Concrete Analysis

Mobility is rewriting the future of offices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 3:21pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 5:12pm

Advancements in technology continue to impact every facet of our lives. But are companies responding fast enough to incorporate these innovations in the workplace?

According to a survey by CBRE, while 75 per cent of respondents believe that technology is driving significant change in business, only 60 per cent feel confident in responding to these changes.

Technology has made work more mobile and flexible, prompting employers to continually reassess the agility of their work environment. According to the CBRE survey, 85 per cent of occupiers in the Asia-Pacific region anticipate an increase in mobility in their future workforce.

A more mobile workforce has enabled many companies to adopt workplace strategies that improve space usage and offer technologies that foster collaboration. The user experience continues to play a more significant role in determining where and how the workplace should be established.

The increasing emphasis on mobility in the workplace has strengthened demand for activity-based working (ABW) strategies. ABW puts people at the centre of the workplace and enables companies to adopt technologies and create a space tailored to employee needs.

ABW relies on technology for its success. Collaboration tools such as video conferencing and cloud computing enable employees to work off-site, while apps enable staff to book meeting facilities, and smart sensors can help manage energy use of the space.

CBRE began adopting an ABW workplace 360 in 2014. 360 is a global business initiative that is transforming work and culture at CBRE. It seeks to create the workplace of the future in a number of steps.

Firstly, improving our effectiveness by creating a flexible work environment with high-quality space, technology and services to enable our people to work anywhere, anytime and with anyone.

Secondly, showcasing our knowledge of how a work environment can promote increasedc ommunication and collaboration across business groups and stakeholders. We are increasingly applying our experience in our own offices to the needs and opportunities of our clients.

Thirdly, improving our engagement with our people. This is vitally important in attracting, retaining and nurturing top talent. Our people are also more productive due to the health and wellness features of our space.

Fourthly, operating more efficiently. We expect to reduce the costs associated with our occupancy by about 30 per cent, and will reinvest in the things that matter most: people, technology and services.

The increasing influence of technology in the workplace will also impact office requirements. As more occupiers adopt innovative technologies to cater to their mobile workforce and improve space usage, we anticipate stronger demand for smart buildings. A smart building is one that uses automated processes to allow real time interaction between building operators and tenants. Smart buildings improve energy management, security measures, and enable landlords to collect real time data to act before problems arise.

The development of smart buildings in Hong Kong has only just started to gain traction.

Landlords who engage with tenants when developing new smart buildings can easily produce buildings that improve the user experience. However, the costs involved in retrofitting older properties will make the process of upgrading the building more challenging.

Nevertheless, as the workforce continues to become more mobile, companies will be empowered to create office environments that improve staff experience and engagement while increasing efficiency. Workplaces offering a high quality user experience will be key to attracting and retaining talent.

Fiona Alexander is director, advisory and transaction services -workplace strategy at CBRE Hong Kong