes to office workers seeking alternate workplaces away from their living rooms. The pass allowed guests to have full access to hotel rooms complete with all the necessary office requirements, such as Wi-Fi, desks, and chairs. Guests could even utilize the hotel’s shared resources for printing and faxing needs, as well as amenities like gyms and pools at certain locations. The goal was to enable “work from anywhere,” helping office employees be more productive and achieve a better work-life balance in an easy, seamless way.

As you can imagine, Marriott’s strategy is not the only way to adopt hospitality experiences. What is clear is that flexibility and convenience are where it all begins. It’s also no surprise that the rise of flex space trends for the office — which can be broken down into coworking models, shared amenities, private suites, and enterprise offerings — have coincided with the need for consumer-first workplaces.

With the right toolset, flexibility can add immense value to the customer experience for office buildings. Not only will tenants be more satisfied with a workplace that offers choice in how and where they work, but they will be able to avoid the stresses of long-term leases, have more conveniences on-site to make their days easier, and feel more connected to their building as a whole.

Creating Better Experiences

Enter tenant experience technology. Connecting building occupants to every building experience — especially those who may be working remotely — will enable tenant companies to support their employees with a truly flexible, consumer-first workplace.

The retail industry does this particularly well, being one of the fastest industries to adopt technology to facilitate digital customer experiences. For example, Amazon has mastered this craft by leveraging consumer smartphones to make purchasing easier, more engaging, and diverse (think Amazon Go, or even just having the ability to choose between in-person and online shopping based on personal preference).

The same concepts can be applied to office buildings. An end-to-end Tenant Experience Platform can channel the workplace through tenants’ smartphones, allowing employees to access necessary building communications; features such as mobile access and resource booking; digital programming that complements your physical building amenities; discounts and perks to on-site and local restaurants and retailers; and more.

Technology also gives property teams meaningful insights into what customers really want in their workplace. Tenants are empowered to download their building app so they can tune in to all the amenities and services that are most useful for them throughout their day. This achieves two things. First, it allows tenants to actively let their building’s property management team know the spaces and experiences they enjoy at work through their engagement with those features. Secondly (and perhaps most importantly) it also allows them to let their property management team know what they don’t like.

This constant feedback keeps the office environment as agile as possible — the more property teams understand about their customers, the better the experience they can continue to provide.

Going “All in” on Hospitality-First Trends

Technology will be the key behind hospitality experiences in the workplace, helping CRE teams to reimagine their customer offerings and lean into those that have meaning and value. This process is what transforms the workplace into a true destination.

Imagine: as a tenant, you use your building app every day. You receive a survey through the app from your landlord, asking you about certain amenities in your building. You know that no one ever uses the on-site gym facility, but you’d love either a pharmacy or high-end grab-and-go vending machine instead. This direct landlord-tenant communication not only saved you significant time trying to find the right contact to make your request to, but it also enabled the property team to act on your request faster.

The office as a destination space needs to provide tenants with opportunities and perks they can’t get at home. The retail industry has also capitalized on this tactic, by taking ordinary shopping experiences and elevating them with multi-faceted perks. This is why popular retail chains like Nordstrom — which typically offers restaurants, coffee shops, and spas in their locations — remain so successful. For added convenience, they even encourage order ahead, curbside pickup, shopping by appointment, and exclusive events based on rewards programs and tiered customer status.

The physical workplace is no longer a traditional 9-to-5 ordeal. Rather, it’s becoming a place that outperforms the home office through matching the evolving needs of tenants as they come. It’s iterative, it’s engaging, and most of all, it’s hospitality-first.

Lauren Mead
Lauren is responsible for HqO's marketing strategy and execution. She joined the company in 2020 with more than 15 years of B2B technology marketing experience. Prior to HqO, Lauren was the Chief Marketing Officer at TimeTrade and has also worked at ClickSoftware (acquired by Salesforce) and Saba Software. She earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Merrimack College and an MBA in marketing from Bentley University.

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