Elizabeth Shanahan can get a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, clean her car with a weekly detailing service, go to yoga classes or get a massage — all from her office.
It’s some of the many perks of working for Clearwater-based marketing firm PostcardMania, which also allows well-behaved dogs in the office.
With her favorite cafe sandwich at her desk, Shanahan, a human resources recruiter, sorts through hundreds of job applications every morning.
A lot of people moving to Florida, she said. And they want a job.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped office and work culture permanently. Some companies in Tampa Bay are affected by the influx of people moving here while others are struggling with the ongoing labor shortage. Employers that made the Tampa Bay Times 2022 Top Workplaces rankings said there’s a retention push to keep workers happy in their jobs with flexibility and benefits.
PostcardMania’s motto is to foster a “thank God it’s Monday” attitude compared to “thank God it’s Friday,” Shanahan said. Employees can work from home, but she said most come to the office.
Last year, experts forecasted that commercial real estate offerings would grow, as many companies shrunk their office needs. But “it’s really not happening,” said Jim Moler, head of office agency leasing for the commercial real estate firm JLL.
Most of the available office space in Tampa Bay consists of brand new buildings that are part of larger real estate projects like Water Street Tampa and Midtown Tampa. And companies are snatching up the space quickly. A surge of tenant move-ins at the end of 2021 pushed Tampa’s quarterly absorption rate to its highest level on record at more than 176,000 square feet, according to a JLL report.
Employers and landlords aren’t trying to fit as many people as possible into an office anymore, Moler said. They’re using the same footprint to add “hotel” features into the workplace, like cafes, fitness centers, ping pong tables and more shared space just to spread out. It’s a useful recruitment tool in a tight labor market, Moler said.
“The story is all about the war for talent. It’s definitely real,” Moler said. “Keeping and attracting the best and the brightest is a challenge for companies.”
Tampa Bay has seen explosive population growth over the last decade, which only accelerated during the pandemic with remote work opportunities. Some companies are relocating or opening new branches here.
And many Tampa Bay employers can’t get office upgrades fast enough, said Fletcher Moore, a Central Florida executive for Origin Construction. Supply chain issues and inflation make it difficult to meet the demand for workspaces to adjust for hybrid models. He doesn’t expect it to get easier any time soon.
“Early comers have already made the move to the region,” Moore said. “That word now is getting back to all of their competitors in the rest of the country. Soon they’ll be coming.”
Some employers are choosing to limit the typical work constraints on personal life. At Ceridian, a technology firm for HR management, workers have no limits on paid time off, said Todd Simmons, the manager of the company’s St. Petersburg office. About 300 employees work in Tampa Bay for the Minneapolis-based company.
“When we removed many of those constraints, frankly, employees were free to make choices that made the most sense for them,” Simmons said.
He said employees no longer feel strapped at the end of the year to try to use up what’s left of their vacation time. While it is a hybrid workplace, most work remotely. Employees may take up to two hours during the workday to handle life matters like doctor’s appointments.
Now other employers are looking for similar ways to provide more flexibility to their workers. These options help not only employees, Simmons said, they are better overall for business, too.
”These types of policies positioned us ahead of the pandemic in a way that adjusting to pandemic circumstances was far easier for us,” Simmons said.