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  • Christian Domingo

Maximize Your Office Property with These 3 Tips

Whether you're for or against the continuation of WFH models in the business world, there's one thing we can all agree on - office life just isn't the same as it used to be. As more and more corporations experiment with hybrid working schedules and fully remote roles, there's a curious shift in how we view the office. For some, this is a good thing - finally, a position where I can work in sweatpants, avoid a commute, and jump right back into bed after clocking out, guilt free! For others, however, this shift is bittersweet. There's no ambient office chatter, Zoom meetings just aren't the same as boardroom meetings, and gossiping with your WFH colleagues just isn't the same as it is with Alice from Accounting.

Photo by Lum3n
Don't even get me started on how they micromanage you at your desk.

Now emotional attachments (or lack thereof) to the workplace are one thing, but for property managers, the rise of WFH models has also had a tangible impact on their bottom line. While hybrid work models have been proven to lead to more productive employees, the buildings that used to house this productivity have plummeted in market value, leaving commercial and office property managers in the lurch. According to Altus Group, office values have dipped by 11% between Q1 2022 and Q1 2023, and are expected to continue declining as the year progresses. Many property managers - particularly those in Toronto and Montreal, where this decline has been the steepest - have been forced to consider demolition or selling their properties. Maybe you're one of those people, currently staring at the almost-vacant floors of your property like you're in a sitcom's season finale.

Will Smith in an empty room.
"Why don't they want me man?"

If you're staring down the barrel of an unwanted sale or demolition, allow us to recommend an alternative first. Before you start reaching for the sledgehammer, consider optimizing your space first. Productivity, while a positive result, is not the main reason anybody chooses to work from home (it's simply how we justify the decision to our managers). At the end of the day, most people choose to work from home because it's more comfortable. So how do you build a home away from home? We've got a few ideas.

Where to Begin?

Let's start with your lighting. Does your work day begin with the dull flicker of a fluorescent bulb spurring to life? Or perhaps the flickering never really ends, with the lighting in some sections of your property stuttering like TV static? Whatever the case, rethinking the way your property is lit could be a key to introducing a new sense of comfort to the space.

Consider, for instance, the layout of your office. Have you, despite all the pop cultural commentary against it, kept the cubicles in your office?

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko
They couldn't even muster up a smile for a stock photo, I mean come on.

If so, your first step should be to open up the space. Natural light has been proven to improve alertness, focus, and productivity. This is due to the impact that light has on the body's internal clock as well as the production of melatonin and serotonin. As such, opting for an open concept layout in your office space allows light to permeate a wider area, thus improving the overall efficiency of your tenants.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov
See? All smiles!

Another alternative is LED lighting, which emits a cool, bright light that mimics sunlight excellently. In addition, LED lighting is also more cost-effective in the long-term, as it is a more energy-efficient form of lighting compared to incandescent or fluorescent lights and has a longer average lifespan. Overall, switching to LED lighting and optimizing your office layout to allow for more natural light will entice workers to come back into the office for heightened productivity, as well as save you exponentially on your bottom line - a win for both you and your tenants.

Plus, for a limited time only, you can inquire about retrofitting your property with LED lighting by filling out this form and earning a free consultation or site audit.

Make Office Life a Breeze

Another aspect of your property worth looking into is your HVAC system. While we're (thankfully) largely past the point of worrying about COVID, people are still very concerned about the quality of their air. If you've ever had to deal with the puffy-eyed, stuffy-nosed days of spring cleaning, then we don't have to tell you about the importance of clean air in your building.

The most popular form of HVAC - likely the one you're already working with - uses HEPA technology, encompassing a filter that forces air through a mesh, trapping pollens, mold, bacteria, and dust from recirculating through a space. HEPA standards mandate that filters must trap at least 99.97% of dust particles that are 0.3 microns or larger. That said, one of the main drawbacks of HEPA technology is that the filters inhibit smooth airflow, which can affect the performance of HVAC systems over time.

A viable alternative to HEPA filters that is gaining popularity is synthetic polymer filters, made through either spun-bond or melt-blown manufacturing and available in both pleated and stretched films. These filters are not only more efficient and cost-effective, but also washable and reusable. They also offer less airflow resistance and are quieter - if you've ever been jolted out of a mid-day daze by the churning of your building's air conditioner, you'll surely appreciate this specific feature.

Reinvent Yourself

Now let's say you've already got excellent lighting and ventilation. What else can you do to optimize your office space? For buildings like Toronto's CIBC Square, there's better living through fitness. In addition to upgrading their existing infrastructures, CIBC Square is just one of many buildings to adopt the recent trend of incorporating gym and fitness spaces onto their premises. This not only allows workers easy access to fitness centres while away from home, but is also implicit of the new wave of corporate culture, one that emphasizes work/life balance, mindfulness, and wellness. For property managers in the downtown core, particularly, multi-purpose properties are a great way to diversify your portfolio and maximize your building's resources.

Photo by William Choquette

Furthermore, even before COVID forced everybody into the wonderful world of online shopping, e-commerce had already been adopted by brick-and-mortar storefronts all over the country. As COVID turned these into primary channels, many of these stores shifted completely over the the online space, leaving their storefronts emptied out. Some property managers, in lieu of accepting the loss, chose instead to turn these former commercial spaces into rental housing or warehouses, thus injecting new life into their properties with a few infrastructure changes.

If you do choose to go down this route, however, be sure to pay attention to local codes and zoning laws, which might bring additional costs and legal fees. Once you've cleared these hurdles though, you'll be able to turn lemons into lemonade and breathe new life into an old property.

Whether you want to completely overhaul your building's infrastructure to convert it into a new space, or just optimize its current electrical, plumbing, or mechanical systems, EAMA is here for you. Give us a call today at (416) 798-2006 or email us to learn more about our services and book your consultation.


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