Workplace leaders’ magical wishes and real estate insights

Workplace leaders in Corporate Real Estate who joined Season 1 of The Workplace Leader podcast shared their real estate insights and how they would wave a magic wand over their portfolios and instantly produce the workplaces of the future.

We have wrapped up Season 1 of The Workplace Leader podcast. Then, we decided to take a look back and review the best takeaways and corporate real estate insights. 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. They 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 the corporate real estate
  • Improve agility in available office 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.


We asked Steven Bell, former Head of Real Estate at the Wella Company (Episode 22) about his magical wish. He 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.”  Real estate is one of the top two expenses for most businesses. So, Steven felt its prioritization should be in line with its cost.  He also added that “having a team, having a dedicated team, having dedicated attention” is important for real estate. It would allow the value of corporate real estate to be fully realized from a strategic perspective.


Agne Zemaite (Episode 16) is a Workplace Consultant at Colliers and an anthropologist by education. She wished she could magically bring some speed to workplace projects.  “[To] help improve. Not on quarterly or half a year iteration, but quicker.  To measure the impact of some new features instantly.”


Melanie Mack is the Head of CRE Technology EMEA & Digital Solutions at JLL (Episode 12). She would prefer to use her wish to ask for three more wishes. But since this was not allowed 😉 here are her main real estate insights. 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 real estate 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.  And 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 


Rhebeckha D’Silva is the Global Head of Real Estate at Revolut (Episode 24). She wishes for headcount data to predict the future. Rhebeckha shares Patrenia’s real estate insights and hopes for more pricing transparency. “I don’t think the real estate market is transparent. 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. But 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 Zurich, for example. Or in Shanghai or Azerbaijan, anywhere. Therefore, 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.


Gloria Mamwa is the Regional Head of Property, Africa & Middle East at Standard Chartered Bank (Episode 11). She views the greatest challenge for the future of the corporate real estate and of work 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, CRE Advisor at Equinor (Episode 8) had Gloria Mamwa’s same wish. But they saw it from an employee experience perspective.  Their corporate real estate insights were that the shifting focus on the employee experience should be 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.  He felt the 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 spaces to offer 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 real estate problem of misaligned drivers of design and construction to improve the end-user experience.  “Making sure the real estate market was in line with the strategic asset perspective. Because there’s too much sub-optimizing in each step of the CRE value chain to create a 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 make that collaboration across difficult.”




Workplace leaders would magically solve real estate challenges 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”. He based it 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 what to do with those assets that really create something amazing for the future.  Because while functionally they’re obsolete, they have plenty of lifespans 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, and not being wasteful.  There’s a huge amount of money if someone could solve that problem.”


Nadim Stub is the Managing Director at PropTech Denmark (Episode 18). He 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.  

If you want to see what other hopes workplace leaders have, take a look at part two of the magical wishes series. You can find more engaging conversations and real estate insights from the latest episodes of The Workplace Leader podcast and our blog. As a leader in workplace analytics, we enjoy connecting with professionals in the industry and leading the conversation on finding solutions that create workplaces people need, use, and love.

About the author

Lauren Dreifuss

Lauren Dreifuss

Research Analyst & Trend Scout

Lauren is our Research Analyst & Trend Scout at Locatee. She holds an MSRE from the University of San Diego, is a published author on office space trends in the ICSC Journal, and a former student journalist for MIPIM.

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