If you spend any time at all reading about corporate culture in America, you’ve probably noticed an emerging trend in the design of the corporate campus: big tech firms are now developing campuses that provide incredible employee amenities, such as juice bars, massage tents, and staffed daycare centers, that would have been considered unthinkable a few years ago. Why are they doing this? Because corporations are recognizing that the needs and desires of today’s workforce are changing. With an increased focus on work/life balance and wellness, they are providing amenities designed specifically to keep their employees on-site, happy, and productive. While the employees love it, the cost of providing such amenities is not lost on those responsible for paying for them. Companies and their facilities managers, just as in the past, are still challenged with managing ever-increasing real estate and infrastructure development costs. Now, they must balance those costs with the added expense of offering competitive on-site amenities.
To be sure, not every corporation has the resources or even wants to compete amenity-for-amenity with the likes of Google or Apple. Given the need to also be responsible stewards of shareholder capital, many corporations prefer to take a slightly more restrained position on site amenities that, frankly, saves a lot of money, too. How do we, as designers, work with our clients to help them retain their recruiting effectiveness in today’s competitive marketplace and create a desirable corporate environment within a realistic budget? Here are a few amenities that we find to be both cost effective for owners and meaningful to employees:
- Trails, Trails, Trails: A well-designed trail system continues to be one of the most desirable amenities for corporate settings of every size. Suitable for spontaneous breaks and “walking” meetings, as well as for more demanding exercise routines, trails provide something fun and healthful for everyone. Today’s trails are safer and more accessible, more durable, and provide actual site-wide connectivity. For the budget, trails are still one of the best amenity investments out there.
- Plenty of Open Space: A simple open area of well-maintained turf provides a convenient place for spontaneous recreational use as well as large outdoor company gatherings, such as picnics and company-sponsored sporting events. Other popular, and low cost, facilities that work well with open space include sand volleyball and modular rock-climbing walls.
- Outdoor Meeting Areas: Comfortable outdoor meeting options are very desirable. Whether in rooftop gardens, open plazas, or along woodland trails, outdoor facilities for impromptu collaborative work sessions are highly valued by today’s wireless high-tech workers. Add a little seating, some shade, and a weatherproof mobile charging station and you’ve created a highly functional work area.
- Open-air Dining: The mobility of today’s food service industry is astounding-there seems to be a food truck on every corner. An outdoor food court with comfortable shaded seating is an easy way to add a hip edge to any corporate environment and provide great meals without a major investment in kitchen equipment or indoor dining facilities.
- Flexibility: Corporations today need the flexibility to accommodate change. The marketplace is changing more rapidly than ever before and companies must plan facilities that can respond to this change quickly without negatively impacting operations. Allocating ample space for site amenities, both permanent and temporary, provides much-needed leisure and recreational facilities, improves campus aesthetics, and maximizes the potential for fine-tuning and future expansion. Planning for this foreseeable transition today will help to ensure the viability of the corporate campus tomorrow.