As part of our commercial real estate (CRE) edition of the New World of Work video series, our CMO Harish Peri sat down with Mark Gilbreath, CEO and Co-Founder of LiquidSpace.
They honed in on the revival of on-demand, flexible offices as it relates to the future of CRE. They also explored how many businesses are undergoing a transition from a headquarters-centric or fully work-from-home model, to a more agile work-from-anywhere one.
Tune into the full interview below, and check out the 5 top takeaways from our conversation.
Flexible offices as part of the work-from-anywhere era: 5 takeaways
1. The workplace isn’t limited to the HQ and regional offices anymore.
If 'work-from-home' is the hero that saved the day when the pandemic hit and we had to leave the office, then 'work-from-anywhere' is the concept that will shape the new workplace in the years to come.
In other words, individual and collaborative work will no longer take place just at the headquarters or at home, but also in a variety of flex spaces. Simply put, the office is not dead, but its traditional definition is.
“I think there's been an unconstructive, or sort of polarized, debate that's robbed too much of the headlines in the last nine months: "Is the office dead?" or "home vs. office." It's not that simple. The reality is, home is a part of that spectrum, the office is a part of that spectrum. Then, the offices we know won't just be an HQ and a sprinkling of regional offices, but rather thousands of points. Large and small.” - Mark Gilbreath, CEO of LiquidSpace
Flexible offices will go from being a fringe service that, a decade ago, was rarely used, to becoming an essential part of a company’s business strategy.
According to Gilbreath, on-demand workplaces are expected to represent 30% of the office footprint in the near future.
2. Supporting 'work-from-anywhere' becomes part of employer branding.
With the ongoing success of remote working, and the fact that many have left big cities behind for lower-cost locations, the notion of a talent hub is starting to lose its meaning.
Talent is now distributed everywhere, and employers need to find the best solution for retaining and hiring employees in all the different places they might be. Plus, they need to provide them with environments that facilitate both individual work and team collaboration.
Figuring out all of the aspects of the new workplace, and making it a functioning reality, goes beyond just a simple perk that companies can offer — it’s a real competitive advantage.
Moreover, work-from-anywhere is not a luxury that only tech giants like Google can afford. It’s a long-term strategy that many other companies (such as Morgan Stanley) have already adopted, allowing their employees more flexibility around where and how they work. As Mark notes:
“Countless tech companies - Twitter, Atlassian, Dropbox, Facebook, Google - have announced that they're embracing the concept of work-from-anywhere or employees' choice. But banks, insurance companies and manufacturers have also done embraced it, so I think we are now firmly in a world where work-from-anywhere will be the central strategy. And depending upon the task at hand and the physical environment that's needed, we should expect that employees will have more choice to exercise around where they work on a given day.”
3. The role of CRE leaders must change to face the challenges and opportunities of the new work paradigm.
A main aspect of work-from-anywhere is that the employee’s power to choose where they work supersedes the old approach: having a fixed desk in an office cubicle assigned to them.
The CRE leader is, therefore, forced to come up with a revised strategy based on the location of that employee and the type of workspaces they need for each specific role or task. But having to offer a workplace whenever and wherever an individual or team needs it can be daunting.
As traditional leasing and other practices of the old world of work evolve or disappear, real estate leaders require new management tools that can meet the complex requirements of the distributed workplace.
“There is a need for work-from-anywhere management tools. These are aiming to solve for the provisioning of flexibility and choice for employees at scale, and the transaction of space efficiently, from thousands of potential providers that are distributed across thousands of cities and locations. Traditional leasing and traditional workplace practices never tried to solve that, but the mapping of people across near-infinite combinations is the new challenge area. And that's what we're squarely focused on.”
And considering that the average enterprise has already reached "peak portfolio," according to Mark, rationing office space and leveraging flexible options could be a sustainable solution for the significant amount of unused and underutilized real estate.
4. The return to the new workplace will require multi-departmental alignment.
A well-build strategic team will be aware of every issue and opportunity that work-from-anywhere models yield. But who should be on that team?
The potential for increased ROI through footprint reduction and expansion into flex space calls for the CFO. However, enhancing the employee experience and boosting productivity by providing more choice is HR territory.
And when thinking about data management and security in the case of distributed teams, we look to IT leaders. Then, there’s the real estate leader who has to come up with the best solution to help their company deliver 'workplace-as-a-service' to their employees at scale.
“Many companies have formed the tiger teams or the strategy teams that are bringing all those voices together. But to those that are early in that journey, or haven't yet started, that can be terrifying. Doing it well is a multi-dimensional, multi-departmental initiative, but the playbooks are now being written.”
And, as Mark adds, we should also involve PropTech providers, who will help organize that work in the best way possible for all users involved.
5. The PropTech industry has to shift its focus to the consumerization of workplace experience.
The success of a work-from-home strategy is directly influenced by the decision each individual employee makes — they have the freedom to choose if they stay at home or go to a particular workspace where they trust it’s safe.
And the outcome of that decision is determined, in turn, by the seamless integration of PropTech tools (such as access control, people flow management solutions, property management software, etc.). These allow employees to engage with a space in a way that makes them feel comfortable leaving their homes.
“Broadly speaking, the office - whether it's a desk at a co-working space or that empty seat waiting for you back at the headquarters - has to earn back the consumer's trust. There has to be a reason that you'd want to go back to it.”
If workplace experience can efficiently deal with current employee concerns such as physical safety and data privacy, individuals will feel more eager to show up, and company culture will thrive regardless of where they choose to work.
The workplace of infinite possibilities
As we learn to navigate this work-from-anywhere era together, we’re grateful to be able to pick the brains of workplace thought-leaders like Mark Gilbreath. (Check out his TEDx talk on the revolution of work and its impact on CRE).
And as we look ahead, we hope that we'll all continue to embrace mantras like LiquidSpace’s: with "more happy people working from the places they love, the planet smiles."
Thank you again, Mark Gilbreath!
If you'd like to be a part of the next edition of our New World of Work series contact us directly.
To learn more about how Proxyclick helps companies in safe return to work plans, book a demo with one of our experts.