After wrapping up Season 1 of The Workplace Leader podcast, we decided to take a look back and review the best takeaways. One question Sabine asked every guest was:
“If you could magically solve any real estate problem, what would it be?”
From the responses, we selected our favorite moments that highlight the largest problems facing workplace leaders in corporate real estate (CRE) & facilities management (FM). We had so many insightful moments that a two-part blog series was born. Read on to find out how our podcast guests would:
- Solve inefficiencies of the job function itself
- Forecast the future of corporate real estate
- Improve agility in available CRE space
- Solve functional obsolescence and promote sustainability
Workplace leaders want to magically solve inefficiencies of the job function with…
Increased prioritization in the corporate agenda, faster iteration & visionary planning
When asked about his magical wish, Steven Bell, former Head of Real Estate at the Wella Company (Episode 22) said, although it’s not the core business, he wished real estate could be “a hell of a lot higher on the priority list for the CFO.” With real estate being one of the top two expenses for most businesses, Steven felt its prioritization should be in line with its cost. He added that “having a team, having a dedicated team, having dedicated attention” to real estate would allow the value of corporate real estate to be fully realized from a strategic perspective.
Workplace Consultant at Colliers and an anthropologist by education, Agne Zemaite (Episode 16) wished she could magically bring some speed to workplace projects. “[T]o help improve. Not on quarterly or half a year iteration, but quicker. To measure the impact of some new features instantly.”
Melanie Mack, Head of CRE Technology EMEA & Digital Solutions at JLL (Episode 12) would prefer to use her wish to ask for three more wishes. But since this was not allowed 😉 she settled for one wish. Her top desire was to magically solve her clients’ preoccupation with short-term concerns. “So we’re trying to solve the very current and immediate need. Getting back into the office. But what comes after that? I think that identifying additional pain points outside of just this very singular problem statement…really allows you to…investigate the type of solution that you’re investing in. To make sure that it is going to be a longer-term investment.”
Workplace leaders want to magically know the Future of Corporate Real Estate with…
Data & completely quantified workplaces
How corporate real estate decisions would be made in the future was a repetitive ask from our guests:
“For most of us, [Corporate] Real Estate is a business within a business. They see it as an expense. So you’ve always got a stronger burden of proof. Can you imagine if you could take the energy that you use now to try to prove to everyone that you know what you’re doing? If the granularity of the data isn’t available, it just creates more work. I like to put more work into creativity. That’s what I’d like to magically see. Better, believable, available data.”
–Patrenia Werts Onuoha, former Real Estate Strategy and Portfolio Manager for Shell in Nigeria, Episode 7
As a corporate real estate manager in the high-growth sector, Rhebeckha D’Silva, Global Head of Real Estate at Revolut (Episode 24), wishes for headcount data to predict the future. Like Patrenia said in her episode, Rhebeckha also hoped for more pricing transparency in the market. “I don’t think the real estate market is a transparent market. Because we’re not regulated like the financial institutions. I think if you look at the stock market–they’re regulated. Everybody knows where to go to get the stock price. You know what people paid yesterday. We’ve got no clue. There’s no central database globally to measure the price of a real estate asset or what the latest deals were in Zürich, for example. Or in Shanghai or Azerbaijan or somewhere. Anywhere. You’re always leaning on the advice of somebody and I don’t know if the data is 100 percent correct.”
Liz Burow, Workplace Design and Research Consultant and former Director of Workplace Strategy at WeWork (Episode 2), felt the magic bullet that would solve corporate real estate challenges would be a “quantified workplace.” Liz wished for “an out-of-the-box solution that quantified and qualified workplace performance in a holistic way. Similar to how fitness apps and wearables help the user understand their behavior and make adjustments where necessary to improve performance.”
Vice President, Chief Real Estate Officer & Head of Group Real Estate at Ericsson, Mikkel Lyngbo Nielsen (Episode 23), decided his magical wish would be to find a solution to the battle between finance KPIs and HR performance metrics. Balancing the dilemma of efficient portfolios and excellent workplace experience. As well as being able to better quantify the workplace performance indicators that are already harder to quantify.
Workplace leaders want to collaborate with CRE space providers to magically create…
Future-ready, agile portfolios
The greatest challenge for the future of work and corporate real estate to Gloria Mamwa, Regional Head of Property, Africa & Middle East at Standard Chartered Bank (Episode 11) was viewed through a cost efficiency lens. Gloria desired that space providers bring a supply of future-ready, corporate real estate to market. Workplace leaders could avoid negative impacts on their P&L statements. And avoid signing long-term contracts on space ill-equipped for agility when the market rapidly changes.
General Manager at Mindspace, Oliver Lehmann (Episode 15), and Rolf Sulen, Corporate Real Estate Advisor at Equinor (Episode 8) had Gloria Mamwa’s same wish, but from an employee experience perspective. They wished that the shifting focus on the employee experience was in the minds of those constructing, designing and developing new-build CRE projects.
Oliver wished to design office space at the construction and development point with agility in mind. He felt optimal design was key to the future of work. “Landlords, bigger investment and project companies need to think about design. And adapt also newly built space in a way that they are able to offer and adapt to flexible solutions from the beginning. We see this so often that there are buildings that are empty right now. And it will take millions to make a flexible building out of it.”
Rolf wanted to magically solve the problem of misaligned drivers of design and construction to improve end-user experience. “Making sure the real estate market was in line with the strategic asset perspective. Because now I think there’s too much sub-optimizing in each step of the real estate value chain to create financial gain. I need to save money. The landlord needs to make money. There are too many silos. And there are too many financial KPIs that makes that collaboration across difficult.”
Workplace leaders would magically solve issues with far-reaching impacts such as…
Functional Obsolescence & Climate Change
Director of Workplace Strategy at Johnson & Johnson, Jon Sheh (Episode 4), chose “a very selfish answer” based on the same pain point Oliver & Rolf felt. “Over the last 50 years there have been all these big, office complexes built. They’re oppressive and awful work environments and the design is obsolete. I would love to solve for what to do with those assets that really creates something amazing for the future. Because while functionally they’re obsolete, they have plenty of lifespan left. But they’re dinosaurs. So how do we adapt and evolve those things without, you know, tearing everything down. And spending all that environmental resources and energy to just scrap things. And I love the challenge of reuse, re-utilization, not throwing things away, not being wasteful. There’s a huge amount of money if someone could solve that problem.”
Nadim Stub, Managing Director at PropTech Denmark (Episode 18), wanted to use his magical wish for something much broader than CRE alone. But still an issue that real estate, in general, has great capacity and responsibility to make far-reaching impacts on: the sustainability agenda. “[A]ny solutions or technologies that can help drive down CO2 emissions or accelerate the adoption of technologies that improve our built world. Not just around sustainability in general, but around everything in the U.N. 17 goals and improve the way we work and live.”
If all of our guests’ magical wishes could come true with the wave of a wand, the future of CRE, the future of work, and the future of the world would be brighter. Our magical wish at Locatee is to make corporate real estate, facilities management, and workplace leaders’ dreams like the ones mentioned above come true.