Adapting Your Business to New Urban Communities

By Jeff Moore
Mar 3, 2016 12:15 PM ET
Jeff Moore, Vice President, Strategy, Sodexo North America

This is the second in a continuing blog series based on insights and findings from the Sodexo 2016 Workplace Trends Report. The Report examines nine key trends impacting business outcomes and affecting the quality of life of employees and consumers in the workplace. To learn more, access the full article: Stories of Urban Transformation: The Rise of 18-Hour Work/Live Communities.

Crime, congestion and grime seemed to spell the end of major cities as residents and businesses fled to the suburbs. The digital revolution could have furthered this decline as people could work from anywhere—no need to congregate downtown. Instead, people are flocking to cities or newer areas that provide an urban experience—walkable neighborhoods where people can live, socialize and shop.

The 2016 Workplace Trends Report, which examines key trends impacting business, delves into how cities are remaking their spaces to appeal to connected workers. Unlike the cities that never sleep—New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and the Bay Area —these are so-called 18-hour cities. Smaller cities like Nashville, Charlotte, Greenville, Indianapolis, Louisville, Portland, Austin and Raleigh/Durham have a new energy and excitement, just not all night long. They are attracting people who want a lower cost of housing while living, working and playing in the same walkable urban village.

The report uses Nashville as an example. It’s not just the Grand Ole Opry and honky-tonk bars. Its universities, healthcare and transportation industries, along with its vibrant and diverse music scene, is drawing people to live and work in its downtown.

What does this mean for businesses? To retain talent, employers must be aware of these trends and respond to what their employees want. These new urbanites are always connected, which blurs the lines between work and personal life. Employees who consider the office, their homes and their social areas to be part of the same village are looking to their employers to provide concierge services, more dining options, on-site gyms and other quality of life services.

Thanks to the digital business era, an employer has more flexibility to offer attractive work locations. It means that a company could establish a new innovation office in Nashville to attract needed talent. Everyone doesn’t have to be located in the same corporate headquarters building. By interacting with innovative employees from other companies, these satellite employees can adapt the trends and new thinking of others and apply it to your business.

Real estate managers are offering innovative office and living spaces that appeal to new urban workers. For example, WeWork offers trendy open office spaces with the usual services along with social events and venture and financial advice. Workers can live in a WeLive micro-apartment space nearby. The co-living option is low cost and, like the co-working space, has services built into the rent, with amenities like common areas, libraries, gardens and bike parking.

Google, Sprint, AT&T and State Farm are reaching out and inviting local entrepreneurs into their co-working spaces. The idea is designed to fuel new business growth and innovation. This trend is prompting business leaders to ask the question “what does this mean for my real estate and workplace strategy?” Will you open up your office space to co-located entrepreneurs and benefit from their new ideas? Will finding and retaining employees mean providing different work locations and even living options for them? What does a good quality of life really mean to your workers and how will you provide it? For more on this topic, go to the Workplace Trends Reports.

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Jeff Moore is Vice President of Strategy for Sodexo North America. He is responsible for enhancing customer value creation and establishing long-term goals and strategic objectives. Mr. Moore served as a commissioned officer of Marines for six years; Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm veteran. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from Auburn University and his Master’s in Business Administration from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.