How to Bring Employees Back to the Office: Top 5 Office Space Trends to Consider

If you’re like most New York City decision makers, you’re figuring out where you fall on the hybrid work spectrum, how hybrid work is affecting and will affect company culture and productivity, and how office space plays a role in your strategy moving forward. We live and breathe New York City office space every day, so we’ve learned a lot from clients and other NYC tenants about what employees want and what employers are doing about it (hint: it’s less about incentivizing people to come back to work with gimmicks like Taco Tuesday and Happy Hour, and more about the quality of the space and office experience they want to come into). Here we share the top 5 office space trends to consider to elevate the office experience and bring employees back into the office.

OFFICE SPACE TREND #1: Outdoor Space Might Be the New Must Have

If living through a pandemic in New York City taught us anything, it’s the value of outdoor space. As companies return to the office, many are looking to take office space with private (or shared) outdoor space. Whether a private terrace or a roofdeck, outdoor space allows for both a change of scenery and pause for employees, and a great way to entertain potential clients and talent. The environment of the outdoor space is another aspect of your space that is necessary in attracting employees back to the office. Most notably, the rising generation of Gen Z workers are more educated on our negative contributions to the environment, making this a factor many will take into consideration when searching for the company they want to work for. Gen Z prefers an outdoor space that makes them feel like they’re in nature- they don’t want to be on a patio that’s just a replica of the office. The entire point of an outdoor space should be to provide an escape from the work day. Providing employees with an outdoor space has shown to be beneficial to not only productivity levels, but also company culture and general mental health. Outdoor space can be found in not only new construction, but subleases and other buildings as well.

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OFFICE SPACE TREND #2: Tenant Amenity Centers to Enhance Your Space 

Think of a tenant amenity center as the clubhouse you get to use anytime, but don’t have to pay for. From Board conference rooms and meeting space to host everything from company all hands to investor presentations, to outdoor terraces and happy hour bars (we’ve even seen golf simulators and gelato machines), NYC landlords are focused on creating tenant amenity centers as a perk for companies returning to the office. These amenity centers have a modern aesthetic and finishes, feature functional (and beautiful) furniture, and are thoughtfully designed – often by well known NYC architects and designers. In recent weeks, we’ve had clients focused on buildings like 10 Grand Central, 100 Park and 340 Madison solely for their tenant amenity centers. Like outdoor space, tenant amenity centers function not only as a change of scenery for employees to meet, relax or take a pause, but also as a place to host clients, investors and potential talent without leaving your building. 

As New Yorkers know, nothing is free – but tenant amenity center use often is (you just need to reserve the space). And for small to medium size companies that may not want to take and pay for more space simply to accommodate features like a Board size conference room, tenant amenity centers offer the opportunity to use space without paying for it on a day to day basis.

OFFICE SPACE TREND #3: Upgraded Technology for Ease and Efficiency

Technology has transformed the way we work, play and live – post-pandemic, we tend to think of technology as the connective force that makes working from home not only easier, but possible. So how does tech play a role in bringing employees back to the office? Think features that give you and your employees a technological edge they don’t get from home: 

  • TV screen walls built into conference rooms
  • Mobile app for booking meetings
  • Mobile app to locate other employees in a hoteling environment 
  • Touchless lighting systems to decrease germ spread while in the office.

Technology isn’t going to be the make or break factor in whether an employee comes back to the office, but – especially for Gen Z and millennial talent who grew up with this technology – it can be a relatively simple add-on to make the transition back to the office more seamless and overall office experience more enhanced. In some cases, this perk will cost you – technology is efficient, but it isn’t cheap. In today’s market though, many spaces come equipped with these features already built in, from sublease options where the previous company paid to retrograde their space with top tier technology to direct spaces where landlords understand the demand for technology and have included it in their prebuilt spaces.

OFFICE SPACE TREND #4: More Warm, Colorful, Collaborative Spaces

Your company should be a space that inspires creativity and productivity. Since so many employees protest that they get just as much done at home as they do in an office, the space they are willing to come back to needs to inspire creativity, productivity and energy they can’t get from the comfort of their own homes. In other words: the days of boring gray, low drop ceilings and little natural light are gone; instead, employees want warm, collaborative, and inviting spaces with high ceilings, strong natural light and soft seating lounge areas. They want modern finishes like sleek minimalistic decor, glass walls that allow for natural light, high ceilings with exposed beams,   are especially in. This is not new news, but the push to bring people back to the office has spotlighted the need for companies to create an office experience that sparks creativity, productivity and energy through aesthetic and amenities. 

 

It’s no secret that colors have long been associated with our our emotional output (think McDonalds); especially now, it’s important for an office space to use color schemes, decor, lighting and finishes that feel up to date, airy and lit as naturally as possible and promotes positive energy. Gen Z and Millennials, now the majority of the workforce, grew up in a world where everything was about aesthetic. Simply put, they want work somewhere Instagrammable, and you’re more likely to bring them back to work by creating that space. We’ve seen companies do everything from creating more colorful soft seating lounge areas (think designer decor living room vibe) to painting conference room walls with colorful murals and art. What may seem like small touches to your space can be important motivators for existing employees and prospective talent when considering a transition back to the office. 

OFFICE SPACE TREND #5: Companies That Cultivate and Value Community Win

Between the generational shift happening where more decision makers and employees trend younger, and the war on talent exacerbated by the Great Resignation, companies and decision makers need to ask themselves: what can we do to differentiate ourselves? This is true in general, and increasingly true when it comes to bringing employees back to the office; as a decision maker, you’re creating an office experience that outweighs working remotely full time. One way to do that: community. Gen Z and Millennial employees want Instagrammable, but they also want impact; they want spaces that promote engaging opportunities to better themselves and the world around them, where they feel like part of something larger than themselves.

 There are many ways to use office space to create community and impactful culture. We’re seeing more companies carve out space in their new (or existing) offices for “all hands” meetings where they can prioritize bringing everyone together in a shared experience — some examples include stadium seating areas, soft seating lounge areas and foldable walls to turn conference rooms and other enclosed areas into open air seating. Companies are also increasingly blending work and play to bring employees back to the office, designating specific days as “offsite days” in the office, curated with connective and engaging activities to foster community with employees like happy hours, speakers and games. 

The Takeaway:

There’s a new layer to the war on talent – no longer just how do you attract and retain and the best and the brightest, but now also how do you convince those employees to leave the comfort of remote work to come back to the office. The short answer: people want to come back to the office (in a hybrid way), but only if the space is intentionally set up for collaboration, community and energy that creates an elevated experience. We like to say “your space is your face” — each one is different, but companies and decision makers that prioritize and intentionally curate spaces that employees want to come back to will ultimately win. 

How We Can Help:

We live and breathe office spaces every day and have a constant pulse on the office space market. We know the game, but equally as important we know the players: what NYC decision makers are doing around office space to bring employees back to the office, and how NYC landlords are incentivizing potential companies to move into their buildings (or making it a better deal to stay in their existing spaces). We’re here to listen to what you need, share data and insights as needed to guide you and avoid the “gotchas”, and find and negotiate the best deal on your behalf. And best part? Unlike other NYC brokers, we only represent tenants (never landlords), so you can trust us to shoot you straight, present you with every available space and negotiate aggressively on your behalf with no conflict of interest. We’re proud to be thinking differently and to work with decision makers doing the same. 

CONTACT US: 

If we can share data or insights, answer questions, or help find you the right office space for your business, please reach out to our founder, Bert Rosenblatt at brosenblatt@vicuspartners.com, or at (917) 862-8820.