By Michele Rafferty - 27th August, 2021
Companies in the TAMI (Technology, Advertising, Media, and Information) industries have long trended towards progressive real estate decision making, with a focus on spaces that reinforce the creativity (and productivity) of their unique talent. So we partnered with Shannon Smith at Goodman Center for Real Estate of Lehigh University to bring together several alumni and discuss how these tenants are approaching both return to office, and the ever expanding set of real estate technology options.
In this conversation, panelists explored: What are TAMI tenants doing now? What are they thinking about and struggling with? What do they see in the future?
Through his experience with mixed-use projects Scott Evans, Chief Digital Officer at Related Companies, has learned how important flexibility and a customer-facing, data-led approach is. To succeed in this arena, developers need to be ready to reinvent themselves. Evan’s firm, Related Companies, manages a 60 billion dollar real estate portfolio with a diverse array of assets, from commercial buildings (including Manhattan’s Hudson Yards), to multi-family units. To stay on top of what the people using their spaces want, Related built a digital product set, which includes everything from residential and commercial apps, to digital signage and wifi provisions. This allows them to learn about people’s interests, while respecting privacy.
Now that in-person offices are reopening, the future of the workspace is on our minds. Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen how people's expectations of being in the workplace has changed, whether that’s a traditional or hybrid environment. Enthusiasm for working at home is waning; people want face-to-face interactions.
Another TAMI tenant, Verizon’s approach is always forward-looking. As their Director of Transactions and Development Michael Hudson noted, technology is “never perfect and never finished.” Rather, we must keep work space purposeful and make it a destination, which means even a traditional office space needs to attract excitement. Adam Goldstein, Lehigh alumni and Senior Operations Manager at Branch Furniture, pointed out that many TAMI tenants can work anywhere at any time, while still maintaining that there needs to be crossovers between home and office settings.
Many companies have always offered flexible hybrid options, according to Hudson and Marsh. That could look like one day a week in the office or four, depending on their market or financial season. Hybrid needs must be defined to determine how we leverage space and resources. Policies and procedures need to be fluid, updated as necessary.
The pandemic has centered attention on building the safest and most comfortable environments for employees. Introducing new technology, revamping physical space, encouraging an active employee/HR relationship, and making returning to the office optional are all part of this transition. With so many people used to working from home, Hudson’s advice to provide perks to employees coming back to the office is essential.
A commitment to innovation, cultivating the right relationships and partnerships to drive business, and adapting to changing needs and wants, are all key to bringing people together. While infrastructure should be stable, behaviours are always changing. That presents a need to keep listening, since relationships should last longer than any physical infrastructure.
The future of TAMI tenants may be in spreading out across not just one hub, but multiple locations, bringing workplace to their employees rather than vice versa. Commuting will likely become less regular in the future, making automation of transportation and responsive grids essential.
Leaving plenty of room for a follow up panel, the discussion concluded with lingering questions: How might we optimize existing infrastructure using public-private partnerships? How might recent experiences and shifting tenant requirements impact urban design and infrastructure? How might the themes of transportation and sustainability affect these interactions?
“What the world looked like 5 years ago [isn’t what] it looks like now,” Hudson said. “The second you go stale, is the second you stop learning, is the second you fail.”