Are You Ready for the Workplace of the Future?

The way people work has evolved in dramatic ways over the past decade, and Millennials — who now represent the largest segment of the workforce — are driving even more change. Savvy investors, developers and owners are taking these shifts into account when conceiving, designing and developing projects. Sticking with the old way of doing things comes with a significant risk of ending up with unmarketable properties that don’t appeal to employers.

Changing landscape

Older workspaces primarily were designed for space and workflow efficiency, with little thought paid to the worker experience. Fungible beige or grey cubicle farms, for example, were intended to boost productivity while keeping a lid on costs.

But demographic developments and the rise of remote and contract work are leading to a growing demand for offices that look and feel more like short-term shared workspaces. That means an emphasis on amenities, wellness and sustainability (particularly in urban areas). With a tight labor market, employers can’t afford to overlook these factors that play a role in recruiting, engaging and retaining employees.

The days when “location, location, location” was the decisive issue are long gone. Today, workplace features like natural light, meeting spaces, social areas and fitness facilities may be more important draws for many businesses.                                    

Moreover, with fewer workers spending eight or more hours a day onsite, employers will need more fluid, modular work environments. Future workplace designs may need to incorporate smaller floor plates, movable walls and collaboration spaces, for example. Projects also should anticipate the sharing of facilities among different businesses and flexible lease arrangements that allow businesses to scale up or down easily.

The Internet of Things and artificial intelligence assume prominent roles in both day-to-day operations and employers’ goods and services. As a result, smart technologies — for example, for lighting, HVAC and security systems — are becoming more common. New projects should include the appropriate digital infrastructure to support these technologies.

Autonomous (driverless) vehicles also could have a substantial impact on commercial real estate. It might, for example, be wise to construct internal parking structures that later can be converted to workspace if driverless vehicles take off as predicted. In addition to planning for a drop in the need for parking, developers should prepare for a higher demand for curbside drop-off areas.

Opportunity abounds

Employers are revising their workplace policies and office layouts to meet the needs of today’s workforce. Are your commercial properties in tune with these changes? Be sure your new projects recognize the emerging business models and how they affect the priorities of prospective buyers and tenants.

For additional information contact Nick Sarinelli, CPA, CFE or Doug Collins, CPA on (973) 298-8500 or visit our real estate services page. 

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