The Softer Side of Commercial Real Estate
Ben Jensen (left) and Brian Woolsey

The Softer Side of Commercial Real Estate

Startup brokerage Monarch prioritizes psychographics over square footage.

With companies rethinking both how and where they work, being a commercial real estate broker today means playing the role of therapist as much as leasing expert. Experienced agents Brian Woolsey and Ben Jensen saw an opportunity to create a new sort of commercial real estate firm—one that prioritizes psychographics over square footage. In late 2020, they left Cushman Wakefield to launch the boutique firm Monarch. 

Engaging with Monarch begins by taking a proprietary online survey the duo named the “Belonging Barometer” or B2 for short. Designed to help clients think about work holistically before choosing a space, the B2 assesses a company’s predictable growth, work styles, and technology. The survey factors in average employee attitudes about office work and company culture to make suggestions such as prioritizing access to fitness and evaluating your carbon footprint—which Woolsey and Jensen say is fast becoming an imperative to recruit and retain good talent.

“It’s never been more critical that the office be a magnet, not a mandate,” Woolsey says. “The Belonging Barometer allows us to have a conversation about things that are not as obvious. There’s so much more that goes into creating a successful work environment than square footage and terms.” 

Minneapolis-based Monarch’s process persuaded advertising agency Griffin Archer to move from the North Loop to Linden Hills, walking distance to cafes, shops, and salons.

 “Since everyone is so used to working at home, we got used to some of those conveniences,” says Ryan Boekelheide, vice president and director of account service. “It’s nice to have those comforts near the office so it’s a place people want to come.”

For education-technology company Arux Software, the Belonging Barometer narrowed the search for a larger space, says Derek Buschow, vice president of growth and strategy. “Monarch considered everything from how close people want to sit to each other to hangout space, a lounge area, and a cafeteria.” Now settled at the 15 Building in downtown Minneapolis, 75% of its 25-person team comes in regularly.

Insights From Monarch’s Belonging Barometer

Amenities aren’t an option. The younger your employee base, the more amenities, like a coffee bar or fitness center, are expected.

Prioritize community. Team building is an important aspect of the office, so consider locations with access to restaurants, bars, and even volunteer opportunities.

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Environment counts. People spend longer in spaces that make them happy and energized. Plants increase oxygen levels in the air, and access to natural light is shown to improve mood and reduce eyestrain and headaches. 

Food for thought. Data shows that providing employees with food is a big bang for the buck; particularly as employees return to the office, gathering for food and drink will become a key part of office culture. Healthy choices help to control energy flow.