The pace of change in the modern workplace is accelerating with breakthrough technologies like The Cloud and IoT, as well as cutting edge innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and machine learning. While workplace flexibility and automation bring the promise of increased productivity, safety, efficiencies and convenience, these technologies also raise questions: What is the broader impact on real estate, jobs and the nature of work itself?
We welcomed Pushpa Gowda, Global Technology Engagement Director to speak at our Future of Work seminar to kick off New York Real Estate Tech Week. We discussed how forward-thinking organizations are embracing transformative workplace technologies, alternative work styles and environments to compete and thrive.
We sat down with Pushpa to continue the discussion about the future of work and what it means for corporate real estate and PropTech.
Propmodo: Technology is changing and disrupting virtually every industry at a breakneck pace. How can you help a workplace prepare?
Gowda: Digitization, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotic process automation (RPA) are turning the world of work on its head and the physical workplace is changing with it. We are helping organizations to prepare for the future of work by embracing technology disruption and enhancing their agility, so they are better able to respond to unexpected changes. With real estate being the third- or fourth-largest cost for many organizations, corporate real estate teams need a more holistic view of real estate, workplace and business strategies.
Through conversations with our clients and our own experts, we developed our proprietary “The Future of Work” model and perspective to help companies pinpoint the areas they need to focus on to succeed in an era of uncertainty. Our model provides a roadmap to help companies navigate the cultural and economic shifts, innovation and technology that are reshaping the concept of work and will impact the next generation of real estate. Specifically, we focus on five interdependent dimensions: human experience, digital drive, continuous innovation, operational excellence and financial management.
Propmodo: How should organizations look at workplace strategy differently than they have in years past?
Gowda: Real estate should be about creating spaces for people to achieve their personal and professional ambitions and to help their organizations achieve theirs. That’s why our model includes the “Human Experience” dimension. Organizations need to examine their offices as they are and also factor in how work and the workforce are evolving.
For example, today’s new multi-generational workforce requires alternative work styles and new work environments. We envision innovative network-led spaces and technologies, in workplaces where people can interact and collaborate with colleagues as well as entrepreneurs and employees from other organizations.
You need to ‘curate’ the workplace as you set the social agenda to create networking opportunities and embrace collaboration. You need programs that prepare and manage not only the space, but also the work experience itself, to deliver ongoing efficiency, vibrancy and wellness.
Creating the workplace of the future is not simply about constructing a new office. It’s about how that will be different than today’s space. We expect offices in the future to offer high-tech, personalized tools and services, so the office stops being merely a major expense and becomes a tool in the war for talent.
Propmodo: How does this change the role of corporate real estate in the modern business world?
Gowda: Corporate real estate can’t sit still while companies digitize their operations and transform their core businesses, which is the point of the “Digital Drive” dimension of the Future of Work. Workplace and real estate should help future-proof the larger business, not hold it back. Truly digital organizations adopt operating models that are adaptable and agile.
Corporate real estate can advance business transformation with interactive workplace technologies that help employees customize their workspaces and easily obtain services they need to be productive, as well as automate many aspects of facility management with workplace management systems, smart building technologies and other tools. Meanwhile, the data generated can be aggregated and analyzed to improve workplace strategies along with building operating performance.
We will see corporate real estate teams exploring new technologies and innovation to enhance the workplace experience and streamline internal processes. Through our “Continuous Innovation” dimension, we are helping clients to combine new thinking, solutions and processes to drive value and innovation while accelerating business transformation through R&D and M&A. In fact, we are already partnering with many of our clients to use new technologies to advance their goals, whether it’s smart building systems, automated facility management or workplace strategies.
At JLL, we’ve been investing in technology companies, acquiring some and partnering with others, to bring corporate real estate teams the best and most cost-effective tools to use in their organizations and thereby take advantage of the constant change around us.
Propmodo: It was just two years ago that a Forrester Study commissioned by JLL found that less than 30% of corporate real estate executives consider themselves to be ‘data-centric’. What are some of the ways you see the corporate real estate function becoming more data-centric and what value will this approach provide to organizations?
In addition to the data point you mention, at the time of the study, more than half also felt they didn’t have data or analytic tools to help performance. They didn’t have access to inter-departmental data or standard data and file formats. In just the two years since that research, we’ve seen remarkable strides made in our industry’s commitment to and adoption of comprehensive, integrated data and analytics tools. Data is now a focused discipline in our industry and having reliable data and analytics is rapidly becoming a standard best practice as opposed to being a strategic differentiator.
In the future we expect data will be used to create personalized tools and services that enhance the human experience in the workplace. For example, in the not-too-distant future, this scenario will be possible: Your cell phone wakes you up a half hour early because it’s raining outside, and you should get on the road sooner to stay on schedule. That same phone will downsize the conference room to accommodate a smaller group because of the rain. Coffee will be ready for six people instead of 12, and the new conference room’s temperature will be reduced to 68 degrees per your preference. Predictive and advanced analytics will give way to new levels of performance- perhaps even before you’re out of bed like this example.
In addition to interactive solutions, real estate can also deploy technology, which operates in the background and collects information that can feed into facilities management or other real estate functions. Tracking how people move around a workspace through their ID badges or sensors could provide valuable insight into areas that are underutilized. This could be helpful in managing building resources, and moreover, in communicating to employees—posting messages to video monitors or via mobile app notifications where they are most likely to be seen.
Propmodo: Do you have any final thoughts?
Gowda: The landscape of real estate has evolved significantly in the past few years. Real estate was once about acquiring and managing buildings. Now, real estate has become a strategic lever for transformation, enabling organizations to achieve broader business agendas and create new levels of value thanks to technology. Ultimately, companies that proactively embrace disruption and manage uncertainty will create opportunity and thrive in these times of constant change.