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Connectivity isn’t everything: the future of real estate is connected

By Iain Miln, Senior Vice President of Business Development at essensys

The commercial real estate industry has gone through tremendous ups and downs over the past three years. It’s widely accepted that the use of offices, especially in major metro cities, has experienced a seismic shift as remote and hybrid work models have impacted the traditional nine-to-five, five-days a week office experience.

Whilst flexible working was on the scene pre-covid, the real shift happened during the pandemic at pace, and now the industry has had time to catch its breath, it is evident that the new normal – flexibility – is now business as usual. Whilst office occupancy might remain lower than pre-pandemic levels, this doesn’t mean that space isn’t needed at scale – how it is consumed is changing, and what makes a great office is being reimagined. This
presents an opportunity.

Office owners are now tasked with providing more than space to be fit out. The relationship between landlord and tenant is changing, with flexibility becoming the key to providing attractive space. By this I mean flexibility in its purest form, it is so much more than a different way of lining up desks. It has become an entirely new way of envisioning the use of space throughout an entire office building, whether this be across tenant floor plates,
amenity space or the flexibility to work across a variety of locations seamlessly.

Whilst hybrid working is not a new concept, hybrid working on mass is having an impact on the number of people travelling to an office. It used to be that crowded rush-hour traffic and subways cars were the norm, there is now a different cadence to when people commute. This is largely because of why they travel to an office.

The majority of the office workforce has learned that productivity does not necessarily correlate with being glued to your desk. It has become clear that spaces now need to be able to be shaped to how we work – with flexibility.

Amenity space, consistent experiences, the ability to collaborate, frictionless in-building journeys – anything that makes occupiers’ lives easier and more productive are now in demand. It is evident that this can’t be achieved without resilient and secure connectivity. However, the key to success is about more than connectivity, it’s about being connected.

Put simply, anyone can walk into a coffee shop and connect to the Wi-Fi. A connected building should do more than connect you to the internet. Enterprise-grade Wi-Fi should, in this day and age be available as standard. Notonly should any connection provide the highest level of security through a private network but it should deliver seamless and exceptional occupier experiences. Curb to desk, across amenity space, in-building- and portfolio-wide. Having connected spaces means that digital services can be easily delivered to occupiers, from smart access through to desk booking – friction free. Having a connected building means being able to access a pool of cohesive data from which to draw actionable insights, removing silos of disparate data. Connected buildings and spaces portfolio-wide means the ability to scale propositions and build attractive brands.

Modern real estate is very much a give the people what they want situation, and what they want are consistent, seamless experiences across spaces that are designed to support new flexible ways of working. Ask yourself, would you travel to an office for Wi-Fi? Or would you travel to an office that is connected: secure, flexible, seamless, enhances your productivity, and provides access to the digital services that you need when you need it?

As the evolution of offices continues, and occupiers continue to pressure test how they interact with office space, there will be clear distinctions between owners who can move from connectivity to being connected. Just as great office assets, those with location and prestige, became a battleground for attracting occupiers, great office experiences are front and centre as competition to attract people into offices heats up.

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