What does your headquarter office say about your company?

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April 5, 2018

By: Rich Branning, Managing Director, JLL

Remember when you were in the last couple of years of high school and you started to plan ‘the campus visit’?  Is there a better way to figure out which college suits you best?

Even today, when prospective students can tour sitting at their computers, there is no real substitute for a personal visit. Who wouldn’t want to see the real estate, and ‘kick the tires’ first hand? Colleges are in a race with each other to get the best students. They know they have to pull out all the stops to compete.

“Employers, particularly tech companies, are in an all-out race to attract the best talent.” 

Another race begins when students prepare to enter the workforce. Employers, particularly tech companies, are in an all-out race to attract the best talent.  In this particular race, the corporate campus has become a powerful magnet. Companies want to wow potential prospects by ‘upping the ante’ for campus tours and they are investing heavily to accomplish this.

Beyond the water cooler

Amenities are a critical selling point, especially for Millennials. These amenities can be anything – and everything – from having a “world-class” restaurant or health spa on campus to a bike locker, EV charging station or even direct rail access. Long gone are the days when the water cooler or a kitchen was the office’s top perk.

There are the ‘big picture’ considerations too:  easy access to public transportation or company-run shuttles; environmental sensitivity and green space; ‘well buildings’ with abundant natural light; sustainability and technology. A digitally connected workplace isn’t just a more efficient workplace, it can also be an employee-friendly workplace, cutting down waiting times for conference rooms, meetings and even lunch.

Even on-campus housing is becoming a vital feature for some employers in this all-important race.

‘The pursuit of workplace happiness’

Workplace environment is another critical factor.  Employees want to feel connected to the company they work for and comfortable in the workplace.  According to a Gallup survey, 70 percent of employees in the U.S. feel emotionally disconnected from their workplace. (That percentage is higher in other countries, particularly in some parts of Asia.)

“employees spending many hours in the workplace need other ‘engagement connectors’.”

Companies obviously want to find new ways to change this metric.  Better pay, avenues for promotion, perks and benefits all come into play, but employees spending many hours in the workplace need other ‘engagement connectors’.

Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business has reached out to alums as part of its Ask More Ideas Challenge to ask how companies can create more happiness and fulfillment for employees in the workplace. Among the early leaders: flexible hours and location; letting employees know they are making a difference; de-stress zones in the workplace and taking time (as a team) to play.

This is who we are

Companies are taking ideas like this, and more, on board and they are using all of their assets – especially their real estate – to win the race for talent.

“In this sense, the modern corporate headquarters reflects what the company is, as well as being a magnet for talent.” 

More than ever, campuses and HQ locations are becoming a massive canvas on which to lay out the corporate brand for all to see.  I mean that literally.  Recently, the Wall Street Journal pointed to the increasing use of art within tech company HQs and its role in promoting those companies as social media savvy and friendly.  In this sense, the modern corporate headquarters reflects what the company is, as well as being a magnet for talent.  Increasingly, companies are using their real estate to say,  “This is who we are, come be a part of what we are creating, and have fun doing it.”

So, the headquarters building or campus isn’t just a well-designed, digitally-connected, efficient workplace.  It’s also a brand statement designed to attract and retain talent as well as offer clients some insight into what the future workplace may look like. It’s not hard to see why companies like GoPro are taking this approach.  If you produce dynamic technologies, why not let your employees remember that every day when they come to work?

That’s really making your real estate work for you.

About me


I’ve had the honor of advising and representing the Bay Area’s top high growth companies on more than 20 million square feet of real estate transactions over the past 25+ years, offering creative negotiating strategies from an entrepreneurial point of view. To me, bringing integrity and value everyday to the client is the baseline. I specialize in software, professional services, finance, life science and semiconductor industry sectors with an emphasis on real estate strategy and negotiations.

You can reach me directly by email at rich.branning@am.jll.com or via phone at +1 (650) 480-2188.

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