Redefining commercial real estate strategies with technology
The reverberations of COVID-19 on the commercial real estate (CRE) market continue to be felt. A report from Colliers International on the UK CRE sector at the end of 2020 noted that investments were down 18% compared to 2019.
However, as vaccination roll outs accelerate around the world, we are starting to get a clearer picture of what the recovery might look like. As our own report, The Way Forward, highlights, the pandemic has provided many organisations with an opportunity to reconsider their real estate strategies.
That is not to say that there aren’t still tensions around the exact shape of future strategies. PWC’s latest Workforce Pulse highlights this issue perfectly: employees remain concerned about the safety of offices and don’t want to lose the benefits that have come from more flexible working arrangements; employers are concerned about “weakened corporate culture in a virtual world”.
However, change is inevitable. As our own research shows, the COVID recovery is not just a question of floor space, lease agreements and optimising utilisation as might be imagined. Instead, organisations are taking the opportunity to reset exactly how they operate.
Indeed, almost a third (30%) of our interviewees said that by making changes to their real estate, they hoped to achieve a combination of benefits around improving connectivity, facilitating collaboration and flexible working and increasing productivity – ahead of more ‘expected’ goals of saving money and improving efficiency.
Better connectivity is not the end in itself
At the heart of this desire for meaningful organisational change is technology infrastructure. When asked what technologies will be most important in supporting future real estate strategies our respondents put mobile/Wi-Fi connectivity, unified communications and access control firmly at the top of the list.
This finding is telling. While we perhaps take wired connections, Wi-Fi and mobile services, for granted in buildings today – we cannot lose sight of the vital role the network plays in creating the smart, compelling experiences we increasingly need our buildings to deliver.
A reliable, robust backbone of connectivity – of every type – is critical if we are to be successful in using technology to establish compelling new standards for workspaces and engender new working cultures within organisations. Whether you want to change the design of space to encourage more people to come into the office, or support better team collaboration for hybrid workforces, or deliver hyper-personalised services to building users.
Making future strategies a reality today
Some organisations already have a head start on their tech-led real estate strategies. LMG was working with Societe Generale well before the pandemic to deliver the backbone of connectivity that has powered a new working culture within the organisation. Far from being mere technological window-dressing, this connected framework is allowing Societe Generale to change its working methods in a profound way and provide a wide range of innovative services.
However, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has accelerated this thinking for many organisations. While our research indicates there is still some apprehension about tackling these issues head-on, our view is very much that the opportunity is there for the taking.
From upgrading the technology to connect people from wherever they choose to work to providing exciting collaboration spaces on site, a huge range of smart solutions that can support more forward-looking real estate strategies are available now – these are not far-off visions. Through a converged approach to building infrastructure, bringing operations and technology together, organisations can turn their visions into reality in 2021.
If you’d like to talk to our team about The Way Forward for your business, why not give us a call?