The amenities game is a fine tightrope to walk in the commercial real estate business. Neglect amenities, and your income will be hindered by lower rents and higher turnover. Go overboard, and you can easily spend more than your building can sustainably recoup.
Some amenities are simply required: An office building without high-speed internet access isn’t long for this world. Others are high-risk but potentially high-reward: A fully equipped gym will more than pay for itself in the right market, but in others, its costs will far outweigh the benefits.
Expensive amenities can be worth it, but they require careful planning and consideration. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of simple, low-cost amenities to consider right away. Ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, these are some of the easiest amenities to implement, but they can make a big difference in tenant satisfaction.
1. Bike Racks
One of the single most affordable amenities to offer is the humble bike rack. By providing tenants with a place to safely store their bike at work – preferably somewhere shielded from the elements – you can enable a healthy alternative to driving and show your commitment to helping the environment. It may even help you to qualify for an additional LEED point.
Across the U.S., the number of employees biking to work has increased by 60 percent over the last decade and shows no sign of slowing down. Studies show that bicycle commuters are also the happiest with their commutes, above even those lucky souls who are able to walk to work.
At just $200 to $500 for a bike rack and the nominal cost of installation, this investment is often an easy decision.
2. Social Spaces
Buildings with a significant amount of unused space, either in their lobby or elsewhere, can change a lot about the dynamic of their space by creating a fairly simple social lounge. With a little furniture, fast wi-fi, and perhaps a coffee machine, these spaces quickly become areas for collaborative working, impromptu meetings, and cross-tenant socialization. This last point, especially, helps to foster a sense of building community that makes tenants feel satisfied with and at home in their spaces.
With a larger investment down the road, you may be able to use the lounge to turn a small profit with an in-house coffee shop. This increases the value of the space even further.
3. Smart Thermostats
Temperature is a big point of contention in some offices. Some people run hot, some people run cold, and some other people have to pay the bills at the end of the month. Disagreements over the right temperature in the office are frustrating and a drain on productivity. Fortunately, there’s a solution.
Companies like Comfy are turning office temperature into a democracy. Employees download an app that connects to a smart thermostat in the office. Users indicate whether they feel hot, cold, or ‘comfy,’ and the app crunches the numbers to find a range of temperatures that work (roughly) for everyone.
Removing this pain point for tenants and giving every employee a direct way that they can interact with an amenity you are providing is a great way to improve satisfaction with your space. At a few cents a square foot, that satisfaction is often worth it.
Even though the office lunch hour has changed in the last several years, there are still millions of workers who eat lunch at the office every day, resulting in vast quantities of food waste to be disposed of. Overall, that waste produces approximately 16 percent of methane emissions in the U.S., making it a significant cause of climate change. Setting up a composting program helps tenants to feel like they are contributing to the solution. Also important, with composting there is finally something useful to be done with all those coffee grounds.
Most offices already recycle, so adding composting into the mix isn’t a massive hurdle. In most major verticals, there are companies that will take compost away just like trash, and the costs are generally minimal. Commercial spaces catering to a younger, more environmentally conscious market may consider skipping this and composting directly to produce the soil needed for next year’s green spaces for major cool points.
More costly amenities are often worthwhile investments for commercial real estate owners looking to set their buildings apart, especially Class A buildings, but these comparably low-cost amenities may do almost as much to improve tenant’s perception of a property. From a property management standpoint, that’s an easy win.