August 20, 2018

The workplace as we know it is changing. Activity-based working, flexible shared spaces and evolving workforce demands are significantly transforming our work environment. Is industry rising to the new normal? We asked four investors and occupiers to share their views at our recent executive roundtable in Singapore.

Wellness and Productivity Balance

Flexible work schedules and agile workplaces have evolved from niche concept to workplace norm. Across the region, employees now have more control over how, where and when they work.

Our roundtable participants highlighted the challenges of this evolving workplace, debating whether it was still possible to ensure a high level of productivity if employees work remotely. They also emphasized the importance of regular team gatherings in the office, which often act as an incubator for collaboration.

To help minimise possible initial resistance to agile workplaces, they suggested focusing on skeptical parties, as well as easing employees into the concept by not being overly prescriptive about clearing desks or moving seats daily.

This may be instructive as more companies are set to adopt activity-based working (ABW): 78% of respondents in CBRE’s APAC Occupier Survey plan to implement ABW in the next two years.

However, if ABW leads to denser workplaces, does this run counter to employee wellness?

While some acknowledged that agile workspaces might be more conducive to higher capacities, one participant commented that it would also allow for up to 40% more communal space.

Technology as an Enabler

Technology plays a vital role in supporting new ways of working. Data analytics can facilitate a greater understanding of how much space is actually used – in one example, it showed that on average 60-70% of employees clock in daily.

With location tracking technologies, employees can now locate colleagues sitting in other neighborhoods, enabling them to easily stay in touch with each other.

At the same time, this may lead to privacy concerns. Our roundtable participants acknowledged these fears and emphasized that this data – which does help them make better decisions – must be used responsibly and appropriately.

These advancements in technology may also prompt some end users to ask for greater control of the space they use – specifically, the ability to adjust temperatures or book meeting rooms on apps.

Facilities managers, however, have to consider cyber security, data confidentiality and compliance. As one participant shared, sophisticated technologies help protect their firm but they are unwilling to expose infrastructure unnecessarily.

Staying Flexible with Co-Working

As work spaces become denser, straining elevator capacities, fire safety regulations, and mechanical and electrical systems, are all buildings able to accommodate and manage the new load?

For example, if poor elevator efficiencies make tenants unhappy, this could be taken into consideration by the potential new buyer of that building.

Investors are also paying close attention to the amount and proportion of space taken up by co-working players, which they acknowledge will consolidate over time. However, they do firmly believe that this trend is here to stay. 

This sub-sector is also evolving, with some considering the co-tenancy model, where occupiers retain their own internal space and share common facilities and amenities, such as pantry space.

Another point of discussion focused on whether contracts with co-working tenants might evolve. Any potential new arrangement could follow the retail model, where landlords have access to sales data or a percentage of receipts, allowing for better information and risk management. Participants, especially investors, also debated the merits of co-working operators as tenants.

Participants all agreed that lease processes should be simplified and standardized. In fact, landlords that take the lead on this may find themselves with a unique competitive advantage in a tight market.



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