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June 23, 2021

One Adjective Holds the Future of the CRE Industry: "Adaptive"

CRE is undergoing a profound identify crisis as they struggle to get a handle on the future of work. At the crux of it all sits the workplace and experience. We talked with Nida Mehtab, founder and CEO of Caryatid, a  real-estate consulting firm taking a data-driven approach to helping occupiers achieve their goals. She discussed how CRE leaders can transition to a more adaptive strategy as they plan for the future of work. 

The next 18 months will be a critical time of experimentation as organizations respond to the needs of their people, the movements of their peers and the capacity of their resources.

To not just weather that change, but take advantage of the potentially boundless evolution enabled by today's circumstances, corporations need to implement a truly adaptive approach.

So what does that mean? And how will it impact the CRE industry?

What Adaptive Means in the CRE Industry

An adaptive approach to CRE or workplace strategy is truly just one that aims to adapt to the massive changes of the pandemic or other future variables.

More specifically, an adaptive approach is one that enables a business to do its work effectively with the minimum impact of physical variables. Within the CRE industry, this could apply to:

  • Portfolio strategy that considers the supply and demand of the space and all the factors outside a building — market, location, capital planning, and particularly climate change response.
  • Workplace strategy, which considers how work gets done within the office and all the factors inside a building — design, workforce composition, workstyle, experience, etc.

The Urgency of Being Adaptive

Adapting is vital because, simply put, nothing in CRE and the workplace is the same as it was two years ago.

There is a clear binary between an adaptive and non-adaptive (or retroactive) approach: on one hand, changing your approach and updating your workplace; on the other, remaining static and maintaining the same approach to the workplace.

Some companies are opting for a retroactive approach, recalling all employees to an unchanged physical office and choosing to ignore key trends — e.g. over 30% of employees in  a recent survey said they would quit if forced to return to the office full time. 

Those within the CRE industry understand that retroactivity is often opinion-based and driven by leadership mandates. It also squanders an enormous opportunity to reframe work and the workplace.

Adaptive models, on the other hand, must be grounded in evidence and employee listening to succeed. With 75% of employees indicating a desire for a hybrid model, the vast majority of companies must seize this transformational moment and set their workforce up for long-term happiness.

The Layers of an Adaptive Strategy

Not all adaptive approaches are equal. Some corporations execute the foundation of an adaptive strategy: to improve culture and build a better future of work, they listen to employees and adapt accordingly.

Others see an opportunity to go further, listening to employees and conducting real estate portfolio assessments to transform culture, workplace and finances. 

Last, a few companies are truly using these circumstances to adapt their entire corporate strategy, including reworking their company values from the ground up.

Adaptive CRE Blog Graphic-03 (1)

How to Be Adaptive in the CRE Industry

To enable this adaptive approach, everything else should focus on the same north star: your portfolio strategy, your workplace strategy, even your people and business strategy.

Redefine Your Role

That means that traditional roles must change. CRE leaders must do more than manage real estate; they must also proactively build a portfolio that responds to the changing demands of their business and enables their people to do their best work.

From occupancy planning, CRE leaders and workplace strategists are pivoting to more complex challenges: how will people work, interact and live in the new workplace?

As a result, they now have a permanent seat at the table in major discussions, from business roadmaps to people and culture strategies. It's up to CRE leaders to take advantage of that change and build a new workplace grounded in adaptability.

Expand Your Definitions

An adaptive approach also requires changing traditional definitions and metrics. Supply and demand is no longer a simple equation. Square footage required per employee is now a sliding scale rather than a set target, influenced by type of work — collaborative, innovative, focused – and individual preference and choice.

Leverage Technology

As strategists analyze capacity tracking, manage portfolios and reassess employee engagement, they are increasingly turning to technology to automate these new workstreams and workflows. Workplace lifecycle management platforms enable the CRE industry to fundamentally reimagine portfolio and workplace strategy.

Enable the New Workplace

Being adaptive in the CRE industry means understanding that the workplace has come alive. It's an organism that must absorb shifting demand and provide opportunities to do a variety of work within the same space.

Workplace has changed dramatically, but it's not going away, and it's not brand new. It's simply a different, more complex puzzle that now includes dramatic and dynamic opportunities — like a global workforce, a "workplace on demand" or simply “smart workplace” and more.

A workplace can set the tone for experience and culture, shape interactions, enhance how work gets done and define a brand. Successfully accomplishing all that against a backdrop of remote work and changing employee needs is a challenge that can only be solved with an adaptive, people-first approach.

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