- On the most recent Future of Work podcast episode, we were joined by commercial real estate expert and thought leader Dave Cairns.
- Cairns’ emphasis on sustainability and his new approach to the utilization of office spaces are as innovative as they are necessary.
- Reimagining office spaces as community hubs and implementing sustainable practices in office repurposing can lead to more vibrant, efficient, and environmentally friendly urban spaces.
Picture this: you step into an office not just as a space filled with desks, computers, and the occasional water cooler chatter, but as a dynamic epicenter of innovation, community, and sustainability.
As we hover on the precipice of a seismic shift in our understanding and utilization of office spaces, it’s time to color outside the lines of the conventional cubicle. It’s time to envision these places not merely as monotone mazes of workstations, but as pulsating, vibrant community hubs; hubs that are capable of not just driving deadlines and sales targets, but also societal change and a sustainable future.
On the most recent Future of Work podcast episode, we were joined by Dave Cairns, who has transitioned from a successful career as a professional poker player to join CBRE in 2012 where he is now a Senior Vice President. Since then, he has established himself as a thought leader in the commercial real estate industry, gaining worldwide recognition for his contributions and insights.
Cairns has taken the transition from digital nomad to commercial real estate specialist in stride. His emphasis on sustainability and his new approach to the utilization of office spaces are as innovative as they are necessary.
Today, we’re witnessing more than just a change; it’s a revolution in the use of office spaces. For real estate developers and urban planners, it’s imperative to acknowledge this evolution and adapt accordingly. If technology is used wisely, the transition to remote work models can be made extremely effective, thus opening up new opportunities for repurposing office spaces.
This isn’t just about societal change — it’s about creating a sustainable future where office spaces become community hubs that foster a unique culture.
Here are four key aspects to consider when reimagining the office:
1. Leverage Technology for Remote Work Adaptation
We’re living in an exciting era where work is getting a major makeover. Technology is no longer just a tool; it’s driving a work revolution, pushing businesses to adapt and thrive in a remote-centric world. This isn’t just changing how we work, but also where — sparking a potential urban metamorphosis.
In his conversation with Future of Work podcast host Frank Cottle, Cairns drew on his experiences as a digital nomad and his unique journey into commercial real estate to offer valuable insight on this digital disruption. Cairns highlights the versatility of today’s technology in supporting work from anywhere, whether it’s home, a coffee shop, or even another country.
Organizations are responding to the changing dynamics of the global workforce, acknowledging the rising demand for flexible work hours and spaces. In doing so, these businesses can attract a wider talent pool and benefit from enhanced productivity.
What’s more is that the ripple effect of this change can potentially transform cities by integrating living and working spaces, thereby revitalizing urban areas. All of these facets point towards a future characterized by flexibility, innovation, and sustainability, where work and life harmoniously coexist in ways that enhance both individual and collective well-being. When embraced wholeheartedly, the technology-driven shift towards remote work doesn’t merely adapt to the changing times; it pioneers them.
2. Recognize the Shift in Office Space Usage
In recent years, we have witnessed a significant shift in the usage of office spaces. Traditionally, offices were seen as the hub of operations: the place where employees converge and work collaboratively. However, the advent of technology, together with changing societal trends, has redefined how we view the concept of the workplace.
Today, work is increasingly becoming an activity, not confined to a specific place or rigid timeframe. As work transforms into a flexible and digital process, the bricks and mortar of office spaces are losing their sole claim to the “workplace” label. Instead, offices are becoming one of many viable options within the broader “workplace ecosystem,” alongside remote work, coworking spaces, and even our own homes.
“There’s no office amenity more valuable than the choice to go there or not,” he said on the podcast.
In our conversation with Cairns, he notes how digital technology enables digital nomads to work virtually from anywhere — be it a home office or a local coffee shop. He proposed a compelling vision of “officing” as an activity rather than a place, emphasizing the importance of looking beyond just physical square footage. The future office, in Cairns’ view, is not a physical entity, but a holistic workplace ecosystem that leverages technology to support flexible and remote work arrangements.
This shift in office space usage is invaluable as it paves the way for a more flexible, adaptive, and sustainable future of work. The redefinition of the workplace to encompass more than just traditional office space serves as a catalyst for companies to create work environments tailored to the realities of the digital age. Evolving to this new concept of the workplace ecosystem allows businesses to access a broader talent pool, cater to diverse work preferences, and boost overall productivity.
This shift also carries significant societal implications, potentially leading to revitalized urban areas and more balanced work-life dynamics; understanding and adapting to this shift is fairly vital for any business or individual hoping to stay relevant in the rapidly evolving world of work.
3. Understand the Role of Culture in Remote Workplaces
Companies are realizing the importance of developing strong corporate culture in remote workplaces for employees to feel connected and motivated despite being physically distant. This includes facilitating digital communication platforms, setting a climate of trust and transparency, and embodying the company’s values into everyday operations.
In essence, work has truly become an activity rather than a place. Looking beyond conventional office spaces, Cairns called attention to the importance of building a strong culture in remote work settings. He stressed that culture isn’t something you implement; it’s something that naturally evolves from the leaders and the team. He provided an interesting formula to define culture: its values multiplied by behavior, raised to the power of influence.
Drawing from his experiences, he emphasized the significance of leaders embodying company values in their behavior, as it sets the cultural tone for the entire organization. In the era of remote work, building a robust, values-based culture can be a game-changer for businesses. A company’s core values that resonate with employees strengthen the culture, promoting loyalty, commitment, and increased productivity.
4. Reimagine Office Spaces as Community Hubs
Traditionally, office spaces have been viewed primarily as a venue for work activities. But as we move towards a more interconnected and digital society, there’s an increasing demand for spaces that do more than just house employees during work hours. The concept of reimagining office spaces as community hubs is crucial in this age of remote and flexible work culture, and it involves transforming these locations into more welcoming and holistic places that encourage interaction, collaboration, and creativity. This move is not a far-fetched idea; instead, it’s an evolution of the workspace’s function in line with the changing needs and habits of the modern workforce.
Referencing his past as a digital nomad, Cairns identifies the need for workspaces that cater to a wider range of needs — spaces that do more than just offer desks and meeting rooms. He sees potential in transforming office spaces into bustling community hubs where people can work, socialize, learn, and grow.
He references the transformation of Toronto’s entertainment district, where the traditional office cubicles have given way to a vibrant urban community teeming with activity. And once the workday is over, these places don’t shut down. Instead, they continue to thrive, serving as meeting places for networking, brainstorming, or simply unwinding.
The reinvention of office spaces as community hubs is more than just about providing a more pleasant working environment. It’s about acknowledging the shifts in societal expectations and workers’ lifestyles, and it’s a commitment to fostering a stronger sense of community, solidarity, and belongingness among the workforce.
“What I think that this remote work revolution will do for downtown urban metros is that it will accelerate their transition from being centers of work to really centers of culture, centers of entertainment, and places to live,” Cairns said.
This transformation goes hand-in-hand with digitalization and the growth of remote work, contributing to a dynamic that presents not only challenges but also opportunities. As work-from-home days become a reality for many, office spaces hold the potential to remedy the need for a sense of community by being a place for human connection, a catalyst for innovation, and a driver for communal growth. Much like cities evolve with the needs of their inhabitants, so too must our workplaces adapt to an increasingly diverse and digitally sophisticated workforce.