The future is here. The millennial workforce has reached the point where they are starting families. And with this transition, there is a newfound appreciation for the value of working within more of a suburban environment. The question is whether or not existing suburban offerings are ready to effectively accommodate millennials, including providing them with the most appealing amenities that made up their urban lives.
The answer, understandably, depends on the age of the suburban site. According to this FacilitiesNet article, “as much as 22 percent of the U.S. suburban office inventory is obsolete, and will either need to the repurposed into another use such as hospitality or storage, or somehow create the walkable access to restaurants and retail so desired by employees and employers alike.”
Suburban sites with the most appeal combine the best of suburban and urban environments, like access to public transit, walkable main streets, and good schools. Examples of these markets include the Frisco-Plano area in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, which has recently attracted the likes of Toyota and JP Morgan Chase, according to an article in National Real Estate Investor.
And, as this Bloomberg article discusses, “Suburban landlords are upgrading office parks with amenities to mimic urban life, too. At Van Vlissingen’s properties, that’s meant fitness centers, food-truck Fridays, beach volleyball courts, and a fire pit and amphitheater where monthly concerts are staged. Origin Investments, a real-estate investment firm, recently spruced up a dated office building outside Denver with a 4,000-square-foot fitness center and a barista-driven coffee lounge and stationed a rotating cast of food trucks outside a building it owns near Charlotte.”
Success goes beyond the amenities
While amenities have always played a role in attracting this workforce segment, the most successful redesigns will embrace the opportunity to go beyond being hip or trendy. The reality is that millennials are accustomed to having seamless access to a host of technologies in order to remain both collaborative and productive, which often means leveraging the skills of IT and facilities professionals throughout the build-out process. While IT will bring the technical expertise to select collaboration solutions with the best security and reliability, facilities leaders can keep the project focused on user experience, which is what ultimately determines success.
Understandably, this means seizing the opportunity to add technologies that didn’t exist or lacked maturity when the facilities were initially built. Future-focused locations will be internet and IoT ready while leveraging state-of-the-art collaboration and communications tools that facilitate and encourage interaction.
Undergoing a renovation to accommodate the aging millennial is also an opportunity to create an environment that encourages collisions and thinks of ways to pull people out of traffic with natural pull-off zones along the way to support and encourage conversations.
As Patricia Kammer, a senior design researcher on Steelcase’s WorkSpace Futures team explains, “When we design these spaces, we need to encourage the likelihood of collisions. Is it supporting the behavior around what happens when two people bump into each other? Is it simply a verbal conversation? Or will people want to take it deeper? How long will these encounters take? Do you want to provide opportunities to take a seated posture? Do you want to enable them to whiteboard an idea out? These are all aspects companies need to consider.”
Bottom line: With the right strategy, companies can look at this transition as a new option for their primary offices, or satellite offices that need to be connected via visual technology. And, recognizing that millennials are ready for change presents an exciting opportunity to rethink and repurpose.