Outdoor conference rooms. Employee fitness centers. Workplace health fairs and kitchens stocked with healthy snacks. The latest wellness tactics by a Washington employer? Nope.
It’s the landlord.
With amenities like attractive lobbies or ample parking no longer good enough, employee wellness has become a feature corporate landlords are increasingly using to recruit and retain business tenants.
“Environments matter,” said Roberta Levy Liss of Rockville-based Beco Management. “Companies know they can have happier employees in better environments.”
With competitive corporate real estate market in D.C. in recent years — in 2012, D.C. tenants shed more than 3 million net square feet of leased space as the federal government contracted and private companies moved to newer, more efficient buildings to lower their rent payments — every advantage can make a difference.
A survey of tenants released last year by the D.C.-based Building Owners and Managers Association found while health and hygiene amenities were comparatively rare, they were highly liked. In particular, the report pointed out flu shot programs and access to healthy food, which shows building owners may be able to quickly increase tenant satisfaction by adding health-related amenities with relatively little investment.
“Anything a landlord can do to attract tenants in a market as soft as this,” said Jessica Miller, Director of Tenant Advisory Group for Cushman and Wakefield in Washington. “Human capital is one topic on every client’s to-do list.”
There are a number of examples of Washington-area corporate real estate implementing wellness elements into their buildings. For instance, the Tower Cos. in Rockville and longtime partner Lerner Enterprises built its office building using vedic principles, based on ancient Indian philosophy espousing health, happiness and harmony. Among the features for lease, the building has free showers for those who bike to work, three small gardens and a meditation room. A full-size range is available in the kitchen.
Wellness amenities are expected to grow in popularity in commercial real estate. Just last year, wellness real estate group Delos unveiled its first WELL-certified office building, the Los Angeles-based headquarters for commercial real estate firm CBRE. The goal is to ramp up the amount of buildings, including residential properties, which seek WELL certification in a similar fashion to how LEED certification grew in popularity. It’s not all buildings where these sort of perks are found, but they are usually in Class A, or higher end, properties, Miller said. Some of the extras she’s heard are trainers in workplace fitness facilities, towel service in gyms and secure bike storage. “Just five years ago, a lot of leases told tenants they couldn’t bring bikes inside their building. Now clients demand it,” Miller said.
By: Tina Reed, Washington Business Journal
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