Inclusivity within a corporation directly affects the employee well-being. In this episode, Marta Lima and Sabine Ehm discuss how to bring people together within the digital workplace.

Meet the guest

Marta Lima is the innovation manager at Vodaphone and focuses on bettering the digital workplace experience. As innovation manager, Marta works to identify opportunities for technical improvement while also enhancing the remote collaboration capabilities of employees. She claims her day job is innovating, and her ‘gay job’ is co-chair of the LGBT community at Vodaphone. 

With a background in computer engineering, Marta began working in the IoT space at Vodaphone in Lisbon. She had hard programming skills from her degree, but wanted to learn more about how to build great products. Especially, how to use various methodologies to build the products users want. Marta came across an opportunity for a 3-month international placement in London, and hopped on board. 3 months became 3 years, and she happily settled in the UK. 

Marta and her team at V-Lab are the ‘tech-side of HR’. They act as internal innovation consultants and organize many events such as hackathons and upskilling sessions. By promoting team brainstorming and co-creating, the team is able to use design thinking methodologies to improve employee well-being and workplace experiences. 

Listen to the following clips to learn more about Marta and how the V-Lab works. 

“I believe that innovation happens when someone sees something you haven’t seen. Meaning that, diversity is super important for innovation. Having that inclusivity can be something very positive when you think about innovation and creativity. I see that as a balance.” – Marta Lima


Since the pandemic, staff working remotely can no longer use the V-Lab in its traditional format. Marta and her team switched to running digital sessions but had to rework them to better fit the new online structure. In-lab, it’s easier to force participants to stay concentrated on the tasks. Remotely, participants can have many distractions, from email notifications to pets and children at home. So, the V-Lab sessions became shorter, and more direct. Instead of going through a long thinking process, they focus on one side of design thinking with 1-hour presentations or less interactive lunch and learn sessions. 


“It’s different because you don’t feel the energy of the room. You don’t get the pulse of how the session is going. On the other side, it’s much more inclusive.” – Marta Lima


The upside of remote sessions is the ability to provide higher inclusivity. Previously, sessions were run in London, and only employees in the UK were able to participate. Now, sessions can be run with staff members from the UK, India, and Egypt all at the same time. With such a diverse group of people, innovating can be made easier, as people are exposed to new ways of thinking from diverse cultural backgrounds. 


“The number one challenge that we have at this point, is that we have great tools in our personal lives. The apps and the digital services that we use day-to-day in our personal lives are really good. So, people expect the same level of experience in the workplace.” – Marta Lima


Technology is ever-changing, and we’re used to using the latest and greatest digital services. Often, employees will seek out the best technology to help them perform their work-related tasks. Although this may seem like a good idea, it presents a major problem for corporations that need to protect their data. Keeping up with the pace of technology while ensuring data privacy is a constant battle, as it can be a lengthy process to implement new services. Data protection agreements must be in place before the widespread use of new systems. The problem is to “be fast enough to give employees the right tools while keeping the data safe.”

“How do we help people, when they join the company, to feel like they belong?” – Marta Lima


In this clip, Marta speaks of an external event she attended where someone expressed issue with recent hires. They said that employees that had recently joined their organization weren’t staying long, and eventually returned to their previous jobs. This is due to remote working styles not being inclusive, and retention can be hard if people don’t feel like they belong in a company. Building social connections are key to creating an inclusive workplace environment, and not being in-office presents a major challenge. Marta is now rebuilding a platform to use AR/VR technology to promote socializing in a more fun and casual way. 


Employee well-being depends to a large part on the experience employees have within the workplace. The worplace experience in return, is now extremely reliant on technology and how employees interact with it. Marta and the V-Lab team focus on upskilling employees while promoting community support and internal socializing. Since the pandemic, remote working has come with a slew of challenges for creating social environments for staff members to flourish. Marta focuses on solving these issues with new methods and technologies.

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.  

We’ll be back with Part 2 of our two-part magical wishes blog series.  You can find more engaging and insightful conversations 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.

Understanding the ways in which each employee works is the key to creating a successful customized workplace experience. In this episode, Mikkel Lyngbo Nielsen and host Sabine Ehm discuss methods of how to personalize the employee user experience.

