The Workplace Reworked: CRE, Smart Technology and AI

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“Technology is transforming businesses, organizations, and their real estate.” – Tom Carroll, Director EMEA and UK Corporate Research, JLL

JLL recently published it’s Top 10 Global CRE Trends for 2017. And from the looks of it, Corporate Real Estate is getting better, smarter, and edgier.

Allwork spoke with Tom Carroll, JLL Director of EMEA and UK Corporate Research, about JLL’s report, the 4 key areas where change is happening in the workplace, and what flexible workspace operators can do to stay relevant and competitive in a growing and evolving market.

“We’re seeing a lot of disruption in different sectors. There’s a restructuring of industries going on; real estate and the workplace are the physical manifestation of this restructuring. And organizations are using real estate and the workplace as a way to add value, drive growth, and innovate.”

Carroll explained that there are 4 key areas where JLL sees change in CRE and in the workplace:

  1. Increase focus on innovation. Organizations are beginning to see real estate as a driver of innovation and they are finding ways through which the physical space can support it. Carroll mentions accelerators and incubators as spaces that have been created with the purpose of supporting and driving innovation among workers.
  2. Data in real estate. “We’re seeing a dramatic change in the way organizations look at collecting data within the workplace to drive efficiency.” Organizations are using this data to enhance design, understand how the workplace is being used, and how they can improve the space for its end-users. This trend is moving the shift towards smart buildings and smart workplaces. According to Carroll, sensor data is a leading technology in this category. “There is now furniture that monitors heart levels and stress, sensors that respond to individual choices and personalization; all of this contributes to improved performance and better workspace experiences.”
  3. Workspace-as-a-service. “30% of corporate portfolios will comprise flexible workspaces by 2030.” Corporations today need a workplace that truly attracts and retains talent; this means providing better services, premium locations, hospitality. The workspace-as-a-service industry has come to fill this need in an evolving business world.
  4. Connectivity. The three factors mentioned above all need to work together, to improve organizational culture and to have a competitive advantage in a globalized economy. As for the workplace, it needs to be a tech-rich and driven environment. Especially as we prepare for a new generation to enter the workforce.

Are flexible workspace providers up for the challenge?

“We’ve seen increasing requirements of flexibility in the market from corporate clients. We believe this will change the way organizations structure their real estate, as the need of flexibility and mobility in the workforce increases.”

Carroll continued: “We also believe there will be an increase in diversification in respects to an ever increased focus in coworking. However, we don’t believe this will be linear trajectory.

“There will be consolidation and a period where you will begin to see winners and losers in the environment.

“There are lots of different models, at different price points, and the market is still maturing. Organizations first need to understand and decide which workspace format and model works best for them. They will then need to find out ways in which they can integrate these spaces to their real estate strategy.”

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Carroll further expands on the topic of consolidation and competition within the flexible workspace market, as well as what is driving the changes we see today.

“When we talk about the concept and evolution of coworking, though it was first driven by startups and SMEs it has now grown to attract some of the biggest corporations in the world. The demand has changed radically. It is difficult to make generic or overall statements of who will win or lose in this consolidation stage, and it will differ greatly by location.

“However, there clearly are benefits to having a large and global presence, especially if you’re trying to attract the corporate clientele.”

“Large and international corporates will look for strategic partnerships that will be able to service their requirements in different locations. Obviously, you’ll have to have a certain scale in order to enter into this kind of relationship.”

But Carroll believes there will still be strong market for local and independent operators. “I believe smaller startups and SMEs will naturally gravitate towards something more locally relevant and authentic. There is going to be a complex and diverse market change.”

Staying relevant

Carroll believes that in order to stay relevant and competitive in today’s market, as well as in the future, flexible workspace operators will need to invest in technology.

“At the workplace level, we’re seeing technology being implemented in a much more aggressive way. Most ubiquitous is the use of sense technology and other types of tech that can track workplace utilization and then harvest that data and business intelligence to drive efficiency and work on adaptive design change.”

Of courses, this is easier said than done, and Carroll acknowledges that flexible workspace providers have a difficult challenge to face.

“On the technology side, I think one of the biggest challenges flexible workspaces face is that there is a cost and investment to implementing these high-quality tech solutions in the space. Every provider will need to make a judgment of ROI on the technology they want to embrace, and this will (of course) depend on the market that they are servicing.”

Just as with design, there is no one size fits all workplace technology strategy for flexible workspace providers.

“It’s quite difficult to navigate this subject and it’s changing so rapidly all the time as well that the workplace requires constant change, and one of the challenges real estate has faced in this subject is that by the time that you’ve built up and are ready to go, the technology has already changed.”

If one thing is clear, however, is that technology must be a priority in developing attractive workplaces.

“It (cutting-edge technology) is going to become a prerequisite for the workplace. More so as the newer generations coming to the workplace are more digitally dependent than millennials. All it takes to realize this is to look at how smart tech and AI is working in home environments; these trends will translate into the work environment, as people will expect that you are able to provide the technology and infrastructure that they can access at home.”

In conclusion, it’s time for flexible workspaces to harness the power of technology, AI, and predictive data analytics to improve and enhance their workplace and its performance.

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