Three big questions CRE leaders are asking right now

3 min read

In the world of corporate real estate, significant change has been afoot for some time. The impact of Covid is still being felt across businesses and workplaces, as strategies are adjusted to refocus the purpose of buildings and offices to meet the changing needs of employees.

With 2020 behind us and the chance to start fresh with a new outlook for 2021, we take a look at three of the key questions corporate real estate leaders across the Americas will be asking themselves as they look ahead to the next twelve months.

1. What power lies in workplace data?

Technology and data must absolutely be part of the workplace of the future. Aside from the benefits that employees can enjoy from the benefits of innovative new proptech tools and solutions, the data collected and collated by these devices and systems is clearly becoming indispensable in helping to shape CRE strategies.

Thanks to this data, businesses are able to develop an internet of behaviors (IoB) that can help to inform decisions – allowing teams to accurately understand the likely impact of quite radical changes to the workplace. This is helping to drive changes across strategic changes in the corporate real estate world, as teams continue to move away from delivering facilities management services and instead adopt a workplace experience management approach.

With the short-term future of the workplace still uncertain for many businesses, now is the time for CRE teams to equip themselves with better information – to deliver an improved employee experience across the office and more importantly, re-invigorate the workplace culture.

Employees are also directly benefitting from proptech, which is providing them with increased autonomy over their day. With connected systems, employees will be able to manage their office environment – from reserving desk and meeting rooms to accessing key resources – from their phone, or their laptop, through apps and software that will then feedback information for CRE teams to review.   

Despite the rapid increase of remote working in 2020, it is clear that the office is still a vital hub for organizations to enable collaboration and create an authentic workplace culture. Backed by data-led decision making, CRE leaders are continuing to explore how they can make their workplaces safer, more efficient, and more welcoming for employees.

2. Where are the growth opportunities?

The impact of the Covid pandemic has rapidly accelerated many business’ plans for remote working. This has opened up discussions about where businesses should run their operations from, and whether implementing satellite offices outside of main business hubs would increase the talent pool and support employee wellbeing.

Increasingly, firms across the globe are exploring more radical moves than would previously have been possible.
In the US, cities such as New York and San Francisco have benefitted from bustling business hubs for some time, with employees paying a premium to live closer to the workplace or face a lengthy commute.

As businesses look outside of central business districts for new real estate, could opportunities lie across the border for US businesses?

Latin America is benefitting from the fastest rate of urbanization in the world. Some industries, including financial services, manufacturing and life sciences, are already well-established in the region, as other sectors are emerging, among them data centers, retail and healthcare.

The region itself is made up of over 30 countries, each with its own culture and traditions, which individually offer new markets for US businesses to explore.

With a multi-lingual and increasingly educated workforce, relatively low labor costs and time-zone/location considerations, interest is growing among multinationals in establishing Latin America-based call centers and distribution/logistics centers.

Additionally, the US benefits from a large population of Spanish speakers, where the largest minority group is the Latino population. Not to mention that as much as 70 percent of the potential client base in the Americas is Latino.

Multinationals choosing to ignore or underestimate the importance of the region are at risk of surrendering a significant opportunity.

3. Sustainability is back on the US policy agenda – but what does that mean for CRE?

All over the globe, sustainability has never been higher on government agendas – and the same is now true in the US. As the home to many global businesses, what will this new direction mean in practice?
With the new administration in the United States comes a change to policies that will in turn, shape the strategies and directions of American businesses. President Biden made ambitious pledges on climate protection even before his inauguration, promising to make the US climate-neutral by 2050 or sooner.

Although many multinationals have followed this agenda over the last four years; with a renewed challenge on tackling climate change coming from the top down, we can expect the pressure to be on US-based companies who are yet to make their own sustainability commitments.

For those businesses who have already made those commitments, the push for 2021 and beyond will be on bringing those values and targets to life across their corporate real estate.

The impact of Covid has seen a positive effect for the environment in the short-term, with activities such as corporate travel significantly reduced. However, with the anticipation that employees will return to the workplace, the need for a united front is stronger than ever to reach net zero carbon and sustainability targets.

The real estate sector accounts for around 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with 28% of that attributed to operations. It's important that businesses, and employees, focus on the positive actions in the workplace – reducing wasted water and energy, investing in initiatives that individuals can get behind, and implementing solutions that reduce carbon emissions, such as cutting back on unnecessary business travel.

The opportunity to reimagine CRE is growing. An increase in remote working is affording businesses a chance to rethink and review what lies in store for corporate real estate, with technology, sustainability and workplace location key focus areas for the new dawn of the workplace.