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Farewell metro-work-sleep, long live the mini-business trip in town

The Attraction and retention of office tenants conference marked the return of Les Affaires events to face-to-face mode. (Photo: Cedric Bonel)

After two years of working from home, courtesy of the pandemic, it’s not just companies wondering how to go about spurring troops back to the office. Building owners are also racking their brains to find ways to attract tenants, while retaining those who have started to downsize or want to move out of downtown altogether.

“We must not put everything on the back of the pandemic,” said Jean-François Grenier, Senior Director at Groupe Altus, guest panelist at the very first edition of the Attraction and retention of office tenants conference, presented by the Events Les Affaires, April 27, at the Center Sheraton Montreal. This meeting marked the return of Les Affaires events in face-to-face mode.

(Photo: Cedric Bonel)

In front of a crowd of at least 75 people, made up mainly of architects, designers, building owners and real estate brokers, this analyst insisted on recalling that the phenomenon of teleworking — aided by the arrival of new technologies — , was already taking shape in several downtown organizations.

“Even before March 2020, studies showed that employees in many sectors, including technology, culture, including legal and financial, were already spending only 65% ​​to 75% of their working hours in the office. “, he mentioned. With the pandemic, this movement, already well underway, has intensified. “These same employees now frequent their workplace 29% to 46% of the time,” he pointed out.


(Photo: Cédric Bonel)

Hotel inspiration

This behavioral change in work habits, combined with a war to attract the best talent, is now forcing building owners to review their customer experience strategies, said Anissa Errai, group vice-president consulting and planning. strategy at SGM. And one of the solutions favored by building owners is to draw inspiration from the attributes of the hotel environment, she observed.

“All over North America, building owners are redeveloping their lobby to make them more attractive. They now include concierge services, pleasant and inviting dining areas, spaces for meditation between two meetings, daycare centers, performance halls, art galleries, bright collaborative spaces, not to mention gyms. equipped with changing rooms and showers.

To attract tenants—now seen as customers—these landlords are realizing that they now need to be user-centric. They must become business partners. “In other words, owners now become community enablers,” she continued.

But be careful, warned Nathalie Gagnon, partner, vice-president, project management at Avison Young. “Before wanting to redevelop everything according to the trends of the day, the project should reflect the DNA of the companies. The panelist cited as an example a law firm that wanted to equip itself with a layout reflecting the “office of the future”. The new design included new collaboration spaces, including a large room for this purpose. “After two months, no one was using it. The room has been transformed back into individual spaces,” she shared.


(Photo: Cédric Bonel)

Diversity is part of the key

During the day, the diversity factor was also regularly mentioned as a solution. “This is the key to attracting employees,” said Andrée De Serres, holder of the Ivanhoé Cambridge Chair in Real Estate and professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal during a round table on the importance of strengthening urban attractiveness.

Not only does this mix become necessary within buildings, it becomes essential within city centers themselves to accentuate the mobility factor, she pleaded “The time when each district had a pre-established vocation is becoming a backward-looking model. Downtown Montreal is no exception to this new rule. Its vitality now rests solely on office space, shops and restaurants. It takes more residential areas, green spaces, schools and even places to integrate businesses in the light industrial sector and distribution centers, ”she said.

Remarks endorsed by Glenn Castanheira, general manager of Montreal Centre-ville, the largest business development company in Canada. “Before the pandemic, downtown Montreal had more than 300,000 employees who came to work there every day. Even if this number is decreasing, downtown is still a place of life where more than 100,000 people live permanently and more than 120,000 students from here and elsewhere. In my opinion, it is wrong to believe that people flee the city center. People will come back if we are able to offer them a better experience, a better quality of life at work,” he said.

This quality of life at work takes on a whole new meaning after two years of a pandemic, recognized Élise Proulx, head, economic development, Quebec at Ivanhoé Cambridge. The leader herself admitted that she no longer returned to the office every day of the week. But when she comes to work, it’s out of the question for her to do zoom meetings and answer emails. “My visit to the office has turned into an opportunity to meet my co-workers and clients. It has become an opportunity to go eat with friends and extend the day during a 5 à 7 to maximize business contacts. In short, moving to Montreal has become my mini business trip! »

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