Q&A: Real estate exec sees '15-minute city' concept migrating from Europe to the US

As companies rethink how to use in-person office space, and in many cases shutter underutilized real estate, newer concepts are taking hold to offer employees daily urban necessities and amenities — all within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.

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"So, those individuals may be fully remote, but we’re going to fly them into the HQ or a corporate retreat once a quarter for a week. Companies like Automattic, which is fully remote, brings together everybody together for a week once a year in a peak experience week for culture, community, and socialization.

"There are different ways to create culture, community, and socialization. Office space is one approach. Experiential retail has high value. So for those enterprise occupier clients, it’s a thoughtful approach to how they can create that human-centric, experiential value. How do I ensure my employees are thriving, as Microsoft, Accenture, Google and Salesforce are doing?

"So [it involves] re-imagining the meeting experience. ...Meeting rooms and conference rooms are being redesigned and reengineered with new audio-visual technologies and hybrid workplace collaboration technologies. If some people are in the conference room and others are remote and distributed, that meeting is still a high-quality experience. And there we’re seeing a great deal of focus and investment.

"Second to that would be experiential amenities, health and wellness amenities. And, similar to experiential retail, how do you ensure your workplace experience is a peak experience if I’m only coming into the office two days a week. My meetings are delightful; they’re seamless, or what Accenture calls “the magical moments of collaboration.” It’s a higher valued experience than we were offering in 2019."

Is the workplace experience today under or overperforming compared to 2019 and pre-pandemic? "One thing I’ve said and I’m saying more and more as things progress is the entire workplace industry was underperforming pre-2020. It was underperforming on a whole host of levels that we don’t like to admit.

"We thought these open-plan benching experiences were the design standard of their time. These new hybrid workplace design concepts are much more thoughtful, and more changeable. I think we’ll see new design capabilities in terms of flexible and changeable environments — evergreen design solutions that allow for a physical environment to evolve and change over time.

"All of this is enabled by technology. It’s enabled by smart workplace technology, IoT, digital twins and 5G — all of that technology enablement [is] coming to this new human-centric, experiential workplace.

"That investment is being evaluated today. Those building owners who provide that high-quality envelop I just described will have a competitive advantage. And those enterprise occupiers who take that same approach will have a talent competitive advantage; that’s proving itself out across many organizations, as well as real estate development. They have very high occupancy rates."

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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