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BOMA Survey: Office Tenants Optimistic About Future Staffing, Space Needs

Countering Post-Recession Conventional Wisdom, Most Tenants Expect to Hold the Line or Increase Office Footprints
June 26, 2013
Despite the recession and changing workplace trends, the walls aren't closing in on office space requirements just yet, according to the first survey of tenant sentiments and needs by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International since 1999.

BOMA found that, as a group, office tenants are optimistic about the future -- more than 75% of respondents in the 2013 BOMA Global Office Tenant Survey plan to increase staffing levels and space requirements, or at least retain their current employee headcounts and office footprints.

"Clearly, tenant space configurations are different - they need to be friendly and collaborative, with such features such as a work bench, a fun room or multimedia room - but the need for more office space is not going away," noted John Combs, principal of RiverRock Real Estate Group, a West Coast-based CRE management and leasing firm providing property management for industrial, office and retail assets.

"[Requirements] can’t shrink too much more," added Combs. "Those companies that are leasing are taking the same or more space. It’s reconfigured and it’s denser, but many people are hiring."

Atlanta-based Kingsley Associates conducted the survey of nearly 1,300 office tenants between March and April, revisiting attitudes, priorities and needs of office tenants for the first time since a January 1999 report by BOMA and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Kingsley vice president Phil Mobley gave an overview of the "What Office Tenants Want: 2013 BOMA Global Office Tenant Survey" at this week's Every Building Conference and Expo before several thousand attendees at the San Diego Convention Center.

Michael Prabhu, managing director Jones Lang LaSalle's property management portfolio in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, also noted that the outlook among building owners was positive, with improving economic conditions and fundamentals trending in their assets trickling down to the property management level and interactions with tenants.

"We feel the corner has been turned and the economy is moving along, albeit slowly, but in the right direction," Prabhu said. "Tenants in our buildings are feeling more comfortable and confident, which is driving some of their space utilization decision making. It’s a more optimistic environment."

As expected, the survey results reflect the major changes in office tenant priorities since then.

In 1999, barely half of respondents to the previous BOMA survey were located in assets with "intelligent building" features and systems almost taken for granted today such as HVAC, fiber optics, cabling for Internet and high-speed networks, and LAN/WAN connectivity, and strategies such as coworking, hot desking and hoteling were mostly outside the office workplace mainstream a decade and a half ago.

While the updated survey found no universal "next big thing" comparable to the rapid changes in technology and alternative workplace strategies that swept building management in the 2000s, Mobley said the latest study showed that three of the top five factors influencing overall tenant satisfaction are service-related.

One relatively easy way to add value to a building is the addition of health and hygiene amenities such as anti-bacterial dispensers.

"Such amenities are comparatively rare in buildings occupied by survey respondents, but they are rated highly when present," Mobley said.

The full results of the BOMA study will be released next month, including data on tenant attitudes about sustainable building programs and features space usage and telecommuting trends.
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