Meet the guest

Mikkel Lyngbo Nielsen is the Chief Real Estate Officer at Ericsson. Throughout his career, Mikkel has seen numerous sides of the real estate industry. He has worked in urban planning, airport development, and for various large infrastructure projects. This varied real estate background has given him the unique advantage of comprehending different perspectives within the industry.. 


Shortly after accepting his current role with Ericsson, the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to work from home. Fortunately, his superiors saw this as an advantage; Mikkel did not yet know what the offices of the company looked like. With this lack of knowledge, Mikkel is leading a cross-functional project focusing on what the future offices of Ericsson will be without dwelling on the past. 


Listen to the following clips to gain insight into Mikkel’s method of predicting the future workplace. 

“Workplace experience is not tied, anymore, strictly to the physical office that you’re providing.” – Sabine Ehm


In the past, the workplace experience was only measured with variables pertaining to the physical space. Over the past decade, we’ve seen this mindset slowly change, but it accelerated by the global pandemic. The office of the future will not just simply be a singular place. Instead, it will comprise of many, such as home offices and third-party spaces. Within the world of corporate real estate, many questions have emerged about how this will work: what kind of role will the office actually play in the future? What services will we deliver? How much will we actually be in the office? How do we make it attractive? 


“Why look at it only from a workplace experience? Why not try broadening it a little and say what is the user experience?” – Mikkel Lyngbo Nielsen


The user experience of working for a company can be defined as each time a task is performed related to the job. Be it going into the office, logging on to the network from home or having a meeting in a third-party setting, each experience must be thought of when designing the workplace of the future. Mikkel suggests we think of it as a user experience instead of solely workplace, as this encompasses both HR and IT. 


“One-size fits no-one [but], we cannot come up with 120,000 solutions. How can we at least define some common patterns within the data?” – Mikkel Lyngbo Nielsen


When Mikkel joined the Ericsson team, he was under the assumption that the workforce would be back in-office within a few months. With this time crunch, Mikkel and the Office of the Future team were under immense pressure to gather good data, fast. In the summer of 2020, they performed data gathering exercises such as the Leesman survey. These data points would then answer questions such as how activities performed at home vs. in-office. 


When Mikkel interviewed employees, he found the answers to be black and white: they either enjoyed working from home or didn’t. After digging into the data, he was able to find patterns of certain activities that were difficult to perform at home. Team-focused activities, collaborations, hosting customers, were very difficult to translate virtually. After performing many interviews and workshops, Mikkel and his team found 5 different persona profiles within the company.


“There are a lot of discussions around the office [being] a lot more [about] socializing, coming together and collaborating. We very much have that view, but it’s also important to remember the 10-15% of our workforce that actually needs to focus and do most of their work from the office. How can we also make sure that they have the right environment?” – Mikkel Lyngbo Nielsen


Mikkel and his team came up with 5 different personas that each Ericsson employee would fit into. From there, the office space could be customized to better fit each location’s workforce. When beginning a new project, the team sends out a survey to understand the population of each persona at the specific location. This helps the real estate team curate the space appropriately. 


Interestingly, within the 5 personas, 3 were quite similar in that they are capable of working from home, but choose not to. However, each persona has their individual reason for choosing to go in-office, such as performing activities, working on a global team, or simply wanting to socialize and feel a part of a community. Mikkel quotes an employee, saying “I want to feel a part of something bigger than just sitting at home alone wearing my sweatpants”.



The corporate real estate community is in flux on what the office of the future will look like. Looking forward, Mikkel suggests we focus more on understanding what the entire user experience looks like, and including IT and HR in decision making. To add to this, Mikkel has developed a process of defining personas within the Ericsson workforce to be able to make educated decisions on future projects. The pandemic has changed the way we work, and this is how Ericsson is adapting. 

The CRE industry would be nothing without the CRE technology that supports it. In this episode, Melanie Mack demonstrates her deep knowledge of CRE technology and the future of the industry.


Meet the guest

Corporate real estate technology is a booming industry, and Melanie Mack is at its forefront. As head of CRE Technology at JLL overseeing EMEA, she’s first to know of the industry’s latest advancements. At JLL, Melanie’s team sells enterprise solutions that solve several CRE problems. The company has a lot of technology vendors, as well as internal software solutions. They work with clients to implement new technologies. The goals include improving space optimization, returning to work, and increasing efficiency in lease and portfolio management. 

