The Latest in the Warehouse Amenity Race

GlobeSt caught up with Rob Gemerchak to discuss latest in warehouse amenities

Originally published by GlobeSt

Industrial and logistics real estate has often lagged behind offices in amenities or other ways to support employees’ health and wellbeing. In the face of ongoing labor shortages, that is beginning to change. Now, human-centric design has become a priority for logistics companies trying to attract and retain top talent, according to a new JLL report.

“Traditional warehouses are typically seen as big sheds located away from population centers, and are not necessarily zoned for other uses,” Peter Guevarra, Director, Regional Research, Asia Pacific, JLL, said the report. “Amenities for employees in warehouses were not always seen as a requirement to attract the workforce.”

However, this is quickly changing, with the talent war heating up amid labor shortages. Human-centric design has become a priority for logistics companies trying to attract and retain top talent.

“Across modern logistics facilities, more wellness amenities are being incorporated into building design including food offerings, childcare centers, gyms and improved in-building connectivity,” Peter Guevarra, JLL’s director of regional research for Asia Pacific, said during an interview leading up to the Future of Logistics virtual panel discussion.

Indeed, these amenities have become chief recruiting tools along with higher compensation, Patrick Daugherty, Vice President and Industrial Distribution Lead for Stream Realty Partners’ National Program Management Services, tells GlobeSt.

“Amenities such as climate-controlled warehouses, gyms and recreation areas, indoor and outdoor break areas, walking and biking trails that take advantage of a large footprint, commuter-friendly parking with EV charging stations, and WELL Certified Building design initiatives are just a few things companies should consider.”

That said, not all amenities a corporation invests in will be impactful, Daugherty continued. “Similar to understanding how an equipment plan relates to the efficiency of a facility, warehouse amenities that contribute to the safety and well-being of an employee must also be strategically planned for maximum impact and return on investment.”

Health Care and Day Care Make a Difference

Rob Gemerchak, Director at Stan Johnson Company, tells GlobeSt that what has become expected for modern office and tech spaces is becoming more common in distribution centers as developers incorporate these amenities for e-commerce operators, logistics firms and even manufacturers.

“The continued expansion of the distribution market in the US, combined with the tight labor market, has created a highly competitive environment to attract and retain warehouse workers,” Gemerchak said.

“Developers have included gyms, coffee bars, on-site childcare, outdoor break areas, as well as a design focus on providing more natural lighting and enhanced climate control capabilities. In addition to providing work-space amenities, employers are also seeking to provide ancillary benefits to attract and retain workers by offering, for example, improved healthcare benefits, career advancement programs and attractive retirement savings plans.”

Developers are also incorporating outdoor amenities into the mix, such as patios and landscaped walking trails, particularly in rural areas, Scott Harrell, LEED, AP, principal and co-owner of architecture and design firm Mancini tells GlobeSt. “It’s a great way to entice the employees out of the building and get them engaged in an open-air environment,” he said.

Appealing to Truck Drivers

This is a trend that has legs; few developers, in other words, believe the industry will revert back to the airless boxes of a few generations ago. For example, speculative developer Newcastle Partners is incorporating more flexibility into the design of industrial buildings from day one to provide future tenants with greater amenity options, Courtney Smith, senior project manager, Newcastle Partners, tells GlobeSt.

“We are now pulling sewer and water across the entire building to accommodate for speculative ‘trucker lounges.’” Smith said. “These are private spaces with direct access into the building from the truck court and come equipped with private restrooms, a kitchen, couches, etc. A simple shaded seating area for outdoor breaks or meetings is now a standard in our spec design as well. With larger sites, we’re able to get more creative with features such as a walking path around the exterior of the site.”

Smith said businesses continue to consolidate traditional office and warehouse efforts under one roof, amenities such as these are becoming increasingly sought after.

“In the war for talent, amenities that you would see in an office are making their way into warehouses and aiding tenants in retaining talent,” Smith said. “Newcastle will continue to expand on our amenities in order to attract class A tenants and facilitate employee well-being and satisfaction.”

Adding Human-Centric Design

JLL’s Guevarra said larger logistics occupiers are in the early stages of improving their amenities.

“Only the larger logistics occupiers and developers are incorporating human-centric design now, but more players will follow, particularly as we also move into an era of ESG and sustainability,” he said.

Beyond amenities, implementing human-centric design in logistics facilities also means considering how technological advancements can improve employees’ wellbeing by reducing physically demanding tasks such as excessive lifting.

According to a JLL industrial report, a human-centric design approach to warehouse operations boosts productivity with robots managing repetitive or injurious tasks, while workers focus on value-added roles such as order fulfillment and problem-solving.

“Robotics involved in the movement of goods inside facilities are already used by some 50 percent of supply chain organizations, and this trend will only increase,” Michael de Jong-Douglas, Senior Managing Director, ESR, said in the lead-up to the Future of Logistics virtual panel.

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