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How corporate real estate is turning uncertainty into advantage

Asia Pacific /

No aspect of corporate real estate is immune to the disruptive forces currently sweeping the wider industry.

New technology, new user expectations, new uses of space or new business models are fast becoming a new reality.

Some companies are embracing the disruption, using it to shake up old norms and strategies and usher in a new breed of collaborative, flexible and innovative spaces. Others are standing on the sidelines, weighing up what these disruptive forces mean for them and what their next step should be.

At CoreNet Global Summit in Madrid, the big questions centred round how companies can adapt to the challenges and opportunities posed by fast evolving corporate real estate trends.

How can they not only embrace disruption but use it to transform their business? How can they embed an agile culture that fosters innovation and productivity? How are can they integrate technology and keep pace with the digital drive?

“As office space gets more flexible, people become more agile in their working lives and smart technology establishes itself as the norm, the workplace is undergoing a dramatic transformation,” says Neil Murray, CEO of Corporate Solutions at JLL EMEA. “Regardless of industry, size or location, there’s no standard blueprint for the future workplace and no one-size-fits-all way of getting there.”

Amid the uncertainty, there are some trends that companies can’t afford to ignore – and by adapting their workplace strategies to their growing influence, they can start to use the disruption to their advantage.

Future of Work

Workplaces are increasingly people-orientated as corporate attitudes move past the traditional 9-5, fixed-desk model. “We know that employees want spaces that keep them connected and adapt to their needs – that’s only going to increase as more digital natives come through to the workplace,” says Sue Asprey Price, Head of UK Corporate Solutions at JLL.

Then there’s also the digital drive as integrated technology takes a bigger role not only in how people do their jobs but also how they interact with the environment around them – think sensors collecting data to personalise the workplace and AI support with admin tasks.

“Nothing occurs in isolation anymore. We’re entering a new data-defined era, driven by employees’ changing requirements, that is placing fresh demands on how workplaces can maximize employee wellbeing as well as enhance productivity and foster innovation,” says Asprey Price.

Flexible space

Flexible space has gone far beyond its traditional coworking roots as it grows rapidly across Europe, with JLL predicting it will increase by up to 30 percent a year for the next five years. Coworking providers have now upped their game and new landlord-created platforms are providing high-quality, amenity-rich workspaces where networking events, social and dining areas and creative designs promote a sense of community and encourage collaboration.

“Growth is being driven by changes in how, when and where people work,” says Tom Carroll, Head of EMEA Corporate Research at JLL. “The rise of cloud computing, VPNs, super-fast Wi-Fi and 4G (soon 5G) connectivity means that office-type work can be carried out anywhere and at any time.”

As flexspace enters its take-off phase in Europe, growing numbers of companies – not just start-ups – are experimenting with how it can meet their changing space requirements. “Providing flexibility and creating environments that inspire, stimulate and respond to change is non-negotiable to attract the next generation of talent,” says Carroll.

Investors too are paying close attention to flexspace. They need to – as Carroll says: “The growing – and evolving – flexspace market will disrupt conventional occupation, development and investment models right across the real estate lifecycle.”

Smart buildings

As technology advances at an exponential rate, buildings themselves are getting smarter. Connected devices will allow for real time monitoring of how buildings are used and enable better facilities management.

“We’re already seeing companies adopt technology that enables workplaces to be more efficient. For example, sensing technology can be quite granular and report, in real time, the usage of an area for space managers to gain insights, while providing employees with the benefit of finding the nearest empty meeting room via a mobile app,” says Akshay Thakur, JLL’s Head of Smart Buildings Programme in EMEA.

And interaction between buildings, people and their personal devices is only set to increase. “The key difference between where we are now and where we’ll be in the future is the interface we use to interact with buildings. Mobile apps are becoming prevalent, gestures and voice control is only around the corner,” says Thakur.

“Over time we should find that buildings are increasingly adapting to our requirements, almost predicting our demands and facilitating the environment to ensure the user experience is hassle-free or very intuitive, while increasing a building’s efficiency.”