JLL’s CRE technology team are professionals in the industry. More specifically, they are subject-matter experts for Verdantix or Gartner and also regularly contribute to leading publications. In addition, JLL has an in-house marketing and research team. This ensures they are at the forefront of knowing what the market trends are, but also where they are going and how JLL can influence them. Listen to the clips below to get an idea of Melanie’s knowledge.


“I have seen a little bit of a shift over the past 5 years in terms of the level of data that clients have, and how well, or not, it is organized. ” – Melanie Mack



One of the most important products of CRE technology is an Integrate Workplace Management System (IWMS). These are larger enterprise-level systems. Or, as Melanie puts it, the “Mercedes of real estate management software solutions.” In other words, they can be comparable to an SAP system, but with real estate capabilities. Implementing solutions of this scale requires solid data.

Over the past few years, Melanie and her team have seen a marked improvement in the quality of data they collect from their clients. Previously, they often saw data from Excel spreadsheets that went through extensive quality testing. The adage is, “bad data in is bad data out. What you’re putting into the system is what it’s going to report.”

This impressive shift in thinking can also be seen internally at JLL. In the spring of 2020, an internal data management team was created to collect data sets and turn them into business intelligence. From there, they can improve not only JLL’s decision-making, but also that of their clients.


“We’ve all gone through this working from home experiment. As we embark on this adventure to return back into the office, we have done research at JLL both within our internal teams and our external teams, and there is a percentage of up to %60+ of people that will still want to work from home in some certain capacity.” – Melanie Mack



In the short term, every customer is focused on getting back to work and getting such a project to market quickly. The way people work has changed greatly in the last year and a half; companies can’t ignore it. In the long term, Melanie predicts that big changes are coming. Business structures will be reshaped to better fit a semi-remote workforce that has multiple small centers in cities and beyond. Because of this, the traditional setup of one headquarter and one large building will be a thing of the past.


“Before, success of the workplace was less about employee engagement and more about cost and space management, all related to the underlying decisions that will happen on a portfolio. Now what we’re seeing [that] this ties to talent acquisition and where people want to go work is in these spaces that are engaging and in organizations that focus on the human experience.” – Melanie Mack



According to Melanie, the definition of what a successful workplace is has completely changed. This is mainly due to the way we perceive this success after the “work-from-home experiment”. For instance, companies used to calculate an accomplished portfolio using space optimization and cost-per-foot as their metrics. Now, companies realize the importance of human behavior and ensuring their employees are comfortable. At the end of the day, company culture immensely affects talent acquisition and employee tenure, which in turn affects the bottom line. 



Melaine Mack has over 12 years of experience in corporate real estate, and it shows. The depth of her knowledge spans across all types of companies, pertaining to their size, culture, and journeys within CRE. Moving into a post-COVID climate, companies are certain to focus on human behavior elements when designing workplace strategies. Above all, with the C-suite’s attention, the future of CRE technology is looking up.


Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.

A company’s corporate real estate strategy is ever-changing. In this episode, Gloria Mamwa walks Sabine Ehm through the trials of managing a large portfolio across many countries in a post-COVID environment. 

Meet the guest

Gloria Mamwa is the Regional Head of Property at Standard Chartered Bank (SCB). Gloria has been in the real estate industry for over 20 years, with a background in architecture, interior design and project management. She now resides in Dubai, overseeing the African and Middle Eastern regions for SCB. 


SCB’s real estate portfolio spans 60 countries and is generally known as an emerging markets bank. It is headquartered in London with nearly 13 million square feet of real estate globally. Gloria and her team work to balance strategic workplace design with cultural differences across many countries. Being able to drive consistent real estate strategies in different markets while sticking to budget is at the core of her work. Listen to the following few clips to understand what Gloria prioritizes when it comes to making decisions for a corporate real estate strategy. 


“One of the things that we don’t ignore, is that we’re in 60 countries, and there are local nuances that we do have to adapt to, regardless of whether we’re looking at an office strategy or a retail strategy in terms of what we drive.” – Gloria Mamwa



In this clip, Gloria suggests there is a common workplace configuration within the workplace strategy that they’re building at SCB. However, they cannot ignore the fact that different countries, cultures and cities all have different ways of working. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution, so what’s the best way to adapt? 


