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Office Landlords Adopting Technology for Competitiveness

28 Mar 2018

Technology is rapidly changing how people work. These changes are going to redefine how businesses will structure themselves to use these new technologies. According to CBRE, the leading international real estate advisor, there are several key areas that technology is significantly changing the workplace, and as a result the workplace strategies that occupiers implement. These technologies include the increase of mobile technology, automation, cloud based technology and the use of artificial intelligence to manage information.

On March 28th, CBRE hosted the 2018 Bangkok Landlord Office Symposium for 100 leading office landlords with special panelists including the landlord of the most expensive office space in Bangkok, Mr. Fafuen Temboonkiat, Managing Director of Gaysorn Property; Mr. Eric Bui, Head of Operations, Shopee Thailand, the fast growing e-commerce occupier; and CBRE industry experts Mr. Nithipat Tongpun, Head of Advisory and Transaction Services – Office, Thailand and workplace strategist Mr. Shobhit Choubey, Director of Workplace Strategy, Singapore. The panel discussed on how technology will redefine the workplace and why landlords must prepare now.  

Mobile technology is enabling flexibility in how and where employees work, which is reshaping the way that companies plan for headcount and space requirements since employees no longer need a fulltime fixed desk in the company office.  As fixed desks are becoming increasingly less necessary, company workplace strategies are shifting towards more activity based workplaces that are open, collaborative, flexible, and provide more efficient use of office layouts that are optimized in less space. These workspaces are focused on driving connectivity and accessibility within the workplace that break down traditional office hierarchies in favor of a more direct and flat organizational structure.

More progressive landlords are also beginning to provide flexible space solutions to tenants including co-working space of their own while others are including co-working space as part of their tenant mix. 18,000 square meters from international co-working space operators are expected to be opened in Bangkok in 2018. Other forms of flexible space landlords are beginning to include are bookable common rooms for meetings and events, and flexible lease terms.

Mr. Nithipat stated, “We are not talking only tech firms anymore, we are seeing other industries using technology solutions in their workplace strategies such as consumer products, automotive, legal, and accounting companies.  They are using modern workplace strategies to attract and retain talent by increasing the flexibility and efficiency in the way their employees can work.”  The impact on landlords will vary depending on the composition of their portfolios and the locations and conditions of the office space they currently provide. As the needs of occupiers evolve, the user experience will be a key focus.  

The spread of artificial intelligence and automation in the workplace is increasingly replacing many clerical jobs both on the front end and backend offices of companies as companies implement cloud based solutions coupled with artificial intelligence to manage and analyze information and systems. While the number of staff may decline, the skillset of employees will become more specialized and as a result more competitive to attract and retain. Implementation of cloud solutions is also reducing the need for space and staff to maintain physical files as most information is entered and stored online in the cloud which makes it accessible and filed without the need for manual organization.

Artificial intelligence is not only being implemented by occupiers but is also being implemented by landlords to monitor buildings through smart sensors that are capable of tracking and controlling everything happening within the building with quicker and more efficient response times than humans. The internet of things is linking smart buildings with both landlords and tenants enabling the most comfortable, efficient, and convenient solutions between the buildings and the people who occupy and manage them.

Flexibility and integration via smart building technologies will be key areas that tenants are looking for as workplace strategies become more connected and mobile.  Mr. Choubey commented, “Decreasing front and back office head counts and greater mobility in the workforce will reshape demand for the amount, types, and quality of workspace that occupiers need.  Landlords must act now to ensure they remain competitive. CBRE Research believes that it is essential for landlords to engage tenants at an early stage, whenever possible, in planning, to understand their customers’ office needs and the technology they require in the smart buildings of the future.”

Technology is impacting offices and workplace strategy at every level from the enhanced mobility of the individual employee and how that affects the space needs of companies. This ultimately impacts the solutions that landlords must be able to provide, both in building tech and space solutions, to serve this changing demand.