What to Do When Real Life Comes to the Office


It’s becoming old news, really … how our professional lives have crept into our personal ones, taking up more and more space. “We work 24/7,” many will say. “We’re never unplugged. We’re always connected.”

So, it’s no surprise that we hear very little of the reverse—how our private lives can insinuate themselves into our workday, making it easier for all of us to function, relieving at least some of the round-the-clock stress. But it’s happening and, believe it or not, it’s coming into our workplaces.

A Dash of Retail, a Pinch of Hotels

In places like the George Street precinct in Sydney, and in Glendale, Calif., office settings are taking on a high-end hospitality vibe through the use of concierge services and, along the way, picking up some of the lingo typically associated with the retail market—phrases such as “customer experience.”

We’re seeing initiatives that address wellness, such as yoga and meditation classes and running clubs.

“There is a growing initiative around customer experience,” says Michelle McNally, general manager of commercial services for ISPT, an Australia-based property fund manager and owner of 363 and 345 George Street. “We’re trying to make the workplace a much more engaging place to be, where people feel they have a lot of outside-of-work needs and wants being met.”

On the needs side of the list, there are the pesky chores traditionally relegated to downtime, “services such as dry-cleaning, shoe repair and clothes repair,” says McNally, “services that would typically take people out of the office. Now they’re coming into the office and making the process a lot more convenient.”

When it comes to wants, the list continues: “We’re seeing initiatives that address wellness, such as yoga and meditation classes and running clubs.” You can also get help booking tickets to a show or reservations at the restaurant of your choice, she says.

Imaginations Gone Wild

The degree of service a building can offer is really limited only by the creativity of the team managing it. “It’s raining today and I know full well someone forgot their umbrella,” says Craig Whittaker, general manager and controller of TAL, a life insurance firm with offices at 363 George Street. “The concierge service will lend them out. It just makes life easier.”

Raining 2.jpg

Forgot your umbrella? No worries, your concierge service can loan you one for the day.

He notes that anticipating the needs and wants of tenants is what a proactive concierge amenity is all about. He tells of televisions put up in time for occupants to witness the 2015 Rugby World Cup. “There was an area cordoned off to watch the results and even participate in various games,” he says. The same held true for the Summer Olympics last year.

Rick Caruso agrees. Caruso’s leading-edge take on office-sector hospitality is finding shape in a nine-story mixed-use asset, once a Masonic temple, he developed in Glendale, and the watchword there is service. (Both the Glendale and Sydney assets are managed by CBRE.)

“You want somebody to do your grocery shopping? Our hospitality team will hold them in a refrigerated area, and when you are ready to leave, our valet will put the groceries in the trunk of your freshly washed car together with your dry cleaning,” he told Blueprint, presented by CBRE, a while back.

Mixed-Use: Personal & Professional

The provision of such services reaches much deeper than the details of dry-cleaning or yoga to a more intimate need. “We’re trying to cut down on the chores you have to do after your day job is done so you can get home sooner and spend more time with your family,” Caruso says.

Ashley Branca, experience services lead within CBRE’s Workplace practice, calls it a culture of worth. In “Designing the Workplace Experience,” the second installment of last year’s Workplace Performance series, she advocated a forward-thinking hospitality approach to tackle the challenges of daily work and “to aid in the personal needs of employees struggling with the blurred lines between work and life.” The entire concept is a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

We’re trying to cut down on the chores you have to do after your day job is done so you can get home sooner and spend more time with your family.

And, to trot out another cliché, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. While tenants are being serviced, freed from certain drudgery or allowed to take a breather in meditation, building ownership is building loyalty. Who wouldn’t choose such amenities if they had a choice between two otherwise similar assets? And once there, why would you want to leave?

“We want to maintain a work environment and a corporate atmosphere to both attract and retain a very talented staff,” says Whittaker. The building’s services clearly support that initiative.

Underscoring that link between service and people served is the seemingly contradictory capabilities of being both proactive and responsive. “In Sydney, there’s a very proactive management team,” he says. “They want to ensure that the tenant interests are being managed effectively.” In order to do that, management takes the pulse of its occupants, to “get their thoughts. As a tenant you feel like you’re part of the decision process.”

And therein lies the true secret behind the office as customer experience: being part of the process, having a say. Yes, we’re always plugged in and, in a sense, captive to our devices. Isn’t a little help—and a bit of a say—rather nice?


Sign up to receive our Weekly Newsletter