On top of this obstacle, there is now the pandemic to reflect on. Employees are used to working from home, and therefore CRE strategies must include this as a competitor to the office. Gloria is focusing on creating an environment that can allow this new flexibility. Moreover, SCB has started a trial to allow their employees to work in whichever way suits them best. This can be from home, in the office, or a hybrid of the two. The data following this experiment will help form solutions in future.


“When it comes to the design of the office, in terms of what it is that it will look like, it is going to be dependent on how much you want to compete with the home setting ” – Gloria Mamwa



This is a hot topic within CRE. If companies want their employees to return to the office, they have to offer something that competes with the comfort of one’s home. Gloria suggests that it’s important to understand what people will want to do in the office. As most CRE managers are predicting, Gloria believes the office of the future will be a collaborative space. Companies must figure out how to properly support these types of activities. Team and individual needs must be met from both a design and operational perspective.


She clarifies that the conversation is starting to change: “Whether you’re in financial services, whether you’re in manufacturing, it’s the same conversation. I think covid has been quite a leveler in terms of trying to understand how do we support the human being in the workspace? That becomes the priority.” 


“There is an optimal time range for a commute because it allows you to have a clear cut between working life and private life, and debrief and calm down.” – Sabine Ehm



Having a proper work-life balance can be difficult to obtain when working from home. Before the pandemic, most perceived the commute as a tedious task, as opposed to a formal structure in place to section your time. Gloria purposely moved far from the office. This gave her a 25-30 minute commute to debrief at the end of each workday. Now, Gloria consciously chooses to switch up her location while working from home. 


“Sometimes I’ll take my laptop and move to a place outside rather than on my desk; just so I can refresh and change the position. I think the things we had in the office like walking into a meeting room, going to the canteen, allowed us to rebrief through the day, allows us to change certain settings for ourselves that allowed us to think differently,” she explains.


“We don’t want to leap-frog into the future without making sure that we understand: what are your needs in terms of a space?” – Gloria Mamwa


Standard Chartered Bank is a huge, international company. Gloria and her team oversee a massive area, including all African and middle eastern countries. The nuances of each SCB location are understandably different. With each project, Gloria ensures to engage with every level of management affected. What are they doing every day? How can we serve them better? How can we adapt our strategy to fit here? “What is a particular operations team managing on a day-to-day basis? If I don’t talk to them to understand [their] day-to-day, I won’t solve their needs.”  SCB also performs Leesman Index surveys to further gather knowledge. 


We are still seeing the effects of the pandemic on CRE. For Gloria and her team, it’s imperative to take into account the nuances of each region they are developing in. However, they must also understand how employees wish to work in the future, be it from home or in-office. Gathering data on all these factors will help immensely in developing a corporate real estate strategy. 

Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.

The office of the future will be a dynamic place, and workplace design will have to reflect that. Companies will need to pay closer attention to the needs of their workforce, and be open to changes. In this episode, your host Sabine Ehm chats with Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra about various factors that form design decisions in corporate real estate.


Meet the guest

Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra is the Director of Design Strategy at Gensler. The self-proclaimed problem solver and troublemaker is based in Costa Rica, and is responsible for all of Latin America.

Jose initially studied architecture in Peru, and then moved to Spain to pursue a masters in real estate. He soon realized that design wasn’t his passion, and began dipping his toes in various fields within real estate. When he came across workplace strategy, it was “love at first sight”. He soon started working for Nokia’s India and EMEA regions, where he had the opportunity to learn about how different cultures work and their workplace biases.

After being recruited by Gensler and moving back to Peru, Jose has continued to take strides in the corporate real estate industry. The following clips give insight into how Jose makes informed decisions and his predictions for the future.


“My first and most important [stakeholder to collaborate with] is the client. I typically engage in the earlier conversations just to understand where the pain points are.” – Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra

In any project, including workplace design, a client discovery session is the most important step when getting started. Jose stresses how crucial it is to have a complete understanding of what is driving the client to make changes to their office spaces. Be it renovations, efficiency, picking up trends, or changing locations, there can be many reasons behind movement in CRE.

His second go-to consultation is with his internal design team. Using their deep knowledge of CRE strategy, they are able to “perform magic”. Jose says resistance in middle management is their #1 challenge, so providing strong explanations for design decisions is necessary. Engaging with this team allows him to produce just that.


