NEWS & INSIGHTS • 31st August 2021

Workplace & Real Estate – Listening to Some Current Thinking

At Director Group we have been talking with our clients and others across business sectors to hear the thoughts and concerns that are current in workplace and real estate. Evidently opinions will continue to evolve as clearer definition around business environment, the economy and the impact on our behaviour develops.

With the caveat that this piece represents a snapshot not a set of conclusive opinions here is a small sample of what we have heard and a little of our reflection at this time.

What Lessons are we Learning for Future Resilience?

It is positive to note that so many organisations (including clients who we have supported) have been able to implement well-developed business continuity planning. Regardless of size and sector there seems to have been a tremendous agility to business that has at least maintained organisations at a functional level and often gone far beyond.

Whether this preparedness has been driven through the tortures of Brexit or the 2008 Financial crisis we are certainly a generation living through momentous change and challenge. Generally, we do seem to be a pretty resilient species at individual and collective level.

This is not to say that all is well and there is nothing to learn.

Areas of particular stress have been shared around:

  • Narrow locational dependence
  • Culture v Workplace and the acceptance of agility
  • True desk/workplace capacity need
  • IT/Comms agility and data access
  • Lesson learning and implementation from pre-2020 testing

Our initial thoughts common to these areas of stress are that organisations may recalibrate their
assessments of “value” when looking at fixed assets, infrastructure, procurement and partners to ensure that resilience and sustainability are more strongly scored against cost.

Home Working – Good or Bad?

As a broad reflection of opinion, it seems that Home Working has been embraced by many of us as the
new reality. The ability to continue at a functional level in roles through the use of VC, Teams, Zoom and other platforms has generally been effective.

Concerns do resonate around the security of some of these tools, particularly the well reported problems with Zoom. However, in contrast, expensive bespoke VC systems do not always seem to have proved resilient or of equivalent quality to the cloud-based services.

Perhaps the greater question concerning Home Working is the degree to which it can be sustainable both for the organisation and the individual.

Concerns, at the organisation level, over the true functionality of remote working to drive business forward and at the individual level, around Home Working extending the concept of isolation (beyond our current shared need for such) drive to the heart of human behaviour and the psychology of work. It will be interesting to see how these complex pressures play out over time across business, but the sense is that perhaps Home Working has a time and a place but is not in itself a solution to the more complex issues around the world of workplace.

It is inevitable that, to some extent, Home Working is here to stay and probably with a greater degree of acceptance than has been the case hereto.

Out of Adversity Comes Innovation

A number of clients, especially it would seem, some of our larger client organisations (and more so in traditional business sectors) have often found that transition to more agile forms of working is resisted. Pushback has often been seen to come from interests within businesses which have wished to continue with established patterns and behaviours in order to maintain role security or control.

With the onset of Coronavirus and the impact of national measures to control the spread we have all had to radically challenge some of our preconceptions around travel, workplace, location, communication etc. Those responsible directly for workplace in some of our client organisations have seen that change is currently so readily accepted that there is a degree of bewilderment as to why there has ever been so much resistance until now.

The spirit of “out of adversity comes innovation” certainly explains some of this mind-shift.
We now see rapid Innovation in many areas of life; whether through the incredible efforts of the NHS, those organisations that have come together to produce Nightingale Hospitals ventilators and PPE, or the new ways of delivering goods and services adopted for example in the retail sector. It is clear that even in the darkest of times there is huge creativity and positivity from many parts of our society.

Taking this to the world of Real Estate and Workplace there are certainly increasing examples of how service providers, organisations and individuals are setting aside previous boundaries in order to adopt new behaviours that will support the resilience, survival and future growth of many businesses.

What Happens Next?

Looking to any known horizon at the moment is a challenging exercise. The societal, economic and political impact of this most extraordinary of years will surely play out for a long time to come.

It is far too early to call major future shifts in behaviour while current focus is still largely on the short term. The one certainty is that lessons will be there to be learnt. The impacts on decision making will be profound but so too will be a need to return to ‘Business as Usual’ and to seek to repair economic damage at global, national, sectoral, organisational and of course individual levels.

Positioning understanding, experience and knowledge will support essential recovery, and this is where Director Group are keen to support. When it becomes time to act; effective and appropriate decisions can then be supported on reasoned, tested and rational foundations.

At DG we love to be alongside our clients supporting in our core skill areas around workplace and real estate.

If you would like to talk with us, we are here to start a conversation and support you through both the challenging and better times ahead. Email: