Ford’s new Dearborn campus, planned for development over the next ten years, wasn’t designed simply as a place to work, but as a place where employees would enjoy spending time. Early plans of the two campus facility include, basketball courts, softball fields, walkable paths with lakes, flowers, trees, collaborative work spaces, adjustable-height desks, natural lighting, indoor and outdoor cafes with Wi-Fi, and on-site fitness centers.


This impressive list of features may mirror a resort or hotel more than an auto company’s campus, but it is the most recent example of the transformation the modern workplace is experiencing.


Ford, according to Dearborn’s Mayor John B. O’Reily, is “conscious of creating the kind of environment people want to be in.” And this mindset, over simply creating a place to work, has become the norm rather than the exception. Employees are working more than ever and because of this are looking for employers that can help them balance their work lives and personal lives so they can be devoted employees. When looking to Ford as an example, how can commercial property investors promote a healthy work-life balance for those spending time in facilities? How can the location, design, and infrastructure support a healthy work-life balance for employees?


Let’s take a look at some of these elements:


Location and The Commute


It turns out that commute times have a large effect on an employee satisfaction. Research by consultant Jeff Parks found that at one manufacturer “at 13 miles, which is about a 30-45 minute commute, the probability of quitting jumped to more than 92 percent.”


Companies, like Facebook, are even offering bonuses to employees that live closer because when companies employ those that have long commute times they can experience:


• Increased absenteeism

• Frequent tardiness

• High turnover

• Lower employee engagement

• Lower productivity


It can also make it harder to recruit new employees.


This means that the location of a company is extremely important. While distance from work is something that should be talked about in a job interview, it’s also important to consider before even building or choosing a location for a facility. Fairly low-populated areas may provide extensive room for building and expansion, but does this mean all the employees will be coming in from a substantial distance? Ignoring the possible commute time for the majority of employees when choosing a location can be a costly mistake.


Infrastructure and Community


In our increasingly mobile world, working remotely is becoming more and more popular and while this is a nice option to use when needed, most companies still prefer employees to work on site and take advantage of collaboration. But, to make this an appealing option, spaces need to be appealing to employees. Which is why Ford, in their new plant, is offering features that promote community and create a fun and appealing work environment, spaces where people want to gather.


While spaces like this can be designed, it’s important to consider when looking at the structure and bones of a building when considering if for potential work space. Open space and natural lighting are important features to look for when purchasing a building, and developers will save money if those elements are already a strong feature of the building.


Metropolis Magazine recommends architecture that is unconstrained and designed for movement and change.


Design, Recruitment and Retention


The traditional 40 hour work week is becoming a thing of the past with employees working more than ever. A survey by EY of nearly 9,700 full-time employees revealed that 64% report working two to four hours more a week, with 36% logging an extra five hours or more.


While employees are working more, and are willing to do it, they are also demanding more of the companies demanding more of them, which is why so many companies, such as Ford are designing workplaces to meet the needs and desires of their employees.


“The overarching theme is to make the lives of employees better,” Donna Inch, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Land Development Corporation, said in an interview. They do this by designing the features that make employees feel appreciated and help them look forward to coming to work. Their wifi cafes, walking paths, and lush landscaping are all part of the plan to create an appealing workplace and these are things to consider when choosing a location or purchasing a building. What features will be possible to add and what will a company have to give up if they build their space there.


Designing and choosing locations for recruitment is also particularly important for companies like Ford who are looking for tech-focused employees but know it’s difficult to bring that type of talent to the Midwest.


As the workplace continues to change and evolve, and the workforce changes the way they work, how workplaces are being designed should change as well. Ford realizes that and is planning a facility that will take them into the future. When commercial property investors look for the spaces that will have staying power in the future, they should think about the workplace like Ford has.