So observed Heraclitus of Ephesus approximately 2,500 years ago. Literally translated from ancient Greek as “everything flows” or “all things are in flux,” the philosophical concept of panta rhei is perhaps more resonant to us in the familiar vernacular, “there is nothing so constant as change.”
The commercial real estate industry has been undergoing constant change since well before the COVID-19 crisis, moving from a purely transactional lessor-to-lessee model to one that invests greater attention to the brand experience of the end-users: our tenants. CRE managers recognize the enormous competitive value that may be derived from delivering exceptional tenant service, expanded perks to members of the tenant community, and enhanced conveniences that facilitate the most productive day possible while working at the building. Tenants are also increasingly provided with opportunities to experience live events (which will return!) and digital content that can add significant competitive advantages for CRE assets beyond the traditional — though necessary — essentials of providing safe, attractive, and well-maintained facilities.
Providing tenants with a full spectrum of high-quality experiences reinforces strong relationships not only between the employer and the building, but by association between the tenants and their employers as well. Ultimately, how individual tenants feel about where they work can add significant value for their employers in the form of increased productivity, improved employee retention, and elevated morale. Tools that enhance convenience and professional development also accrue to the benefit of the tenant’s employers, providing valuable added benefits to membership in the building’s business community. Today, many of these features are being delivered virtually through the use of customized, building-branded apps that deliver a wide range of powerful experiences and productivity platforms, from routine daily access control and visitor management tools, to the convenient ordering of food and transportation services, to providing access to content that contribute to professional and personal development.
The COVID-19 health crisis has certainly disrupted the CRE industry and affected many of the businesses that depend on our tenants, but it has also accelerated the trajectory of the change that was already happening across the industry. Many building owners are already preparing for an expected business culture shift to employers offering their teams more flexible work arrangements. The number of tenants that will work in the building on any given day, and the frequency with which they will return to work there each week may — at least in part — become matters of tenant choice. By elevating the quality and richness of the tenant experience in our buildings, we can aspire to influence those choices, encouraging tenants to choose our buildings more often.
When tenants are presented with the ability to safely return to our buildings in greater numbers, things will most certainly be different from the way they were in 2019. Both they, and we, will have changed. As our friend Heraclitus also said, “no one ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and they are not the same person.” When our tenants next step into our buildings, they may feel relieved or emotionally anxious, mentally ready or unprepared, biased against returning or open-minded, filled with excitement or dread. That is why the quality of the experience tenants encounter their first time back is so critical to establishing their new attitude toward the workplace (see Frank Talks CRE: Opening Day). The next time they return after that first time, they will have changed again based on how well we delivered on their last experience in the building, and hopefully for the better: they will return relieved, ready, and excited. If we provide a consistent quality of experience, we will more successfully grow tenant demand and reinforce our building’s position as the best, most productive, and most enjoyable place to work. And, when they choose to work from home, the digital environment available through the building’s custom-branded app can continue to influence their work experience, a benefit of being part of our business community virtually, if not physically.
Change will surely continue to present new challenges and opportunities to the CRE industry as the coming months and years unfold, and this much is certain — tenant attitudes toward working in our buildings will drive a great deal of building and employer decision-making, and those attitudes will be based on their perceptions of the experience we provide. It is important that each time they step into our river, the change is a positive one, and one that is responsive to their needs and concerns. Those needs and concerns will remain a dynamically changing force, and our responsiveness and flexibility will be key. The one constant in all this change is that a 24/7/365 virtual building experience can help us remain nimble and add value for our tenants with functionality and content that can quickly respond to an ever-changing environment. Because, as we know, panta rhei.
Frank Supovitz, an award-winning experience designer, producer, event organizer, and author, has played a leading role in the success of such world-class properties as the Super Bowl, the Indy 500, and the South Street Seaport in New York City. A respected global thought-leader in sports, entertainment, and facilities management, he brings more than three decades of expertise to the HQO Team as a senior consultant for Tenant Experience. Contact HqO to put our Tenant Experience team to work for you.