“My favorite part of what I do is when people click with an idea. When they recognize that there is a trade-off: I’m going to lose some privilege in terms of space, but I’m going to gain better technology, more meeting spaces, a better space for my team, better interaction, some flexibility to work remotely… ” – Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra

Changing the way people work is hard, and as said before, push back from middle management is often the biggest hurdle. Jose explains that we all have an internalized idea of what being successful in a company looks like: moving to a bigger desk, closer to the boss, eventually getting an office, etc. Changing this mindset can be extremely difficult.

“It only takes [one] visionary leader to make changes, but there are a lot of layers in an organization, and you need to navigate them.” Every employee must be open to change to be able to reap the benefits of implementing a new strategy and modern workplace design. Jose and his team refuse to call it “change management”, but instead call it “positive change experience”. “We design experiences for them to feel better about work.” Jose suggests that from his experience, 95% of the workforce would not want to revert to old configurations and practices afterwards.

“If you really want your workplace to be alive, you need to make sure that people want to come. Beyond the fact that there will be scheduled meetings and team agreements of which days they will meet and all of that, you want to go the extra mile, and think of the design of your space and the services you provide and the technology that is there as a reason to be a magnet for people and make people come. ” – Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra

The pandemic has created a situation most CRE managers have only dreamed of. Having a distributed workforce is a configuration most companies would not have previously attempted. And, now that employees know what it’s like to work at home, they may want to stay there. This means that if companies want a populated office, they will need to create a reason for employees to be there.

“This means that all the experiences in the office need to be very curated”, and it goes beyond workplace design. Operations and management will need to facilitate in-office interactions and spaces for collaboration. The space will need to be flexible and enduring.

“We need to rethink the purpose of the office. If we are looking at the workplace as containers for people, or think of offices in terms of the capacity, clearly we need to change that. I think the purpose is going to be: get us together to do great things.” – Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra

“The situation now, where we are forced to work remotely, has actually been some kind of ‘introverts revenge’, because people who suffered in the workplace being social all the time got a break from that. ” – Sabine Ehm

In this clip, Sabine refers to a conversation she heard about the individual experiences of working in an office. Introverted employees were previously forced to speak up to be seen, and were constantly interrupted in their workflow. Now, since the pandemic, we can see that the idea of what ‘good work’ doesn’t always look the same.

Yet, Jose believes that human interaction cannot be fully replaced by the virtual world. In-person socializing is a must when building a strong team. The difference is that now the employee will be able to choose the amount of socializing that takes place, and how often they go into the office to spend time with coworkers.


The idea of what an office is has changed significantly over the past few years. When making changes, understanding the client and their requirements will help to create a successful, positive experience. Moreover, employees are now used to working remotely, and may continue to do so. This means that if companies want their workforce to show up in-office, they will have to create a reason for them to do so. Each individual is different, so operations and management will need to facilitate these experiences.

Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.

Earlier this year, we set out to understand the changes in corporate real estate management around the world. Verdantix, an independent research firm, surveyed over 100 leaders in various industries. These surveys resulted in two individual studies of the states of CRE in the US and in Europe. CRE and recent circumstances around COVID-19 may have been nearly identical. Nonetheless, we discovered stark differences between the short and long term plans of the two groups. 


Keep reading for a quick summary of how corporate real estate management in the US and Europe differ. You can download the complete studies below:







European CRE managers have been quicker to adapt non-assigned workspaces

Even before COVID-19, there was already a steady trend of companies in both regions stepping away from traditional assigned workplaces. As companies prepare to bring their employees back to the office, many are questioning whether each person really needs their own desk. Nonetheless, European firms have a strong lead in the race to implement non-assigned desk configurations. This includes hot-desking, activity-based workspaces, and collaboration areas. In fact, 90% of European firms are preparing to have non-assigned workplaces within the next 2 years. Conversely, only 38% of US companies are intending to make the progressive change. 


US CREMs continue to prioritize traditional business initiatives

Similarly to workspace assignment, US corporate real estate managers are sticking to a traditional approach when it comes to business initiatives. Business productivity, cost management and space optimization goals are high priorities for over two-thirds of CRE managers. These goals will continue to hold the highest priority in the next five years. On the other hand, European managers are only using traditional business goals to help them navigate the pandemic. In the next 5 years, they plan to shift their efforts significantly. By 2025, the emphasis for European firms will be on employee satisfaction, wellbeing and retention, in addition to the more formal productivity. 




