In more ways than we will cover here, 2020 has been a year of change. Corporate real estate, human resources, and IT teams have started collaborating more closely to allow employees to start working from home. We are implementing more of the technologies that allow employees and guests to be productive and safe. And we are becoming more sophisticated consumers of data, making quick adjustments to stay under budget. How can we take this momentum into 2021 and create the flexible, people-first solutions our companies will need in the “new normal?”
Being a visionary in real estate wasn’t really talked about in the past, and now it’s become mandatory.”
JLL Technologies EVP, Regional Director
Integrate HR, IT & Real Estate
Companies will embrace the concept of a Chief Workplace Officer strategy, where solutions are built with a focus on people, technology, and real estate. Shelter-in-place, remote work, home care, and other societal challenges are shifting perspectives on what matters most — our people. Workplace plus HR is a pivotal combination that facilitates the next-generation office experience our companies need and our people deserve.
Uniting HR, IT, and real estate expertise will define how we use and manage our next-generation offices. These teams have historically been siloed, but now we can reimagine the workplace as a conduit for communication, collaboration, and creativity — wherever your work is happening.
Accelerate technology adoption
Supporting a flexible, distributed workforce will remain a priority for the foreseeable future. Whether it’s the corporate office worker, client-office worker, remote worker, or hybrid worker, software and hardware will be required to enable people to work from anywhere.
- Smart technology: Technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning must be incorporated into the adaptable and modern workplace.
- Cloud-based technology: Moving to the cloud ensures people can connect to the systems they need no matter their locations.
- Cybersecurity: Your security has to improve with every new technology that is adopted. “There is a delicate balance between having a secure environment, and a very adaptable one,” says George Thomas, JLL Technologies Global Chief Information Officer.
- Intuitive user experience: Whether employees are in the office or working from home, it’s crucial that you deliver a consistent and intuitive user experience. This is key to ensure adoption.
Put your data to work
Data need to be incorporated into every decision we make. Workplace datasets become even more powerful through their ability to optimize and personalize an occupier’s experience. For instance, when we know how often a person visits an office, the particular space they utilize, and when they will be in the office during the week, we can use that information to:
- Improve sustainability efforts
- Streamline building operations
- Cultivate better and more engaging human experiences
To ensure our data is complete and accurate, we should use tools that gather data that are designed for universal access. Algorithms affect everything from smart temperature controls in an office to hiring algorithms. If the data feeding these algorithms is incomplete or biased, the resulting outputs from the algorithms will be incomplete or biased as well.
Flexibility is critical and should be built into every aspect of what you do, so your company can pivot to address events and future external forces. This helps ensure business continuity and minimizes how much we will need build solutions overnight. Ask yourself:
- How flexible are my leases?
- Did I give myself the ability to grow?
- Am I able to sublease unused space?
- How quickly can I bring on new service providers?
- Do I have the basics automated, so I can focus on new strategies?
Focus on your people
Employers must now focus on what their workplaces offer their employees. Before the pandemic, many companies had the luxury of viewing their real estate as a place where people simply went to work. Today, real estate serves a higher purpose for our people and our companies, and flexibility is key to that process. Do you have the proper technology built so your people can truly work from anywhere?
- Collaboration: Offices will remain a hub for collaboration. “It’s one thing to run a company remotely, but it’s an entirely different thing to grow a company remotely,” said JLL Corporate Solutions CEO, Neil Murray. Creating remote and in-person environments that encourage collaboration is key.
- Culture: Employers can complete paperwork and workflows digitally, but it’s difficult to build a sense of common culture and common purpose if new employees never physically see their coworkers. How are you infusing culture into digital experiences?
- Work from home: Back-to-back video conferencing can be overwhelming, and many people report meeting fatigue as a rampant problem. Employers must now be more understanding of the new challenges employees experience while working from home. For example, people with children in virtual school may struggle with bandwidth due to multiple people using the same internet connection.
- Diversity and inclusion: It’s imperative to recruit from diverse talent pools and to create an inclusive workplace. Inclusivity allows employees to show up as their authentic selves and feel that they belong. Create an environment where our people understand how they contribute to the company and feel valued for their contributions. This will inform how we design, build, and sustain our real estate plan and how it is managed moving forward. For example, gender-neutral bathrooms are certainly inclusive, but if someone who doesn’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth still feels uncomfortable being themselves at work, you’ll need to go beyond gender-neutral bathrooms.
The world around us is changing, and I think it would behoove any company to make sure they are putting themselves in a place where they can, hand over heart, say to employees, to clients, ‘This is a place where you can show up, be included, and feel like you can be your authentic self.'”
JLL Technologies Head of Corporate Real Estate and Workplace for the Americas