Choosing an Office Location that Benefits Employees

Q&A with Chris Lewis, managing principal, Lee & Associates – Houston

Employees are the heart and soul of a company and are often dubbed as a company’s most valuable asset. Business owners who prioritize their employees’ happiness and well-being typically attract, and more importantly, retain the best talent. When searching for a new office location, companies should take into account the location, available amenities, building energy, access to nature, natural light and length of commute, as all of this will determine employee morale and whether or not they will stick around for the long term. Today’s workforce wants to be interactive, social and energized by their surroundings, in order to be inspired and perform their best.

Chris Lewis, Lee & Associates – Houston’s managing principal, sits down to discuss important factors that local business owners should consider when searching for office space. With almost two decades’ worth of experience in landlord and tenant representation in Houston’s commercial real estate office sector, Chris knows a thing or two about what amenities employees’ value and how to implement that into your next search.


Q: Probably the most important question of them all – how important is commute time?

A: Houstonians are known to dislike long commutes and employees have a natural desire to work closer to home. Over the years, I’ve seen a great increase in the importance of work/life balance and less commuting allows for more time with family. However, most employees will choose to drive to work each day and will locate outside of town where the cost of living is less, and the schools offer more. So, cutting down commute time as much as possible in a city that has an increasing traffic population is more desirable for employees. Employers tend to be conscious of the school districts that are attractive to their employees and the carbon footprint created by commuting. They will locate to a central radius that will satisfy both the business location needs and the needs of their staff members. Hence, the popularity of the developments of the Energy Corridor and The Woodlands, which offer high class assets near affordable neighborhoods with great school districts.


Q: Should a business offer on-site parking?

A: Houstonians are tied to their vehicles, so you have to offer parking if you are outside of the Central Business District (CBD), but even in the CBD, nearly 40% of employees still drive their own vehicle each day. Along with unreserved and reserved necessities, buildings are now offering executive spaces on the first level, valet, and special parking arrangements for oversized vehicles. The last thing an employer wants is for their employee commute an hour into town from a suburb and then spend 20 minutes searching for parking. Make it easy for your employees to get to the office or your competitor will.


Q: How close should an office be to public transportation in the CBD?

A: Offices should be located no further than 100 feet from a public transportation stop. If not, employees may have to rely on car services, like Uber or Lyft, to get them to the office from a stop, which is an added cost. Unlike other cities that are very walkable, Houston’s weather is not pedestrian friendly. Outside of the four months of winter, we have two seasons in Houston, hot and hotter. Not to mention, afternoon daily rain throughout the late summers. Thus, the reason downtown developed a tunnel system, rather than a typical pedestrian sidewalk. Today’s generation of employees want instant gratification and prefer not to come to work drenched in sweat or rain. So, unless there is really no other option or it’s cost prohibitive at a level that is unsustainable, most are not going to brave a rain shower or the heat to jump on public transportation in the suburbs.


Q: What about public transportation for commuters that live in the suburbs?

A: For the CBD and the Galleria, there are Park-n-ride options that pick up in the suburbs and drop off in the submarket. They have dedicated lanes, which really saves commuting time with traffic. Plus, the buses are generally clean and have a regular schedule, which is a must for fastidious employees and those who have flexible work schedules. In the CBD, there’s also interim transportation to help get you to the commuter bus with a public bus stop on nearly every corner, and other transportation options such as the GreenLink or Lightrail, commuter bikes and affordable fix-rate cab services. So, this works for offices located downtown as long as the office is close to a public transportation stop.


Q: And lastly, is it important to be located near amenities? What types of amenities are desirable?

A: The trends of ‘being confined to a closed office’ environment are dwindling as generations are growing up with the fast-paced evolution of technology. Now you can work from anywhere, and you don’t need a large footprint to do so. Today’s workforce is not only accustomed to instant access of information, they also want instant access to amenities in an interactive environment. It’s important employers to consider office locations near restaurants, cafes, and other venues like fitness studios, and green spaces. Offices that are located in an environment that offers amenities where employees can access the outside or a nearby experience destination for a quick change of environment without being far from home base is highly attractive.


Business owners should take all these factors into account to maintain employee retention. If you aren’t doing it, your competitors are, and you will lose your employees to them.


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