By Dr. Matthew Marson

How to confidently cut your CRE space

With recessions looming, or already here in many geographies, CFOs are looking to tighten their belts. For many organizations, the return to office has been a flexible one. This flexibility has given employees the ability to choose how and where they work. The impact has been felt in the office most of all. Once the home of hustle and bustle, offices now have the luxury of additional space. But when an economic downturn bites, optimizing and adapting the corporate real estate (CRE) portfolio is a challenging but meaningful way to improve the bottom line. Given that our style of working has changed, so should office space provisions.

Savvy CRE professionals know it’s not just a case of closing floors or closing whole offices. Making a toneless decision on something so significant to the working lives of your employees is a recipe for disaster. It’s often taken as a clear sign to employees that they’re not valued. In fact, 72% of respondents to the JLL Future of Work Survey 2022 agree that in the long term, the office will remain central to an organization’s ecosystem.

Today, organizations are using access control data to understand the volume of people using the space. This can provide misleadingly simple insights as to how popular an office is. But it doesn’t provide the color needed to know how the space is being used inside or even if it’s fit for purpose, matching how our way of working has changed.

Matching the personality of a role to a work setting

The way that different roles work provides clear indicators for the types of spaces needed. Typically, lawyers need to concentrate in their offices. Salespeople host their clients and engage with the market in their client meeting spaces or phone booths. Coders have impressive desk setups to help them find a tricky bug. Although this is an abbreviated list of examples and certainly not true of every individual, this human-level design is an engagement activity that not only involves employees in the change (and makes them instant advocates), but it helps deliver a meaningful provision of space.

Having something suited to the way you work is likely to bring the team together. In a recent Microsoft survey, 84% of employees said they would be motivated to go in with the promise of socializing with coworkers. Many in the real estate industry see the office as the place for collaboration. That means there will be a bias on the needs for certain roles’ requirements to lean toward working together rather than focused work. Designing a space that’s flexible and even re-programmable upon short notice means that intelligent building technologies, operational management software, and moveable walls and furniture need to coalesce to make a successful space.

Sensing which space

In the same way that example isn’t enough to close an office, it also isn’t enough to invest in enhancing a space. To further validate the case for change, leaders are increasingly using IoT technologies to demonstrate their points. Today, 13% of businesses surveyed in the JLL Future of Work Survey 2022 say that they’re collecting data on an ongoing or real-time basis, using advanced analytics. There is a huge opportunity across the market to capture the intelligence needed to make necessary yet unharmful portfolio changes.

Deploying sensors across a workplace helps CRE professionals unlock trends about their space, such as:

  • How often desks are used rather than just occupied
  • How often inappropriate meeting rooms are selected (e.g., too big for too few people, overcrowding)
  • The most popular collaboration spaces
  • The most used shared technologies

Unlocking those answers requires leaders to select the right vendors. In a world where many solution providers are vying for our attention, it can be challenging to assess real success from marketing claims. Vendor ability to deliver as well as technical prowess is the critical success factor to a trusted deployment.

To further exacerbate the issue, technical requirements from the IT department often come as a surprise to many CRE leaders. Information security policies and procedures go against the perceived interoperability claims of vendors with their aim of protecting the organization’s network. Knowing how to navigate this process is the critical path to a rapid deployment. It’s often best to get some external support. Having access to their benchmarks and objective perspective gives your business greater comfort with the quality of the assessment. That greater experience will also help select the most appropriate sensor hardware and software for your circumstances. Besides, building a robust business case and ensuring the full range of stakeholders have their use cases captured is a must for any project.

Capturing and recording success

Often, when a solution is purchased to solve a very specific issue, little attention is given to what to do next with the data. Proving the success of the deployment and the portfolio adaption overall is imperative for leaders to ensure cost control and employee buy-in.

For many, this will be the first time that a dedicated data infrastructure is needed. A database, or data lake for larger projects, will need to be created to accept the large volumes of data that intelligent building technology can generate. Defining data governance, orchestration, and normalization parameters means that the same data set can be used time and again with reliability. The defined standards mean that others within CRE and wider departments can compare and contrast learnings against their hypothesis. For most, even knowing what data you already have across the organization is unknown.

Knowing what you’re measuring and how it translates to your business objectives—and then displaying to demonstrate the results you’re creating—is what builds followship and employee buy-in to the changes. Access to external advice will help organizations develop the most appropriate and impactful set of metrics. Leveraging the power of tangible and impartially validated data will bring your project to life.

Going forward

Balancing cost control with the right blend of work settings and collaboration technologies is a fine line. Organizations that rush into portfolio cutting without involving their employees on their changed styles of working with little support data face the risk of disengaging an increasingly remote workforce.

What to do next

  1. Partner with workplace experts to match role personality to place
  2. Prove yourself with a sensor deployment
  3. Create the data infrastructure needed for lasting benefit

Need help? JLLT Advisory Services can guide and advise your business along every part of this journey. Our real estate and technology experts have the experience to deliver with insight and pace.