Office Parks Have Problems Beyond Millennials

Office Parks Have Problems Beyond Millennials

The suburban office park, of the type popularized in the 1980s and ’90s and the subject of many an office comedy ever since, is the latest alleged victim of the millennials, Business Insider’s Chris Weller reports, as companies find they can’t entice younger employees to live in a suburban environment like they could a generation ago:

“Companies want to move to areas where millennials are located,” Robert Bach, director of research at the real-estate advisory firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, tells Business Insider. In 2015, Bach’s firm published a report on the state of office parks around the US. It concluded that between 14% and 22% of the “suburban inventory” in the country faced a degree of risk in becoming obsolete. Some parks needed only a cosmetic changes, while those beyond help were suited for rebuilds.

The report found that two main factors could predict that level of obsolescence: proximity to mass transit and access to amenities like lunch and shopping. Bach says it’s no coincidence that fitness-focused and food-savvy millennials share those preferences. …

The influence that millennials wield is so great that the power has shifted into the hands of employees. “It used to be businesses determining where people worked,” Bach says. Companies would build a sprawling campus in the suburbs and thousands of people would flock there to buy homes. Today, in many cases the roles are reversed.

Indeed, employers are increasingly going where the talent is, rather than talent going where the jobs are. In the past year, we’ve seen some major companies, including GE and McDonald’s, move their corporate headquarters from the suburban campuses they called home for decades to new downtown digs in major city centers. These relocations are being incorporated into broader efforts by legacy companies to update their employer brands and attract creative, innovative, and tech-savvy candidates.

Millennial preferences are certainly helping to drive this trend away from the suburban office, but another factor that could be be contributing is that today’s workforce is increasingly capable of working from anywhere, to the point that employers and their employees don’t always need to be in the same place. The advent of the remote workforce means companies won’t always need to locate strategically: In many industries, it’s increasingly possible to hire employees or contract with freelancers anywhere in the world and let them work from a home, as more and more Americans today are doing.