European Occupiers Turn Their Focus to Wellness and Technology

Apr 27, 2017 8:05 AM ET

Occupiers’ real estate priorities are increasingly focused on introducing efficiency gains and enhancing workplace strategies in a quest to make space work smarter, according to the 2017 CBRE European Occupier Survey. Greater use of technology is seen as key enabler of these objectives.

In recent years, major occupiers have looked to manage their cost base aggressively while remaining open to expansion and growth opportunities. Some of the measures implemented early in the recovery cycle have been exhausted, but at the same time corporate thinking around workplace, wellness, and flexible working models has evolved into a new phase. Occupiers’ thinking is strongly focussed on introducing efficiency gains and enhanced workplace strategies, increasingly underpinned by greater use of technology.

The 2017 CBRE European Occupier survey covered 131 companies. Nearly 90% of the companies surveyed are headquartered in either Europe or North America, and two-thirds have a remit that is either global or EMEA-wide. The survey covers a range of sectors, with four dominant components: technology and telecoms, banking and finance, professional services and manufacturing.

Wellness is Coming of Age

There is a broader and growing wellness agenda behind these findings. This is shown in the strong focus on customer experience and continued high ratings for elements of the workplace offer, such as indoor environmental quality and amenities. 56% of occupiers report that they run a formal wellness programme in their organisation, with 15% intending to introduce one.

For those who currently have or intend to introduce wellness programmes (71%), a broad range on initiatives are noted with a focus on awareness of health issues rather than facilities or more material programmes. This reflects a wider cultural change among European organisations. Wider awareness of stress, and its implications on wellbeing and productivity, is partly behind these results.

This will increasingly feed through to implementation – evidence of this can already be seen among large global occupiers, some of which are deploying a range of low to high-cost programmes aimed at attracting and retaining talent, engaging the workforce and ultimately boosting productivity.

Wellness affecting building selection

This year we see a rise in the inclusion of sustainable design and building certification within a wellness context which is already having an impact on building selection. 72% of those who have or are planning to introduce a formal wellness programme have some degree of preference for WELL-certified buildings. The wellness agenda is rapidly becoming a core pillar of workplace strategy.

Implementing a Workplace Strategy: Making Space Work Smarter

Running across all the elements of the corporate property agenda – CRE goals, on/ off-shore strategy, workplace strategy and wellness – are the mechanisms through which occupiers can achieve their key aims.

This year the message is clear. Technology and innovative thinking underpin the tools that occupiers are deploying to make their space work smarter. The three key areas where they are focusing are: the application of disruptive technology, flexible working strategy and the use of shared space.

With occupiers focussed on driving efficiency gains in their portfolios, they clearly see innovative technologies as one of their weapons, hence the focus on occupancy management as the main objective. In this sense, occupiers are focused on getting the basics right through measuring utilisation, internal occupancy patterns and people flows – generally managing space more efficiently.

Smart sensors are fast becoming the technology of choice through which occupiers look to achieve these goals, and to generate more connected metrics across people, places and things. They rank as the top tool across all objectives, scoring highest in occupancy management (71%), workforce productivity systems (70%) and building management (68%). More broadly, the growing volume of analytics connected to buildings will require a shift towards generating and using predictive analytics to turn insight into advantage.

Flexible working – enabling work through technology

Flexible working strategies have matured; their concepts and principles are now accepted. This hurdle having been crossed, the spectrum of success factors is broadening. The focus is now on the technologies and practical tools needed to support flexible working. Virtual desktop access and video conferencing have seen the biggest increases in popularity (up by 35 and 28 percentage points respectively), with “bring your own device” also rising considerably. On average, technology tools are highlighted as success factors for flexible working strategy by 50% of occupiers, up from 24% last year.

Rebecca Pearce, EMEA Head of Sustainability, at CBRE concludes:

Occupiers are increasingly focussed on the human components of their business and are seeking strategies to increase the effectiveness of the resources available to them. Cost is still a factor in corporate real estate decision making, but there is much greater awareness of the impacts of indoor environment quality, physical and mental health related programmes and technology in attracting and retaining employees and driving human, and ultimately organisational, productivity.