Future Workplace to Result in Reduced RE Footprint

Workplace optimization, enabled by a mobile workforce, will entail the reduced use of office space in the future, according to a panel held during the CoreNet Global North American Summit 2013.

The new mobile workplace was a leading topic of interest for corporate real estate executives during the CoreNet Global North American Summit 2013.

Speaking at a panel entitled, “Maturing Program Models for Workplace Mobility,” Peter Miscovich, managing director, Strategic Consulting, of Jones Lang LaSalle, said that no industry will be spared the imminent changes in office configuration. Workplace optimization, enabled by a mobile workforce, will entail the reduced use of office space, more diversity of office space arrangements and usage, and more technology-enabled space, he said.

Miscovich said that by 2020 or 2022, as much as 60 percent of the workplace will be contingent, consisting, for example, of workers who may work at five or six different work sites at the same time. By comparison, only 30 percent of the workplace today is contingent. He also pointed out that by 2020, the majority of the workplace will be composed of Echo Boomers, a generation that is most comfortable with the use of technology and work mobility.

Miscovich said that rent as an office expense has already peaked in 1990, and that the office occupancy trend has consistently fallen in the past 40 years.

Gavin Bloch, director, National Workplace Strategies, at Jacobs KlingStubbin, said that at a General Services Administration (GSA) office redesign pilot, it was found that as much as 60 percent of the office space was empty, as workers were not needing to use their workstations at all times.

The subsequent office redesign involved 100 percent unassigned office desks, and space sharing on a two-to-one ratio, he said. After the redesign, 160 employees were accommodated in 15,000 square feet, and there was a 52 percent reduction in space usage, and $632,000 in savings.

Bloch said that a “huge amount of change management” was required to implement the office redesign among the office employees.

Dan Johnson, director of WorkPlace Innovation, Accenture, said that the world of work is changing dramatically. He asserted that research suggests that the mobile, shared, workspaces would not be a deterrent to employee retention.

Accenture workspace-sharing arrangements resulted in a two thirds reduction in its real estate portfolio, from 3 million square feet to 900,000 square feet, even as the headcount has increased. Implementation of the new workplace “absolutely can be done,” he said.