Most Office Users Plan to Expand or Stand Pat

A new study from the Building Owners and Managers Association International suggests that the majority of end users are either standing pat or increasing their footprints, the organization reported Monday morning at its annual convention in San Diego.

Despite widespread impressions that most office tenants are taking less space in the wake of the Great Recession, a study from the Building Owners and Managers Association International suggests that the majority of end users are either standing pat or increasing their footprints, the organization reported Monday morning at its annual convention in San Diego.

“Tenants are optimistic about the future,” said Phil Mobley, a vice president for Kingsley Associates, the Atlanta-based research firm that conducted the study in association with BOMA International. “Most of them are looking to add space or employees.”

Specifically, the survey of 1,261 office tenants found that 25 percent expect to need more space in the next year, and 43 percent anticipate no change in their requirements. Other 21 percent remain uncertain of their plans. Thirty-nine percent said they expect to add personnel in the next year; 38 percent said that the size of their staff will remain unchanged, and only 17 percent expect to shed workers. This apparent discrepancy—more tenants adding workers than adding space—appears to be at least partly related to another survey finding. Fifty-two percent of respondents said their ratio of square footage per employee will remain unchanged, and 14 percent expect it to decrease. Only 10 percent plan to give their employees more elbow room.

Last conducted 14 years ago, the 2013 edition of the survey is the first to have an international flavor. Besides the United States, BOMA International affiliates in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa participated in the study. U.S. tenants account for 85 percent of the respondents, followed by Canada, which provided between 7 and 8 percent, Mobley noted. The rest are divided between New Zealand and South Africa.

Tenants in the U.S. and Canada expressed comparable satisfaction with their office space; on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being highest, U.S. tenants gave their offices an average score of 4.09, almost identical to the 4.04 grade given by their Canadian counterparts. Lagging somewhat behind were New Zealand (3.89) and South Africa (3.43).

Net-lease tenants, who made up 12 percent of participants, appear to be the happiest category, giving their offices the highest rating: 4.18.  Office occupants in mixed-use properties—7 percent of the respondents—gave their properties a 4.11 rating. That was slightly higher than the rating offered by the single largest category, occupants of multi-tenant properties. Making up 65 percent of participants, they offered an average grade of 4.06.

BOMA International’s tenant satisfaction survey also offers insights into service areas that are most important to office users—and which of them offer room for improvement.   For example, tenants place a premium on good property management, and also gave property managers high marks for their performance. Office tenants also prize health and hygiene; however, the ratings are significantly lower than for other key categories, a finding that Mobley said suggests some dissatisfaction.

As with the other rating categories, the survey allowed respondents to infer their own definitions. That said, Mobley added, “Health and hygiene is an opportunity area that seems to be experiencing some under-delivery.”