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July 27

Businesses are Moving to Suburban Offices, and They Want Cellular Connectivity

Office buildings are moving to the suburbs. Many Millennials, the fastest growing sector in the workforce, may prefer working in offices located in urban areas—they’re closer to city apartments, enabling many of them to do away with owning a car and commuting to work by foot or public transportation, and they’re surrounded by various restaurants, cafes, gyms, shopping areas and other amenities—but businesses are finding a range of benefits from renting space for larger corporate campuses in suburban office markets.

A recent article on the National Real Estate Investor website outlined the myriad drivers that are convincing businesses to move or open new offices in suburban markets rather than in cities, with the key one being cost. Rents for top-rated spaces in suburban markets are almost half of what they are in central business districts.

There are other advantages as well: housing prices tend to be lower in the suburbs than in many of these larger cities—which is good for those Millennials who are hitting the age where they are starting families and looking for larger homes and better schools—and newer office spaces enable businesses to build new campus offices and consolidate their workforces under one roof.

This is all good news for the companies that are developing and managing these office buildings and are seeing businesses breaking in their direction. As lease rates increase, they will be able to charge more for their space. But smart businesses know that in order to attract talented workers to these corporate islands in suburbia—and just as important, retain them once they’re there—they need to make them as appealing as possible. That onus is falling not only to the businesses themselves—many are offering such services as onsite daycare, wellness centers and gyms, chef-cooked meals, and nicely landscaped areas where people can gather—but even more so to the companies that manage these buildings.

Younger workers will be focused on reliable indoor cellular connectivity

Along with these health- and lifestyle-related amenities is the issue of technology. Today’s workers—particularly those younger ones who are increasingly making up a larger percentage of the workforce—are much more tech-savvy than their predecessors. They have grown up with their smartphones and tablets, live much of their lives online, and they’ve come to expect consistent and reliable wireless connectivity, not only in their personal lives but also at work. If building owners want to ensure that businesses continue renting their spaces, one of the things they’re going to have to address is indoor cellular coverage.

A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. office workers conducted by Zinwave highlighted the importance of reliable in-building connectivity. Many of the buildings that they work in now—from traditional office and industrial sites to hospitals, hotels and retail establishments—have spotty coverage and, for younger people in particular, the problems are frustrating and stressful and impact their productivity. In total, 74 percent of the workers surveyed said they’d had frequent or occasional problems with poor cellular coverage in the workplace, with Millennial office workers—those between 18 and 34—being the most vocal. In fact, they were 68 percent more likely to complain about coverage issues than their older counterparts.

Millennials are beginning to blame building owners, employers for lack of connectivity

There was something else we found: workers increasingly are less likely to place the blame for connectivity problems on the carriers and more likely to point the finger at their employers or the companies that own and manage the buildings where they work. In particular, Millennials—who currently account for about 40 percent of the workforce but will represent as much as 75 percent in the next 10 to 15 years—were 58 percent more likely to blame the businesses or building owners than older employees. Building owners hoping to take advantage in the migration of corporate offices from central business districts to suburban office markets should take note of this: within the next decade, a large majority of workers will not only expect strong and reliable indoor cellular coverage, they will expect those companies managing the buildings to supply it. And businesses that need to attract and retain these workers will not keep their corporate offices in buildings that can’t supply the in-building connectivity their workforces demand.

The move by businesses from the city to the suburbs is expected to continue in the coming years, and the companies that manage and own those office buildings are in good position to take advantage of the trend. But they need to find ways to make their buildings appealing to businesses and, just as importantly, their business’ workers. Providing strong indoor signals will be a key step in enticing businesses to choose their building instead of someone else’s.

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