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Remote work accelerating push to create residential-like workspaces

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It's a strategy in the war for talent. Companies increasingly have in their arsenal a list of office space amenities that foster the type of work environment younger employees are seeking. 

Some tenants and landlords take things even further. They shape their office environments with residential-like comforts. The COVID-19 pandemic and rise of remote work have accelerated this so-called "resimercial" concept, according to industry experts. 

Heather Turner Loth, business development practice leader with Milwaukee-based design firm Eppstein Uhen Architects, said "resimercial" represents a blend between work and life and can include concierge services, choice of furniture and fixtures, and more relaxed conference rooms or lounges. 

Josh Jeffers, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based development firm J. Jeffers & Co., said the office buildings his firm owns aren't quite to the level of his apartment buildings by way of amenities offered. For instance, an on-site pet spa is not a requirement for office tenants the way it is for some apartment dwellers. But more office environments are now incorporating spaces that feel more like a living room or hotel lobby. 

"We are actually seeing some tenants wanting to incorporate even more what I would call residential-type soft seating spaces, or event hotel or hospitality-type environments within their office spaces." Jeffers said at BizTimes Milwaukee's annual Commercial Real Estate and Development Conference. 

Turner Loth said her firm began seeing the resimercal concept seeping into workplaces a decade or more ago. Clients began asking for lounge spaces with couches and fireplaces. Others added bookshelves filled with knickknacks and greenery. 

"That stuff has been accelerating more and more, and I think it's been really pre-pandemic around the talent recruitment was that's been going on," she said. "I think now it's heightened even more so because of employees' expectation of more of that blend and a hybrid workflow that we're going to be in."

She said she expects more companies will seek to create "specialty spaces" that will encourage workers to come back to the office. Turner Loth cautions clients that these spaces must also align with the company's values/ That starts with leadership.

If any employee who is used to the expectation that all of their work be done at a desk suddenly is offered a lounge space as an alternative, they might feel awkward using it, Turner Loth said. 

"These resirmercial spaces only work if employees are given permission to use them," she said.

Turner Loth pointed to Landmark Credit Union's new Brookfield headquarters as an example of a company incorporating resimercial spaces. The building has communal tables and kitchenettes on each floor. This offers employees an option to prepare and eat lunch in a smaller space versus a large cafeteria area. There are also many areas with soft seating throughout. 

Jeffers' newest office property is the Huron Building. The downtown Milwaukee building opened in 2020 and has a Tupelo Honey restaurant on its ground floor. Jeffers said a restaurant or coffee shop in an office building has become an important amenity for office space users. 

Other important traits include outdoor space and additional technology infrastructure. 

"We're adding additional IT so that people can have so-called Zoom rooms or other ways to connect with remote workers from their office space," Jeffers said.

He said a driving force even before the pandemic has been company culture. Younger workers want more out of a company than a good salary, he said. 

"They don't want to just take a job for the paycheck; they want to be connected to a company that they care about," Jeffers said. "They care about their coworkers, they care about the mission of the company, they care about what they do every day. I think what we're seeing as office landlords, there's a lot of tenants wanting to cater to that millennial and Gen Z demographic, amenitize their buildings more and make it more interesting for them to come back in."

Check out the published article on page 14 of BizTimes digital edition.