The US far surpasses European efforts to collect workplace and real estate portfolio data

It may appear that European CRE management is ahead of the US on multiple counts. But US companies drastically outnumber European counterparts in one critical area: data collection. 80% of firms in Europe are utilizing metrics on space utilization as part of their strategy, which may seem like a high proportion. Unfortunately, it pales in comparison to the US, where 98% of large companies are tracking space utilization. This trend continues across all other metrics. Europeans score significantly lower on company revenue, collaboration, employee satisfaction and energy efficiency metrics, amongst others. 



Both American and European corporate real estate management lacks budgetary sign-off

Despite having significant differences in CRE strategies for the near future, US and European corporate real estate managers are in the same boat when it comes to money. CREMs across the board have experienced an increase in responsibility over the past year. Yet, their authority to sign-off budgetary decisions has remained limited; 96% of CREMs categorized budgetary limitations as a very significant or significant challenge to achieving business initiatives. 


Corporate real estate management is changing everywhere. This study shows that priorities differ across regions in accordance with cultural differences and where they started on workplace progression. Though Europe may take the lead on modernizing workspace configurations and business goals, the US has a more comprehensive approach to measuring workspace performance. Both regions are starting off their Future of Work journey from different corners. Nonetheless, both acknowledge that an important stepping stone is to have budgetary trust.


To find out how accurate utilization data can improve your CRE portfolio, set up a meeting with our team here.

Over the past decade, there has been a big shift in how people perceive the workplace. In this episode, Sabine Ehm and Roel Stroeken discuss this evolution in mindset and how it’s changing the employee experience. 

Meet the guest

Roel Stroeken is the Head of Real Estate for the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region of Philips. Philips is broken into many sectors, with 650 locations globally. Roel and his team are in charge of facility management, project management, strategy and innovation, mergers and acquisitions, and disposal of unneeded lands for roughly 50% of the company’s portfolio. 


Managing a workforce of 40,000 people takes a deep understanding of human behavior. Luckily, with a degree in Hotel Management, Roel knows a thing or two about hospitality. The following clips provide more insight into Roel’s perspective on what keeps employees happy, and what the office of the future will look like. 


“In modern days, you see a trend that real estate is shifting towards reporting to the HR [departments].” – Roel Stroeken



Traditionally, CRE managers reported to finance departments headed by CFO’s. Consequently, only money and space optimization mattered. In the past several years, large companies have started to take a broader look at the KPIs used in measuring successful real estate ventures. If a happy employee means higher output, this metric should be included in strategy planning. 


Philips performs globally-recognized wellness studies before, during, and after new workplace developments. In this episode, Roel speaks about the metrics they track that go beyond the dollar amount. 


“The true value of the company are its people, and we need to take care of them. But, due to some strategic decisions, we have organized ourselves as companies slightly different. ” – Roel Stroeken



Roel’s main focus is always bettering the employee experience for the entire Philips team. Figuring out the best way to provide support and incentives is at the top of his list – this requires technical changes. Surprisingly to some, providing more space doesn’t always translate into higher employee satisfaction. In fact, over the next few years, Roel’s focus will be on footprint reduction. In other words, consolidation of key locations. 

“If we manage [the] occupancy [of our] buildings better, then it improves our desk-people ratio. People find it much more energizing to come into work because it’s not too crowded. ” – Roel Stroeken



Throughout the pandemic, employees have learned how to work from home. As a result, they also understand the value that comes with it. This means that if Philips wants them back in the office, there will have to be strong incentives. 


Workers go into the office to connect, challenge each other, and co-create. So, Roel suggests offices of the future will function more like conference centers: coworking spaces, luxurious food options, and various tools. “Hospitality and experience are keywords for the office of the future.”

“I do believe that this is going to be a crucial aspect for success of workplaces: to actually include employees much more, and make them aware of their behaviors, because I think a lot of things [happen subconsciously]” – Sabine Ehm



Managing employee experience will help improve optimization, too. If workers understand their behaviors better, they can plan ahead accordingly. Sabine and Roel look at a scenario of booking meeting rooms when overall occupancy is lower. This can create a better experience for not only those attending, but for those in the office when the meeting would have naturally been booked. Giving workers insight into CRE choices can help create a ripple effect of workplace satisfaction. This can lead them to start making optimized choices independently. 


