a hand holds a crystal ball in the foreground of a city skyline reflecting the buildings
By Matthew Marson
March 29, 2023

How to optimize CRE spaces for hybrid work

Being a corporate real estate (CRE) professional is particularly difficult lately. As more organizations embrace hybrid work, knowing what employees need from the office is tough. Often, planning decisions need to be made when no one knows who’s showing up to the office, when they’ll be there, who they’ll be working with, or what kind of work they’ll be doing. With all these unknowns, there has been an industry-wide reluctance to make any changes, cuts, or additions to businesses’ office provisions. So how do they optimize CRE spaces for hybrid work?

In an effort to improve employee feedback surveys, some businesses’ demand to get people back into the office, or just the normal capital expenditure cycle, it’s becoming clear that many organizations are spending money on spaces they may not have in the near future. Most of this ill-informed decision-making is a result of not having the right data. Leaders often run blind, responding to the loudest voices.

Even with all the experiments companies worldwide have been conducting, there’s still not a clear answer on the best way to optimize CRE spaces for hybrid work. This means that leaders are on their own to chart the path forward. We think that the best way to predict the future is to design it.

Being able to adapt your portfolio and design your organization’s new normal takes confidence. You will gain confidence from being able to trust the inputs that influence your thinking. To ensure you have the right data to make informed decisions, there are three questions you should be able to answer:

  1. Can you confidently produce facts with 4C (complete, current, consistent, and correct) information?
  2. Can you clearly and easily measure performance?
  3. Can you identify opportunities and risks from that data?

In many CRE departments, data and business intelligence are buzzwords that often come with very little actual capability. For most, having data in various systems is a given. The complexity comes from having to identify what you need, how to get to it, and what to do once you have it. To determine how close your CRE department is to having useful data and business intelligence, we recommend that you follow this four-step process:

1. Data and BI Health Check

Identify what you already have, the strengths of that capability, the gaps against other organizations/your wish list, and the opportunities for enhancement.

2. Data & BI Readiness Roadmap

From the gaps and opportunities you identify in the health check, determine what data you need the most, how to get it, and how hard it will be to improve the data acquisition, storage, and transformation for solidifying your decision-making.

3. Business Intelligence Strategy

Be clear on which KPIs and operational metrics are most important for what you’re trying to achieve and the implications of getting them. This gives you the foundation for analytics that make a difference.

To help paint the picture of what that looks like, JLL’s latest Metrics that Matter report highlights what CRE organizations are looking for from their data.

Metrics that Matter: The top 15 standard metrics

Operational excellence & agility Human experience & performance Responsible real estate & sustainability
Space utilization Employee engagement Carbon footprint/GHG emissions
Capital planning Attrition rate Energy-efficient buildings
Cost savings Indoor environment quality Inclusive workplace
Total CRE cost per person Availability of space options Supplier diversity
Real-time space utilization Workspace composition by type Workforce diversity

It’s important to note that every organization’s metrics are unique and should be derived from business vision and objectives. There are 45 additional metrics available upon request.

4. Data Transformation Strategy

Once you know what you need, where it is, and how you’ll get it, it’s essential to define the technology stack, components, and data architecture that will make it happen. Defining the skills, controls, and associated governance will help you create 4C data.

It’s easier said than done in many cases. Embarking on this kind of project takes time, money, effort, and expertise.

To make this more tangible, implementing a qualified and robust plan should take approximately two to three months. Within this timeframe, you should be able to articulate how to deliver major changes in data infrastructure and architecture. Your plan should also detail the quick wins that can start to demonstrate improvement in just 90 days.

When it comes to money, being clear on the soft and hard monetary savings is the key to your investment. Outlining the case for OpEx, CapEx, and management time means a benchmark will see an improvement. Most CRE organizations will save 15–20% of their time chasing ‘correct’ information with an additional 5–10% savings in OpEx and CapEx spending by avoiding expenses due to early recognition of risks.

It’s imperative to know who to work with on this effort. Although they know the context, real estate teams don’t typically understand the technology that scales across a portfolio. Technology teams, on the other hand, can build robust solutions, but their awareness of the challenges may be lacking. When these teams partner, both context and capability combine. Finding the right blend of both real estate and technical skills is what makes or breaks a project.

For many CRE organizations, bringing in an outside perspective helps build credibility for what you’re doing, the outcomes you expect to achieve, and the internal business case for your CRE space planning. Experience, perspective, and hard-learned lessons will help you shape ideas into practical plans and advocate along the way.

What to do next

  1. Define what data you need and how you can make it 4C.
  2. Plot where the data comes from, the solutions you need to automate its acquisition, and what the gaps are in the data set.
  3. Prepare a roadmap of how you will get to the trustworthy CRE data set that you’ll need to make informed and agile decisions in a turbulent environment.

Need help getting started? Learn more and connect with our experts.