Enhance your employee experience through your corporate real estate strategy

Leading companies are placing employee experience at the heart of corporate real estate strategies as a source of competitive advantage and growth.

For the corporate real estate function, the focus over the last decade has been primarily on reducing the office footprint as a route to cost reduction. However, as the market and people management trends shift dramatically, a new added focus on improving the employee experience to attract and retain talent is increasingly required to stay competitive.

A shifting workplace
With a slew of new cloud-based technologies entering the market, combined with the first time five different generations are in the workplace together, the dynamics of what a typical office environment or workplace looks like is changing. We see three major trends that will force organizations to rethink their physical space.

1. Competition for talent is tougher than ever
With higher employment rates and scarcity of talent, the C-suite is shifting its view of corporate real estate from a cost driver to a source of talent attraction, retention andcompetitive advantage. In the digital age, all companies are tech companies and traditional businesses need to compete with the ways of working Facebook, Google and Twitterhave to offer. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce and, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, will make up nearly 75 percent of the workforce by the end of the next decade. The expectations this new generation has of their workplace is being shaped by the ideas of new real estate providers such as WeWork, which focus on the community offering rather than on the physical space. We see corporate real estate functions hiring behavioral scientists, interior designers and customer experience professionals to keep up with changing expectations.

2. In the digital age, creativity is a core competency for all organizations
As customers’ expectations evolve rapidly and each industry experiences varying levels of disruption following new digital entrants, the need to innovate and keep up with change is a daily challenge for most organizations. The workplace has an important role to play in generating the right environment and empowering agile, connected and collective ways of working. It’s clear that although industry after industry is being disrupted by digital, the physical space and the human interactions encouraged by that physical space has never been more important. Whether as an enabler to the co-location of clients and ecosystem partners, developing new spaces to support design sprints and innovation events, or providing an atmosphere that instills the new corporate values, the physical space matters in how people connect and create ideas. Among high performing companies, workplace solutions are consistent with empowering employees by fostering effective ways of working and a culture of creativity and performance.

3. Health and wellness is becoming more significant
Within the last several years, the link between the office environment and well-being is more strongly recognized as a key element of employee experience. We’ve all heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” and whether you believe it or not, it’s making headlines. Ergonomic checks, standing desks, and alternative meeting areas have become the norm across large businesses. Perks such as on-site gyms, exercise or meditation rooms within the office are advertised as part of the job description. But there is also data to support the importance of employee wellness. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that $227 billion dollars are lost in productivity annually due to health issues in the U.S. There is also a growing body of evidence that a healthy environment is one that supports greater day-to-day efficiency, effectiveness and creativity. Certifications, such as WELL, are enabling measurable improvements to the corporate office environment in support of these benefits.

Key considerations for your workplace strategy
We believe corporate real estate should embrace three key considerations to prepare their workplace strategy for the future.

1. Employee experience
Also called user or customer experience depending on your company’s purpose, ensuring an understanding of who uses the office space and what experiences they need to be successful is now a core competence of corporate real estate functions. For instance, one of our European clients in the pharmaceutical sector sought a new corporate real estate and workplace strategy in Paris, to support a global re-organization and to accelerate product development. We evaluated the employee workforce perception, their workplace environments and engaged with top management, digital natives and staff to develop a refreshed strategy and change management plan. It resulted in selling the current campus and gathering the employees of three subsidiaries to a multi-tenant building with an activity-based workplace that allowed for work-from-home situations combined with a collaborative in-office atmosphere and technology-enabled huddle rooms. The client enjoyed significant financial benefits, added collaboration and well-being for staff, and it’s now being replicated in other regions of the company.

2. Data and technology
Real-time data collection gathered by the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and robotic technologies are changing how corporate real estate decisions are made and leading to increased productivity and performance. Capturing, analyzing and interpreting the data is not only disrupting the way work is done, but also expected to drive decisions around workplace strategy. The current digital capability of many office buildings or spaces hinders the ability to deliver more value for their employees, for example: 1) ensuring a connected network and having a sufficient, diverse and scalable digital network inside and outside the building, and 2) integrating sensors and intelligence to collect data on building performance and comfort and enabling those systems to respond to user feedback in real-time. Sometimes the analysis of data leads to the shedding of fixed real estate assets while creating virtual offices and co-working spaces that connect employees, their clients and partners. For example, a financial client in the UK asked us to evaluate their work environment to design and develop a truly digital experience for employees and customers alike as a source of competitive advantage in the B2C retail banking industry. Focusing on technology, workstyles, and collaborative interaction, we delivered the business’ first digital environment resulting in improved collaboration between virtual teams, reduced travel costs, and redefined the concept of office layouts for a better customer experience.

3. Wellness and well-being
Happy and healthy employees are productive and creative employees. Air quality, light, ability to exercise, food quality and accessibility, tranquil environments, and recognizing that work/life boundaries have vanished, are all the new drivers of workplace design and development. New open-concept, activity-based workplaces foster collaboration in an environment that allows for equal air quality and access to windows for those across the entire floor. Talent expects the quality gap between private and corporate experiences to be reduced, making boundaries between hospitality, housing and corporate environments vanish. In another example, one of our clients decided to limit the number of elevators in their headquarters to the minimum required, and in-turn, design inviting stairwells to promote taking the stairs more often.

Prepare for the future of the workplace
By integrating elements of behavioral science, data, superb design, and the efficient use of space, Corporate real estate functions can deliver more value to their employees, and visitors who experience the space, as well as reduce costs and environmental office footprint. Place your employees’ experience at the heart of your corporate real estate strategy and projects to build your workplace into a source of competitive advantage, empower new ways of working aligned with your business transformation, inspire your employees and customers and drive business growth.

Our Experts

Tom Morgan
Global Head of Business Advisory, Arcadis

Olivier Dumoulin
Corporate Real Estate Advisory Lead, Arcadis

Jeanne Wood
Director, Workplace, CallisonRTKL

Tom Morgan

Global Head of Business Advisory, Arcadis Ask me a question
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