Mark Furness, Founder and CEO of essensys, comments on the need for landlords to create a flexible hybrid workplace office.
We’re witnessing a pervasive shift in all parts of working life. Occupiers have become customers, and the implications are driving widespread disruption throughout the office sector. The way landlords and office space providers currently serve office, and real estate to their customers does not meet their needs.
I believe the future of work is hybrid. A significant trend that office space providers must address is this shift from working in a single, fixed location to working across a flexible real estate platform that spans multiple locations and even geographies. But it’s not as simple as it seems; delivering on this demand for flexibility at scale is a big challenge that landlords face.
It raises multiple questions; how to provide office space in new and compelling ways to attract and retain customers? And how to align office propositions to the needs of enterprise occupiers seeking effective office solutions at scale that help them retain talent and meet employee expectations.
Creating real estate that is fit for purpose and provides experiences
Above all else, real estate must be fit for purpose to deliver the frictionless office experiences occupiers demand. To achieve this, landlords need to rethink their approach to office solutions. No longer will traditional office models suffice in today’s market. Office spaces that enable effective hybrid and distributed working models are paramount, but flexible working goes beyond working one day in the office and the next at home.
There is a need to create real estate platforms that serve evolving requirements reliant on providing positive occupier experiences. We know the staff will accept long commutes within a flexible working schedule, but only if the office they travel to offers more than simply a desk and an internet connection. So, what can landlords do to enrich the office experience?
Ensuring seamless and hyperconnected spaces for occupiers to access is key. Organizations become empowered when they have different types and modalities of spaces across multiple locations at their fingertips. Technology is critical to unlocking this degree of flexibility, scale, and connectivity. Among other considerations, a consistent experience across the portfolio depends on network performance, ease of booking, accessing space, and compliance around data security and digital infrastructure.
Providing amenities across the network of offices is also essential, so occupiers have a workspace that’s more than just a desk. It’s vital to build spaces with more than a single type of occupier in mind, thinking beyond the end-user and more broadly about the requirements of business stakeholders. For example, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) compliance and data security requirements.
Suppose landlords want to offer a compelling hybrid working proposition. In that case, their portfolio must allow workers to access spaces and services effortlessly and securely, no matter where in the building or in which market they are working from. How to offer seamless movement and connectivity for tenants are critical factors for landlords to consider.
That applies to wellness and amenities, too. While it’s important to offer gyms, shops, and services, the challenge is strategically integrating them into the wider workspace ecosystem. This means making them mobile and accessible regardless of where occupiers and their employees are accessing them from. Technology and intelligent digital infrastructure can unlock these capabilities.
The benefits of flexibility at scale: a campus-style network
A network of connected office spaces and services across a portfolio can solve real challenges for today’s occupiers. This level of flexibility unlocks a campus-style network of workspaces to give workers more autonomy and freedom in their workday. Flexible real estate platforms offered across multiple buildings cities or even regions offer occupiers and their employees a range of workspace opportunities to support flexible and hybrid working.
If flexible working is to reach its potential, the broad adoption of campus-style office networks will have to happen. A campus increases the exposure to flex space instead of centralizing it at one location. For example, workers can use an HQ office one day and a flex office the next day. This is important for the trend of a distributed workforce because workers want office spaces near where they live.
However, the spaces must support all styles of work that employees need. Services and amenities throughout the campus must enable collaborative working both in person and/or hybrid environments, offer attractive breakout spaces and meeting rooms that can be seamlessly booked.
Building a culture, improving the motivation and wellbeing of workers are all aspects of work that have come to light amid the pandemic. Flexibility to move within and across office locations and work alongside different people can create synergies and positive experiences for employees that enrich their day-to-day. Amenities throughout the campus also contribute to a better overall office experience and transform the purpose of the workplace into a place of culture and collaboration that employees seek. Landlords can meet this demand with hyperconnected campus-style offices powered by technology.
The role of technology
Effectively transforming traditional office space into flexible workspaces across a portfolio requires the right software and technology. Secure digital infrastructure, effective space setup, seamless operations, and mobile-first occupier interactions are technology cornerstones of operating and scaling flexible office experiences.
Many of the services that remove friction for occupiers, such as touchless access, universal corporate network access, and digital security, demand a great deal of expertise, especially for consistent delivery across multiple assets in a portfolio. Security is an integral component as hybrid working extends the surface area of a company’s network and footprint left open to potential threats.
But identifying and implementing the right tools and technologies to support campus-style office portfolios isn’t an easy task for unequipped landlords. Operational efficiency, quality control, and the seamless office experiences that occupiers demand rely on having a fit-for-purpose technology backbone in place. It is a critical component of powering a consistent portfolio-wide experience for the end-user. And it is essential for the operational efficiency and oversight of quality control, governance and compliance around data security, and trending insights on safety and occupancy.
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Just as technology played a crucial role in facilitating a nationwide shift to home working when the pandemic broke out, technology plays a central role in creating campus-style offices and experiences that occupiers are looking for. As the bell rings on the traditional office model, landlords and flexible workspace providers have a golden opportunity to enable the widespread adoption of flexible real estate platforms.