By Gabrielle McMillan, CEO, Equiem
Last year, the BBC undertook the largest survey in the world looking into levels of loneliness across various age groups. The results were both fascinating and shocking.
Whereas most people assume that older generations suffer most acutely from loneliness, the survey revealed that younger people are actually more likely to suffer than any other group. Despite belonging to a generation more in tune with social media, smartphones and messaging platforms designed to create online community, a staggering 36% of people between the ages of 16 and 44 reported that they felt lonely. It seems that while younger generations want the convenience of social media and technology, they are also desperate for the depth of real human interaction, too.
With 16- to 44-year-olds set to account for around 75% of the global workforce in a year’s time, what impact are these socio-dynamic trends having on our workplaces?
A leading selling point pushed by the steady wave of co-working operators in the last five years has been community. Businesses and their staff no longer want to work in isolation. Instead, they want the option to collaborate with people from outside their company, learn skills from like-minded individuals or simply enjoy the collective buzz of working in a larger group. The success of the co-working model is clear for all to see. The amount of co-working space in Manhattan comprised 8 million square feet at the end of 2018, roughly 2% of existing office stock, while WeWork is now New York City’s largest office space occupier. There are many other factors which have driven this success, but undoubtedly access to community has been one of them.
As firms continue to seek out the best talent, the workplacehas become, alongside compensation, the most effective recruitment tool available to employers. Ninety-five percent of the 1,100 respondents in our recent Equiem European Occupier Survey said that enjoyment of their physical workplace is important to them when it comes to choosing a company to work for, while 65% said it was very or extremely important to them. Certainly a big part of that workplace enjoyment is community. In the same Equiem survey, nearly 70% of respondents said that the opportunity to meet other people (not from their company) and create community is important to them. While the building itself remains a draw, it’s the prospect of joining a community more widespread than just the company you work for that is proving attractive to younger generations. Occupiers recognize this and are seeking out working environments that provide this sense of belonging and community that appeals to top talent.
So, how can landlords go about creating, or at least facilitating, this kind of workplace community, which is so appealing to occupiers?
It may surprise some to know that we think the answer is technology. We firmly believe that when used correctly, technology can create a highly rewarding sense of community as opposed to detracting from it. It should never replace real, human interaction but should instead be used to supplement, support or create it.
A key element of our world-leading tenant experience platform is the interaction it creates between occupiers both online and offline. A balance between both is vital to ensure people truly feel connected and part of a workplace community. Equiem’s app enables users the convenience and speed of quick online interactions between people within a building, but supports those online exchanges by promoting and facilitating regular, appealing and engaging face-to-face events and experiences. Whether providing access to a workplace’s weekly community drinks, Wednesday morning yoga class or Tuesday lunch and learn session, our platform creates human points of contact through technology. Relationships formed online through our platform can be fostered and built through the physical interaction it facilitates, helping turn mere brick-and-mortar structures into vibrant, connected and satisfied communities.
Over 137,000 people across the world use our platform for exactly that—to be part of a community, alongside all the other amenities and conveniences our technology provides. Seeking to cater to their most valuable commodity—their staff—occupiers have responded in kind, with over 8,900 different companies signed up, including major brands such as Deloitte, LinkedIn, Microsoft and CocaCola.
Satisfying the end user has never been more important for owners and property managers than it is right now, and meeting the need for community is a huge part of that process. While some technologies may have exacerbated levels of loneliness, technologies like ours can create the workplace communities that people crave and can be hugely effective for individuals’ wellbeing, companies’ recruitment strategies and owners’ leasing campaigns.