“[Post-COVID] we really have an excellent opportunity, because there’s momentum to take people by the hand and lead them to a slight change, how to use the office environment. I think that can lead them to a much better office experience”. – Roel Stroeken


To have a lasting, successful company, you need happy employees. Roel’s top goal is to create environments that optimize expenditure without under-providing for Philips workers. Leaning on HR KPIs and gathering data beyond dollar amounts will help improve this balance. As well, bringing in people from the front-line will push this movement. Workers will understand CRE choices and can make conscious choices to improve their experiences, too. 

Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.

When it comes to crisis management, it’s hard to know what step to take first. In this episode, your host Sabine Ehm learns of several pressure-filled situations Patrenia Werts Onuoha has worked through. Together, the dig into the knowledge she has gained along the way. 

Meet the guest

Patrenia Werts Onuoha has over 30 years of work experience across diverse industries. She began her career as an industrial engineer. Patrenia was the first black female engineer at Harley-Davidson, building motorcycles in Pennsylvania. After completing her BSIE and MBA, she moved with her family to Nigeria. There, she pivoted into finance. After working as an executive at a bank, she became a partner of a consulting firm. Finally, she moved into the world of corporate real estate with Shell Nigeria in 2006. 


Patrenia says this broad background has given her many unique skills, including crisis management and scenario planning. Despite that, she benefits the most from understanding how to properly listen to her audience. To gain more insight, listen to the following few clips.

“I was 3-weeks into the job, and a bomb exploded at one of our recreational facilities.” – Patrenia Werts Onuoha




Talk about a crisis. A challenge of working in a developing country, especially as a giant oil and gas company, is that not everyone welcomes you with open-arms. The oil Shell was extracting was outside major cities, in less-developed areas. In this particular case, an aggravated community revolted by exploding a bomb in one of Shell’s facilities, containing over 300 houses and 500 people. 


Luckily, no one was hurt. Nonetheless, Shell took action. They evacuated all expats and their families within two days. Days before Christmas, Patrenia’s team had to figure out how to round up employees spread across the country. They relocated them to the capital of Legos and put them in hotels, and then sent them home in Shell-chartered jets. 


As a result, Patrenia truly grasped who her audience was. Listen for more details on how the crisis management of this situation looked.


 “Pain introduces us to ourselves. Pain introduces you to people’s real selves. Because, when there’s pressure, it’s difficult for people to keep up a facade.” – Patrenia Werts Onuoha




During the process of moving people out of Nigeria in two days, Patrenia got to know a lot of her coworkers. From logistics to HR, she worked with a whole slew of people along the supply chain. Consequently, this helped build a strong foundation within the company for her to flourish. Crisis management is difficult and making changes in CRE requires trust; trust that can be readily built up in intense situations. 


“In life, experience isn’t the best teacher. It’s reflected experience. Examined experience. And that’s where you learn” – Patrenia Werts Onuoha




We often say that we learn through experience. In this clip, Patrenia explains that if we don’t reflect and examine these experiences, nobody can learn from it. She tells a story of when Shell decided to open a new office space for 2000 employees. 


The building took time to find. In addition, it had to be renovated and refurbished. By the time the building was ready for employees, it was only being used at 50% occupancy because of the 2008 market crash. From here, Patrenia needed to figure out how to best utilize the space. In the end, she decided to sublet unused offices to other companies.  


Faced with internal pushback, data reformatting and coming up with tenant criteria, Patrenia learned that it’s important to learn to reframe the task at hand. They flipped the space from a cost center to a profit center. 


“I see CREMs in panic right now because they don’t know what’s coming, and they don’t know what to do now. My take on that would be ok, start where you are, what you know. Look at that. Try to get as much data as possible on the situation that you had before, and that you have now. And then you can try making assumptions and seeing where you need to adjust, and what outcome that could have.” – Sabine Ehm 



CRE professionals were put to work when Covid-19 began. They had to get creative fast, often while working with C-level colleagues. After a year of working from home, how do CREMs prepare for the influx of employees back in offices? How do they prepare for when those employees decide they prefer working remotely? 


