Our CBRE EMEA Occupier Survey 2020, published this week, is a timely reminder of why now more than ever, as we look at returning to office-based work, we need to focus on strategic decision-making that combines the ‘people agenda’ with a robust real estate and technology strategy.

Amanda Clack

Amanda Clack

As we emerge from lockdown, corporate real estate has become a hot boardroom topic, and many clients are rapidly developing a ‘new normal’ strategy.

But the issues go beyond repopulating the workplace (sparsely at first, with social distancing measures), to focusing on how to get greater value from real estate and the workplace, while adopting innovate ways of working that prioritise people and ensure safety and preferred working styles.

We have a unique opportunity to create a new purpose and place for real estate by developing a strategy that delivers the best combination of the old normal, current remote working practices and future aspirations. We need to blend these elements into a robust strategy that will be scrutinised by senior business leaders, because the combination of people centricity and real estate assets are all that matters to get businesses fully productive again.

We need to capitalise on the genuine appetite for change with the key elements on the minds of those in the C-suite – people and skills, assets and buildings – that will lead to prosperity beyond the inevitable looming recession.

The lifeblood of that strategy will come from informed decisions based on robust data on building occupancy and operation that can bring about the evolution of the smart building and workplace. Nearly half of respondents to our survey expect to be able to connect and interrogate data from all their buildings within three years, and a whopping 63% are already seeking to deploy technology to help improve the experience of workplace users.

At desk in mask

Source: Shutterstock/ Drazen Zigic

Why this really matters is because 89% of respondents see talent attraction and development as key elements of corporate real estate, and the key measure of success of user-experience initiatives. Having a purpose to create people-centric places and understanding what people want from workplaces has never been more important.

Occupiers are also likely to use flex space to optimise their real estate strategy (cited by 42% of survey respondents), while 92% expect to increase home or remote working in their new normal strategy. There will need to be a greater focus on wellness and green features, too.

To enable all this, it is important that we also provide digital building advice to inform and develop the strategy of places with a purpose. By combining sustainability, efficiency, experience and productivity through a digital building platform, it is possible to provide the boardroom with the information it needs to support decisions on operational efficiency, cost reduction, improved employee experience and greater productivity.

In this way, occupiers or investors can create a utopian new normal. Getting the strategy right now will ensure that we create a new normal that is data-driven and has an informed purpose.

Amanda Clack is an executive director and head of strategic advisory at CBRE