Office landlords, tenants learn how to attract new generation of workers

Millennial employees demand different (and more) amenities than previous generations, and landlords and employers are starting to offer them

Business in Vancouver
October 16, 2019

Wendy Waters, GWL’s vice-president of research services and strategy, stands in a newly added bike-parking area at one of the office buildings her company manages. Photo by Rob Kruyt

Landlords and tenants are learning that to attract millennial-generation workers, they need to upgrade their workplaces to add amenities.

Workers between 24 and 39 years old tend to have different preferences than previous generations had, say landlords and business owners.

One stark difference is that members of this younger generation more frequently want their workplaces to have lounges or entranceway lobbies that can be a second workspace – a place where they can go to for a few hours to hold some casual meetings or to do some work on their laptop computers, say landlords and business owners, who are relying on surveys.

“We don’t necessarily understand how conversant millennials are with social media,” Rennie Marketing Systems owner Bob Rennie told Business in Vancouver.

“We react to statements completely differently than they do. They are very comfortable communicating on Instagram, while we’re still picking up the phone.”

Rennie said many of his 92 employees and 162 real estate brokers are relatively young, and that he recently hired a new head of human resources in part to ensure that his workplace is meeting staff desires.

Rennie recently ripped out some walls on the ground floor of his 51 East Pender Street office to create what he calls “the park.”

The inside space has picnic tables and a large open area, with eight breakout areas. A pastry chef is at the site every day between 7am and 2pm to make cookies and croissants as well as coffee for workers who want to hang out on the ground level, Rennie said.

Interactiveness and sociability

Having such spaces on the ground floors of office buildings is something that Hudson Pacific Properties CEO, president and chairman Victor Coleman agreed is increasingly a priority.

“Millennials are looking for interactiveness – so interactive lobbies, great Wi-Fi systems, service in the lobbies, some place to gather beyond their own floors, their own spaces,” he told BIV.

Hudson Pacific owns buildings in Los Angeles, San Jose, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver.

The Los Angeles-based company and a private equity fund managed by a subsidiary of New York City-based Blackstone Group Inc. bought the four-tower Bentall Centre in Vancouver earlier this year from Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group Co. Ltd. in a transaction announced in March.

The sale price was not disclosed but Anbang reportedly bought the complex for $1.06 billion in 2016, the largest real estate transaction in Vancouver’s history.

Hudson Pacific owns a 20 per cent stake and is the operational manager of the site.

Coleman said his company plans to significantly upgrade and expand Bentall Centre and that lobbies will be transformed in part to appeal to millennials.

“You’re going to have some gathering areas where you can sit, plug and play,” he said. “You can get your work done and you’re not interfering with people coming and going. We’re going to be taking some useless space, typically, and making it an active space.

“You’ll know that you can walk out of your office and go to the lobby and you can camp out there for a couple hours and get things done and have some amenities circling around that.”

That means food kiosks, charging stations and 5G Wi-Fi, he said.

What the workers want

Similar things are happening at buildings that GWL Realty Advisors manages.

GWL recently surveyed 573 workers in three office buildings that it manages in Vancouver and asked staff what amenities they wanted that their buildings did not already have.

The response:

• 29 per cent wanted a sit-down restaurant or café (among those aged 18 to 34, this preference rose to 33 per cent);

• 28 per cent wanted access to a convenience store;

• 22 per cent wanted an outdoor seating area; and

• 21 per cent wanted a lounge where employees could mingle and socialize (among those aged 18 to 34, preference for this amenity rose to 29 per cent).

“At Robson Court, we’ve added [as a ground-floor tenant] Smak, which is a gluten-free, quick-service restaurant, and a poké restaurant, so there are two fairly healthy choices that are right there,” said Wendy Waters, GWL’s vice-president of research services and strategy.

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