The rise of tenant experience (T(e)X)
We have watched with great interest as the tenant experience (‘T(e)X’) industry has grown up and developed even over the last few years. The drivers were very strong … for landlords, there was a shift from just providing a big empty box to a tenant and leaving it at that.
With WeWork setting a benchmark for ‘space as a service’ landlords were pushed to have deeper dialogue with their corporate occupiers and tenants. I’m not saying that they were previously unwilling, but perhaps it was not the norm.
No doubt, however, they needed little push when one considers the cost of one of these assets sitting empty, or being able to charge an additional £ or $ per square foot. Increasing the marginal propensity to renew could provide a great ROI. Plus, they should be able to collect valuable data that can be used across the remainder of their assets.
Leading tenant experience companies such as Equiem, Hq0, Spaceflow, District and others were able to create community around buildings. Allowing them to order food or book meeting rooms; discounts at local retailers or access to the office; book into fitness sessions or find out building information.
Workplace versus tenant experience
So, how does tenant experience different from workplace experience?
For me, I think (fairly or not) about these two being akin to UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) in the software world.
Tenant experience provides the last mile means of interface for occupiers and tenants, whereas workplace experience is more focused on some of the deeper infrastructure and workflow processes that revolve around an employee’s utilisation of the workplace.
As an illustration, tenant experience relates to making it easy to order food to an employee’s desk, whereas workplace experience deals more with when or why that employee has decided to come into the office to begin with and what is there for them when they do.
Yes, it’s a simplification but it is a framework for asking the follow-on question.
The world without workplaces
What does workplace experience mean when there is no office?
The reason I brought up the difference between T(e)X and W(e)X was that I feel that workplace experience has a greater role to play in any shift towards working from home or remote work. I have written elsewhere about the degree to which I think this shift will happen, and what it will take for this to occur, but on the assumption - which I think is reasonable - that there is some measurable move away from standard working hours in a single, centralised office, what does this mean for workplace experience?
I should also mention that I believe the T(e)X companies will expand further into this W(e)X area, so the distinction between them may be less relevant going forward.
One can think of the questions that are central to workplace experience and then consider how they may be answered going forward:
Can our employees be as productive at home as they are in the office?
Do they have access to everything they need?
Why are they choosing to come in (or not) in the first place?
Should they be able to use other spaces closer to home?
What should we do with the shared resources we allocated to the office?
If fewer people are coming into the office, what does this mean for that space?
You can see from the above questions, that the decisions may not be obvious, and of course will never be the right ones for everyone in the company.
For example, the living arrangements of senior employees is likely to be very different to that of the younger ones. The senior employees may have dedicated work areas and outdoor space (but may have kids and the need to work to their timetables) - the younger ones may be living in shared accommodation with poor quality internet and inappropriate seating situations.
It could be the other way around.
Should the company shut down the on-site gym and provide subsidised memberships to employees instead? Should they do the same with shared workspace operators closer to their employees?
Every company is different.
For Cleverly, our clients operate across a number of different industries .. from software companies to care homes; food & beverage to facilities management companies. These questions are more or less relevant for each of them, and their answers are often dictated by their colleagues and places of work.
Still, having only recently got comfortable with the value of tenant experience, managers (both in landlords and their customers) are now needing to ask an ever bigger question of how to provide workplace experience.