On-site gyms, foosball tables, electric vehicle charging stations and cafeterias serving healthy food. These are all amenities that help companies attract the best office workers, right? Sure. But increasingly, they are also the type of amenities offered at warehouses and distribution centers.
Companies are facing the same challenges attracting and retaining workers whether those jobs are in downtown office buildings or in sprawling industrial parks. With unemployment low, it’s not easy finding the best workers. It’s just as challenging to keep them. It’s why the latest research from Cushman & Wakefield found that industrial users are turning to perks and amenities to make their distribution centers, manufacturing spaces and warehouses more enticing to workers.
Cushman & Wakefield recently surveyed its industrial real estate experts across the United States to discover what amenities are most in demand by the workers staffing industrial facilities. Topping the list? A pleasant climate. Workers said that they valued spaces that weren’t too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.
Workers also said that they want easy access to public transportation and a better choice of onsite food options, everything from cafeterias to food trucks to a location within walking distance of restaurants.
Other important amenities cited were gym and workout facilities, large windows that let in natural light and fresh air, electric vehicle charging stations and walking trails and outdoor seating areas.
Then there are the games. Workers said they’d like to see games on site, from ping-pong tables and foosball tables to onsite basketball courts. Workers also cited the need for onsite daycare and improved restrooms, break areas, lactation rooms and privacy rooms.
Bethany Clark, senior managing director for industrial with Cushman & Wakefield, said that it isn’t surprising that industrial users are turning to higher-end amenities to attract workers.
“Labor is the biggest challenge companies face,” Clark said in an interview with Midwest Real Estate News. “This is especially true in warehousing and distribution. When you talked about where to locate your facilities, labor was a part of the discussion five or 10 years ago. But it wasn’t a top-of-mind item. As the economy has changed, that has changed the conversation. It’s not just about the lowest-cost real estate and location. It’s all about the labor. Can you find the right cost, quality and quantity of labor?”
Amenities that focus on health and wellness are especially important for warehouse workers, Clark said. The jobs in warehouses and distribution centers can be repetitive, requiring employees to perform the same physical movements throughout the day. Wellness amenities such as walking trails, gyms and basketball courts can help boost the health of employees.
This is also a benefit for companies. Healthy employees are more productive and happier. They also take less time off.
“The wellness amenities go beyond just something that is nice to have,” Clark said. “It’s something that the workers and employers benefit from together. It keeps the workforce more productive and engaged. It helps make employees feel better about the place where they work.”
Other amenities such as outdoor eating areas, regular visits from food trucks and cafeterias that offer healthy choices can help workers build camaraderie, Clark said. Employees in industrial settings often work in noisy areas in which it can be difficult to hold conversations. It can be challenging, then, for these workers to build up the rapport that employees in quieter office settings often enjoy with each other.
“It fosters teamwork if employees can take break periods in a relaxed environment or hold a pick-up basketball game,” Clark said. “That builds the camaraderie of the workforce and helps avoid turnover and all the negative things experienced with turnover costs.”
Those amenities that help employees spend more time together are an example of the type that might not pay off for employers immediately but will show dividends over time, Clark said.
“Some things might not seem like they show a return on investment immediately,” she said. “Some things do need time to gel. But what is important in office settings is just as important in industrial ones. The importance of teamwork and productivity is no different in a warehouse.”
Clark said that amenities most often pay off when a new employer comes into town and opens a distribution center. Maybe this new employer is paying 50 cents more an hour. Those companies that have provided their workers with a better environment and helped them build a camaraderie together might not see as many of their workers move to the better-paying job.
“The amenities can make them the employer of choice,” Clark said.