The offices of the future, many of which are already built but not yet retrofitted, will be asked to do more than just co-locate a group of people and act as a ‘defensive’ balance sheet asset. They will need to help improve team performance, facilitate effective collaboration both within the company and with external third parties, and provide personalised experiences for a changing array of workers and teams.
Office design and the building’s technological infrastructure can support new strategies, helping people adapt to new technology and evolve behaviour, routines and expectations. In a 2018 survey, some 59% of the industry maintained that the incoming range of technology will have a positive impact on organisational productivity.
Data collected through the Internet of Things and digital devices and wearables devices, subsequently fed into machine learning systems enables organisations to change how they operate both their buildings and their work. As smart buildings like the Edge in Amsterdam are increasingly demonstrating, an awareness among business is taking hold of ‘…the link between the working environment and human capital, and ascribing value to a positive employee experience‘. As these systems increasingly adapt autonomously, new use cases will emerge from the personalisation of the occupant experience to the predictive awareness of individual needs.
Proptech will also help give older office stock a new lease of life. Sensors can help identify areas of concern in the structure and layout. Building Information Modelling can create a digital twin, allowing owners and users to simulate plans for improvement, resolving issues before they happen in the actual space.
Proptech’s impact on the business model
A Deloitte survey of investors revealed that over half of the survey sample aims to invest or increase investments in properties with flexible leases, and 44% plan to do so for flexible spaces(6). This suggests an acceptance on investors’ behalf of the need to tie investment to both tenant preferences and the changing work environment more widely. With demand flowing towards flexible space on short-term leases, this potentially makes PropTech an even bigger attraction for those with traditional holdings. The ultimate goal for developers, investors and owners is to identify and incorporate weak signals and trends before end users are even aware of them, requiring strong sector-specific knowledge, an understanding of how change could shape future demands and sophisticated data analysis skills.
The question of how to develop such propositions is currently central to the real estate future outlook. A proptech strategy, as part of an overall digital innovation strategy, is critical to helping businesses focus and engage. Without these the evolving ecosystem will be taken out of your hands. Building management, data management and performance measurement are seen as the areas where proptech will have the biggest direct impact on real estate(7). Neglecting these considerations, is to ignore the future factors of growth and the concept of offices and buildings as strategic drivers of business.