Occupiers looking to make efficiency gains and refine workplace strategies says CBRE

Occupiers’ real estate priorities are increasingly focussed on introducing efficiency gains and enhancing workplace strategies in a quest to make space work smarter, according to the 2017 CBRE European Occupier Survey. Greater use of technology is seen as key enabler of these objectives.

The report, which identified the goals, future challenges and workplace strategy of occupiers also revealed:

  • 64% of companies cited economic uncertainty as a major challenge to their future operations
  • The desire for collaboration between customers, colleagues and co-workers is still the top driver of workplace strategy, cited by 65% of occupiers
  • 50% of recipients view technology as a component of successful flexible working strategy

70% had sought to reduce costs over the past year by introducing efficiency measures in their existing space

The overriding challenge for businesses is economic uncertainty, which is up by six percentage points to 64%, and is more than thirty percentage points higher than any other response this year. Political developments will have undoubtedly played a part in this, specifically uncertainty over the timing and terms of Brexit, and the changing policy regime in the US.

Corporate real estate (CRE) goals focus on two clear elements: cost-reduction and strategic alignment between real estate and wider business aims. Both were mentioned as essential by around 90% of companies.  Talent attraction is not far behind, with 77% citing this is as a key goal of CRE.

The main influences on corporates’ location strategies are high-quality labour and skills, and cost management.  Of those who highlighted these factors, 78% regard labour and skills as essential or somewhat essential. The corresponding figure for cost was 86%, with business alignment at 64%.

Richard Holberton, EMEA Head of Occupier Research, at CBRE comments:
“Corporates are faced with the challenge of balancing multiple objectives that may not always be mutually-reinforcing.  High-levels of economic uncertainty, combined with the need to balance cost-management with strategic alignment, frame the landscape that occupiers are working in.  So the focus is very heavily on securing efficiencies and refining workplace strategies within the existing corporate footprint.  Finding optimal solutions across key strategic objectives will require a more activist and innovative approach and a willingness to experiment.”

When it comes to Workplace Strategy, the desire for collaboration between customers, colleagues and co-workers is still the top driver, cited by 65% of occupiers, followed by cost (61%) and business flexibility (47%).  The most important feature in the eyes of the labour force is indoor environmental quality according to 66% of companies, while flexible working practices and the provision of amenities are also highly-rated. Wellness programmes are also becoming more wide-ranging, with 72% of businesses stating some level of preference for WELL-certified buildings.

Richard Holberton continues: “These findings reflect a smart and creative approach to delivering space efficiency while also aligning with wider corporate strategy.  Collaboration drives more efficient occupation of floor space thereby reducing costs, while also driving innovation, through encouraging sharing of ideas and group approaches to problem solving.  Finding ways to measure and demonstrate the benefits of such innovations will be a key focus for some companies”.

The survey makes clear that technology and innovative thinking are driving occupiers’ attempts to make their space work smarter. The three key areas of focus are:

  • the application of disruptive technology
  • flexible working strategy and
  • the use of shared space.

The application of disruptive technologies is focused on occupancy management (66%) facilities management (60%) and customer experience (49%).  Innovative technologies are clearly seen as as one of the tools for securing efficiencies and are strongly focussed on better occupancy management.  This means refining the measurement of utilisation, internal occupancy patterns and people flows.  Nearly 60% see a role for smart building  sensors in this effort.

Flexible working strategies have clearly evolved and their principles are more widely accepted at C-Suite level.  The focus is now on the tools needed to support flexible working and these have a strong technology element: virtual desktop and video conferencing have seen large increases in popularity since last year.

Finally, the survey reports significant growth in interest in shared space over the next three years, to support goals of flexibility, cost management and short-term space solutions.

Richard Holberton concludes: “Technology is being increasingly widely used to generate data that help corporates to understand, manage and predict space usage.  It offers the potential for greater value-add through enhancing working environments, improving employee experience and ultimately supporting business performance.  Turning these insights into advantage through intelligent application of building and workspace technologies is the next challenge for forward-looking occupiers.

“The survey findings present challenges for investors and developers as well. There is a growing need to ensure that investments are future-proofed and capable of delivering the internal infrastructure to support future technologies and sustain buildings’ tenant appeal.  Understanding the need for, and investment characteristics, of shared space will also become increasingly important.”