Blog: The Office of the Future After COVID: How Intelligent Buildings and Automation Are Driving Commercial Office Recovery

What does the office of the future after COVID look like? It’s a question on the minds of many as the pandemic has changed traditional office work. And it’s no secret that occupancy in commercial offices has been disrupted. However, commercial offices are welcoming tenants back to buildings. In fact, office leasing rates in the fourth quarter of 2021 were positive for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.

“The physical office is more important than ever,” said Joyce Bromberg, co-founder of The Vanguard Collaborative, speaking during a recent Washington Post Live webinar titled “For Humans, By Humans: The Workplace,” sponsored by JLL Technologies. “When you’re in the workplace and when you’re collaborating with other people, there is a sense of joy and flow in the work itself that I think is hard to realize when we’re collaborating digitally only.”

And it’s why many real estate investors, owners, and occupiers are adopting intelligent real estate technologies to:

  • make data-driven decisions;
  • increase net operating income;
  • accelerate sustainability initiatives; and
  • improve the tenant experience.

Intelligent buildings and automation will shape the office of the future after COVID. The pandemic and hybrid work have created significant opportunities for the commercial real estate industry to tap into technology. And leaning into tech is a no-brainer for an industry that’s all about efficiency. Here’s what you can expect for commercial offices moving forward.

Office of the Future After COVID: Human-Centered and Tech-Focused

The reason people need to return to the office is simple: It’s the people.

“In all the focus groups that I’ve done over the years and all the one-on-one interviews that I’ve had with end users, the workplace has provided for many a sense of community, a place for them to be with likeminded people,” Bromberg said.

But the pandemic also has shined a light on how the workplace needs to adapt. It’s all about more effectively catering to people’s needs.

“We have a building in San Francisco that we’ve actually been redesigning during the pandemic. We had designed it right before the pandemic. As the pandemic hit, we went into different modes of working and started learning from those experiences. We were able to ask the question: What do we want of the physical workspace when we are back in it?” Sandy Speicher, CEO of IDEO, said during the webinar.

And while humans are the stars of commercial office spaces, technology acts as a supporting role. It’s a way to enhance employee experience and increase efficiency. “We’re learning, in terms of designing together through technology, the advantage of these kind of worlds that we can create through technology together,” Speicher said.

Intelligent Buildings and Automation: Shaping the Future of Real Estate for a Better World

Technology isn’t only at the center of building design. It spans from the front of the house to the back. Commercial real estate technology is innovating the way we operate buildings. The pandemic forced the industry to adapt to a new world. Intelligent buildings and automation are working to shape the concept of how we work in the office of the future after COVID. That means commercial real estate owners and property managers need more information at their fingertips than ever before.

“Companies need to make decisions in a rapidly changing environment, and to predict what hybrid work and changing consumer behaviors are going to mean for them. So real estate investors, owners, and occupiers have greater need for accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive data,” Mihir Shah, co-CEO of JLL Technologies, said during the webinar.

Shah said the commercial real estate industry is at the dawn of intelligent buildings and automation. And five years from now we’ll be deep into intelligent commercial real estate. That means now is the time for owners and property managers to invest in technology that increases automation and efficiency. Those who tap into tech will be well positioned to adapt as the world changes (and if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the world can change overnight).

“In the last few years, we’ve seen prolific growth in the adoption of real estate technology. Forrester did a survey last year of top CRE decision-makers, and 80% of them said that they were going to spend more on real estate technology,” Shah said.

The 3 Parts of Intelligent Buildings and Automation

Shah said there are three parts to intelligent real estate:

  1. Intelligent buildings: Buildings that have a modern building operations platform that digitizes all operations. Then, you add a tenant experience app that acts as a remote control to the building for access and amenities. You then round it out with tech that addresses energy efficiency and sustainability, which can cut 20% off your annual energy costs.
  2. Intelligent spaces: As hybrid work becomes a norm, this tech can help you understand the utilization of your space. Think in terms of desk hoteling, or a system for employees to book workspaces.
  3. Intelligent advice: This is where you take in all the data for your building to create intelligent advice and useful insights. You can use these insights to make data-driven decisions that move your business forward.

“When you combine all these three things together, this is really the future of real estate, and it’s very exciting. It’s a great opportunity for us and our industry to make lasting change. As we like to say at JLL, it’s really about shaping the future of real estate for a better world,” Shah said.

Are you wondering what the office of the future after COVID looks like for you? Learn how to put some intelligence into your building by automating and digitizing your operations.

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