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What Will Happen to Communal Office Amenities?

Posted by: | Posted on: June 17, 2020

Before the pandemic, onsite office amenities and communal spaces were surging in demand. After the pandemic, those same amenities are now a big question mark. As office begin to reopen, office owners are starting to consider how to address these spaces, which include fitness centers, cafes and work-enabled lobbies and meeting areas.

“Landlords will need to assess every area of each individual property to determine a course of action for the asset that satisfies mandates, meets tenant needs, and is financially tenable for ownership,” Tim Helgeson, asset manager and SVP at KBS, tells GlobeSt.com.

To start, office owners will need to curate strategies to reduce the spread and transmission of the disease, and create an executable strategy. “Office owners will need to be both sensitive to the risks of viral transmission in common-area amenities and creative in their mitigation of those risks,” says Helgeson. “It is likely that social distancing mandates will be in place for some time, which means that any public area that allows for groups of people to congregate will need to be reconfigured or follow new policies regarding capacity, separation, and sanitation in order to be considered safe.”

This includes re-engineering spaces, installing antimicrobial surfaces where possible and even renovating some amenities into an alternative use. Technology will also play a crucial role. The challenge, however, will be continuing to address and meet user demand. “There are a number of ways to mitigate the spread of illness and enable tenants returning to the office to feel comfortable about doing so,” says Helgeson. “The challenge will be to deliver safe, aesthetically pleasing environments that also provide the opportunity for collaboration and camaraderie.”

KBS has implemented all of these strategies in its office portfolio. “Many of KBS’ tenants have identified several of these methods such as reconfigured use of space, where interior offices incorporate more space between workstations, as well as innovative ways to break down density within a building,” says Helgeson. “We will also likely see more integration of smart tech and touchless amenities, including touchless elevators, automatic doors, faucets, and other smart features for frequently used items within a building.”

Despite the public health crisis, Helgeson still believes that these amenities and services will continue to play an important role in the office market. “Beyond these health focused features, the growing trend towards more convenience-based concierge services and service-based amenities will continue to grow in the current environment,” he says. “This includes items such as food delivery and bike lockers, the latter of which we had previously installed at Meier & Frank Building in Portland, Oregon. It will also include a shift toward more customized space, which will allow tenants to choose the options that work best for them in the new normal.”

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