Pulling from years of experience in extreme situations, Sabine and Patrenia suggest taking it step by step. Take the time to fully comprehend what the environment was like before. Compare it to what it’s like now. Examine these experiences, as Patrenia would say. Consistency compounds. 



In short, the future is unknown. It’s impossible to prepare for everything. However, when it comes to crisis management, arming yourself with tools to mitigate unpredictable situations will help profoundly. In this episode, Sabine and Patrenia discussed various critical events they’ve faced, and what helped them get through it. Reflecting and learning from these experiences is key to making informed decisions, quickly. Although, pausing and taking things step by step can also be hugely beneficial. Patrenia’s #1 recommended approach is reading the room and understanding your audience.

Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.


Corporate real estate strategy changes depending on company needs. In this episode, your host Sabine Ehm and guest Rolf Sulen discuss how to manage large-scale CRE portfolios, and change the mindset of workspaces to create a valuable office space. 




Meet the guest

Rolf Sulen is the corporate real estate advisor at Equinor. He is head of the workplace team, where he optimizes utilization and creates efficient workspaces for all international offices. Equinor began as an oil and gas company, and is now transitioning into renewables. One can only begin to imagine the CRE challenges that come with establishing new wind farms and worksites.


Equinor’s real estate portfolio spans 30 countries with 27,000 employees. Rolf and his team work to position the workplace environment as an asset to aid in company movement. The team is broken up into micro-teams, from project-based to artwork specialists. They have their hands full with how to configure spaces. 


Coming from a line of architects, Rolf says “real estate is in [his] blood”. After diverting from the family path to study business, he quickly returned, developing skills in CRE management. The following clips give insight into Rolf’s strategy for success. 


“Our company is not any different from any other large company when it comes to utilization of space. We have a turn up, at the office, in a range of 50-60% every day. But every time we go into a new business case, looking at new space, our space norm says that we should have so-and-so many square meters per full time employee.” – Rolf Sulen



Equinor is a large company with structures in place on how to best manage employees. Each time Rolf and his team look into creating a new location, they start by multiplying their ‘space norm’ of 20 square meters per person by the number of full time employees. From here, they have a better sense of how much area they require. 


We all know – it’s never that easy. With 50-60% occupancy rates, the team must consider different types of workplace configurations and occupancy metrics to fully optimize the space. Should they split the location? Implement activity-based areas? Consider desk-sharing? Each location’s answer will be different. In London, for instance, they host events with large groups of people. That location must be equipped to handle such events, but cannot be empty on a day-to-day basis. 


“If we’re going to have an office, it needs to be a strategic asset. It needs to add value. Which means that, I will say that I will go to the office because what I do will have a better outcome. What I do will have higher quality. ” – Rolf Sulen



For many in the western world, internet infrastructure is reliable enough that we can comfortably work remotely. That creates an industry of competitors to the traditional company workspaces. If companies want a high occupancy rate, they must ensure they are providing more valuable office space than the competitor, which is often home. Companies must view their office as “not just a building, but as a strategic asset.” 


Until now, most companies have seen their offices as just a place to “store” their employees. Corporate real estate has focused on having the space required, but then leaving it to employees to figure out how to best manage it. In this clip, Rolf suggests understanding the nuances of each work area and to add value accordingly. 


“That was one of the struggles that I had with the implementation of activity based working in the beginning as well. They were saying “I don’t want it, and now you want me to pay for it? What?” – Sabine Ehm


When building out an activity-based work environment, it’s often more expensive than the traditional setup. This is because “you typically provide more fancy things, [and] nicer collaboration areas” that are more expensive than standard desks. In this clip, Sabine and Rolf discuss the pushback that comes with trying new workplace solutions. In the end, you’ll never know the overall cost savings until you try. 


As Rolf puts it,“We’re always talking about flexibility. We’re always talking about space optimization. You know, all these buzzwords that we love in CRE. But when it comes to actually implementing it, and seeing how our colleagues fit in, that’s when the trouble starts.” 



The workplace is more than a holding pot for employees. Workers deserve a valuable office to support their needs. Rolf and his team manage thousands of workers, recognizing their individual spaces must be seen as strategic assets to company success. There are several ways to calculate the building out of a new location, and acknowledging each variable will prove beneficial in the long-run. Pushback is normal, but don’t let it stop you from creating something new.

Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.

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