Occupiers accelerate technology investment plans in wake of Covid-19

Stewart Taylor, senior director at CBRE in Edinburgh

Occupiers across EMEA are planning to increase investment in technology, in light of COVID-19, according to the 2020 EMEA Occupier Flash Survey by CBRE, the world’s leading real estate advisor.

With 92% of those approached in the EMEA Occupier Flash Survey expecting to increase adoption of remote working, investment in technology which supports this has been prioritised. Touch-free technology within buildings is expected to be adopted by 45% of those surveyed and 41% reported an increased interest in buildings with WELL or sustainable features.

While the current focus of investment on technology products and services may have shifted towards supporting home working and health management, technology investment was very much at the heart of occupiers’ strategies before the protocol shifts necessitated by the pandemic. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 83% of EMEA occupiers were intending to increase future investment in real estate technology, 91% were expecting virtual/augmented reality to form part of their CRE tech investment and 21% were prepared to pay a rental premium of over 20% for tech-enabled smart buildings.

The model of increased remote working practices coupled with high-quality tech enabled buildings, is a trend initially identified in CBRE’s Real Estate 2030 report, which reported the importance of technology in creating a seamless, high-quality employee experience at central headquarters: club house style offices which will become integral in attracting and retaining talent.

Stewart Taylor, senior director at CBRE Scotland, commented: “Amidst the current disruption, occupiers’ emphasis on technology investment persists. It has shifted from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ element of occupiers’ real estate strategies, as it is integral in both reducing the risk of virus transmission in offices and in supporting employee confidence in the workplace. As using integrated technology to collect data which can inform decision making becomes more prevalent, we expect occupiers to increasingly appreciate the value of investing in this. Truly digital buildings, with connected hardware and software systems, help to drive operational efficiencies, reduce costs, improve the employee experience and enhance productivity. The value of integrated technology, therefore, extends far beyond the immediate health crisis.”

Angela Lowe, senior director at CBRE Scotland, added: “This survey provides a snapshot of what is concerning occupiers in this rapidly changing environment. With 40% of respondents stating that they will be reviewing their locational footprint, we are exploring what this will mean for Scotland in terms of future demand. We are already seeing evidence of this in the market as we continue to advise major corporate occupiers in Scotland and across the rest of UK. With the availability of a talented labour pool and high quality offices, both of which are competitive in terms of cost, we think that there will be new opportunities for occupiers here in Scotland.”