We recently had the pleasure of sponsoring a lively event which featured Adam Keith of Bisnow, Scott Harmon of Swivel, and Michael Dardick of Granite Properties - a forward-thinking property owner with assets across Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Houston, and Southern California.
Clearly a popular topic which ranged from how to reopen buildings, the broader future of office space, and the role technology can (or doesn’t always) help transition to this new state.
Key takeaways from the conversation included:
Working 9-to-5 is so 1980.
The lobby music before the event started was the classic Dolly Parton song 9 to 5 from the 1980 movie of the same name. But, it's clear that remote and flexible work is here to stay. And, while many are craving a return to office space, most employers are looking at adopting work from home approaches into a longer-term strategy for employee benefits. This will cause employers to really think carefully about their real estate footprint.
Michael pointed out that the changing footprint will be driven by the size of the company and its teams as well as the types of tasks and works that have to be accomplished. He offered that companies should clearly audit the benefits both to the employee and the employer for each work scenario - headquarters and satellite offices (culture, social interactions, collaboration) and working from home (flexibility, less commuting downtime, ability to integrate work and life better). All of this reconsideration of the footprint may also lend itself to greater demand for shorter lease terms as companies navigate what is the right-sized footprint going forward. Certainly, in the immediate term, most organizations don’t want to make long-term commitments. Yet, we were already seeing the rise in demand for flexibility and shorter terms even before the pandemic. It will be interesting to see how that demand grows or changes as things begin to recover.
68% of attendees plan to invest more in technology to respond to changing circumstances.
And an additional 20% are considering investments but have been too busy yet to plan. Since we still face so many unknowns, it is clear commercial real estate players will need to be agile in order to respond to the changing times. Certainly building technology in the way of touchless entry and exit, temperature sensors, and broader communication tools will be helpful for everyone involved in managing and occupying buildings going forward. So much so that these added wellness features could creep into the definition of what makes a Class A property high end.
At the same time, Scott pointed out that technology is never a silver bullet and is only one piece of the puzzle to make the customer experience seamless. And, the property technology (PropTech) sector is still an emerging category of tech. It will take time for owners and occupiers to get the right stack of products in place that deliver the right value.
Take care of the customer and the customer will take care of you.
That led into a conversation around how will all of this technology get paid for? I really appreciate how Michael and his team at Granite Properties have ditched the language of tenant and landlord and talk about - customers. And, the strong belief that if you provide a solid customer experience, your customers will reward you with loyalty and expanding relationships over the longer-term. Owners that are well capitalized stand to differentiate themselves by investing in these technologies to create a customer experience that is preferred and sought after. The discussion went beyond just building technology to include offering more product diversity and leasing efficiency to help support the changing real estate footprint for companies of all sizes.
Silver Linings - Teams are really resilient and are mastering digital collaboration.
Both Michael and Scott commented on how teams have really adapted quickly to keep the momentum in their businesses going - both their own teams as well as the teams of their respective clients. The need for over communication and collaboration while being physically separated has led to creativity, greater empathy, and improved skills when it comes to digital communications across the board.
Digital transformation of any business should be viewed as a better enabler of human experiences rather than any sort of replacement or alternative. Commercial real estate, at its very heart, has always been about people - technology done right should only enhance this notion.
For those that missed the event, check out the replay!