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Workplace and facilities managers can bring the hospitality and tourism mindset to their corporate offices, says Tom Carroll.

© GettyImages
© GettyImages

04 November 2019 | Tom Carroll.

From the Empire State Building to London’s ‘Gherkin’, tourist destinations and functioning workplaces often operate side by side. The viewing deck at the International Chamber of Commerce, for example, has made its office one of Hong Kong’s top tourist destinations.

Instagram has escalated the appeal of the built environment to tourists and office owners can capitalise by providing the best views of the city. But there is a wider lesson for buildings operators: apply the experiential or ‘art of attraction’ mindset of the tourism and hospitality sector to the workplace and gain better engagement, attraction and retention of staff.

How does this work?

Stunning views, striking interiors and fit-outs can enhance a workspace’s ability to attract and retain talent, increasing time spent in the office. Google, PrestaShop and Alpha FX have demonstrated the value of focusing on the experience of the office’s occupants, receiving social media acclaim for their workspace design capturing their brand identity.

The modern employee puts a premium on choice, flexibility and the individual experience – qualities in the hospitality sector. So how can workplace and facilities managers create the ‘art of attraction’?

1. Develop a one-of-a-kind experience

FMs can modify the office space to provide a unique offering for their staff. Offices positioned within skyscrapers can intensify their sharable, elevated perspective of the cityscape through interactive community space, with some organisations encouraging employees to bring family and friends to share the experience.

Workspaces that don’t benefit from such attributes could create a relaxed, non-corporate space by introducing bars and restaurants – or areas for staff to take a break. Google’s offices in King’s Cross, feature a Harry Potter-inspired breakout area called ‘Talk 9 ¾’ to encourage staff interaction. Such features can blur the line between work and leisure.

2. Empower employees to create their own experiences

Modern tourists are empowered to shape their own experience to share on social media. Those managing and operating office spaces should create employee choice allowing staff to work from a range of locations: on-site café, breakout space or collaboration pod. For those with limited space or resources, hot-desking can provide similar benefits as employees can choose with whom to collaborate, while actually saving on costs.

Those who work in greener buildings can provide a workspace that reflects their own sustainable identity and ethos, while improved air quality can lead to higher staff performance and provide further opportunity to embed individual choice into the workplace. The air filtration system in JLL’s Shanghai office at HKRI Taikoo Hui, for example, averts air quality issues caused by fine particulate matter and volatile organic compounds.

The employee experience is fundamental to a modern workplace’s design so FMs need to recognise the confluence between the hospitality mindset and a successful, flexible office. While restructuring a workspace to introduce fantastic facilities and amenities can require investment, the increased productivity and engagement of employees through the hospitality ethos can reduce attrition.

3. Cater to employees’ individual needs

Of course, adopting a hospitality mindset is about more than unique aesthetics. Workplaces that cater to employees’ particular needs can help to improve their experience and physical and mental wellbeing. 

Just as the best tourist attractions will be those that pay due care and attention to the experience of visitors, the most effective offices will be those which place the employee experience at the heart of the workplace. 

For some, this may simply mean providing community space or work pods in an underused corner where staff can relax or collaborate; for others, it may go as far as an on-site gym or restaurant. With some creative thinking, facilities managers with any budget can apply the hospitality mindset to their offices. 

Tom Carroll is head of EMEA corporate research at JLL