When ‘working from home’ means working in another part of your building

At Jersey City Summit for Real Estate, talk of how hybrid work has created demand for better workspaces in resident lounge areas

It seems clear that many office workers are still going to spend at least part of their week working from home.

But what if “working from home” really means “not going in the office?”

Multifamily developers and property managers are quickly adjusting to tenants that want to work in the building where they live — but not necessarily in their apartment.

Kevin Sheehan, senior managing director, real estate Northeast, for Greystar, said it’s an amenity the company has been trying to meet since the pandemic.

“There’s been a new focus on certain parts of the buildings,” he said. “Specifically, what we call resident lounge areas or places where residents can truly work outside of their home.

“Nobody wants to be working at their kitchen table anymore.”

It’s all about creative workspaces: more comfortable environments, private offices — even big monitors. A wide-open WeWork-type area where residents can get something to eat, relax and get to work without feeling others are on top of them works, too, Sheehan said.

“Those areas in the buildings we manage are taking a huge focus,” he said. “How they’re designed is critical.

“Up until 2020, a lot of design was based on how the furniture looks, the décor. Now, well-designed buildings have really exceptional seating areas where people can work and spend hours of their time.”

Sheehan, speaking on the amenities panel Monday at the Jersey City Summit for Real Estate Investment, said the payoff comes during leasing — and during resident retention.

He mentioned Three Journal Square, a building that leased up quickly in 2017 and has remained full, partly due to its ability to accommodate a number of tenants at one time.

“On any given day, you’ll see 10 to 15 people sitting in those various areas,” he said. “Over the course of a day, it can be 40 or 50 people, residents, who have spent time in those parts of the building.”

Russell Tepper, senior managing director, Northeast, at Mill Creek Residential, said the firm is taking it a step further.

“We, too, have been incorporating working space in private offices into all of our communities for a number of years now,” he said. “Some of it is coworking space. And then, there are also private offices and conference rooms within our buildings that people can utilize and reserve or just pop into for a phone call or a meeting.”

Both noted that the technology associated with those spaces is really important. From reliable Wi-Fi to larger monitors, there are changing wants and needs.

Some of that includes working in their apartment — just not in their eating space.

“We’re actually building desk areas off kitchens for people that don’t want to sit at their kitchen table and work,” he said. “And those areas of the apartments have the proper technology and wiring so that they can work productively there, too.

“The reality is that the whole work environment and structure has changed. The new normal is to not travel to the office every day, and to have the flexibility of where you live to also be able to work.”

Joel Halpern, president of Halpern Real Estate Partners, said he’s working to bring more than just the office to his properties — he’s bringing the company gym, too.

“We see that fitness and amenities in general are becoming an extension of the home,” he said.

At 49 Fisk on the West Side of Jersey City, on-demand classes on Pelotons or in the mirror are becoming the norm. As are group classes for yoga and other wellness wants.

“We find that residents will do the same workout at home or in the gym,” he said. “To meet this need, we are building a lot of studio space into our projects for on-demand classes or also for personal trainers.

“At 49 Fisk, we have three flexible studio spaces with collapsible walls so that the spaces can be used for larger classes or for more intimate settings.”

They are adding relaxation rooms and the ability to bring yoga classes outside when the weather is nice. It’s all part of the changing face of amenities, Halpern said.

“We put a big emphasis on wellness.”