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The future is now: How technology is shaping the way we work

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The past three years have arguably made the commercial world more connected than the previous hundred combined. The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way we work, unlocking the ability to work from anywhere and redefining the employer/employee dynamic. At JLL Spark Global Ventures, we are fascinated by the evolution of the workplace and the role of technology in shaping the future of work. In this post, we offer some thoughts for how leaders can adjust to the new normal and how building owners can leverage technology to stay relevant.  

In 1926, Henry Ford introduced the five-day work week, and though it was a reduction from the six-day norm, it led to higher productivity and better business performance. Today, as we navigate the transition to remote and hybrid work, we see similar patterns. While remote work offers benefits like eliminating commute times and improving work-life balance, it has also brought challenges like lack of accountability and cultural decay. It has since become increasingly clear that the world is too complex for a single model to succeed, like it did in Ford’s time. Consequently, we must continue to adapt the way we work to meet the needs of our evolving business landscape and doing so will require behavioral and structural changes. Thankfully, we have technology.  

Let’s focus first on how employers can drive employee experience. Not every business needs a large, full-time in-person workforce to be successful, but how do leaders identify the right balance for their business? The foundation must be built on data. Leaders must first understand how each individual works, process the matrices of how their teams work, and create a real estate strategy that melds with those answers. They must then foster a workplace that unlocks team performance, either through collaboration opportunities or infrastructure and amenities that bolster focus. Platforms like Offi, VergeSense, and Desana provide insights on workspace utilization, while employee experience and team analytics platforms like HqO and Visier help maximize organizational performance. As organizations expand, balancing the needs of a connected workforce with the realities and pressures of cost and travel-related carbon footprints becomes a challenge. This is where our portfolio company, Shared Studios (aka Noro in the CRE space), is charting new territory… more to come on this in our next blog post.  

For owners and operators, the challenge lies in differentiating office spaces in a market with excess supply. Here lies an implicit opportunity for lasting differentiation: owners and operators can capture strong demand by making their spaces appear bespoke for every tenant and building the operational structure to meet their needs. This is only feasible through technology. We view the owner/operator workflow as three broad buckets – marketing, leasing, and ongoing operations; below we have provided some technology suggestions across each. On the marketing side, owners must realize each tenant’s needs are unique; a law firm, gaming company, and talent agency each need different elements in their space and want an owner who appreciates that nuance. This is where our investment, qbiq, fits in by leveraging historical market data and generative AI to generate photo-realistic renders and 3D walkthroughs of an owner’s space, specifically designed for a prospect’s needs. In the leasing workflow, market data and lease abstraction platforms like Costar, Docugami, and Docjuris aid in pricing and contracting spaces and then provide a data bridge to your operations. Embedding each tenant’s requirements in a property and asset management platform, for example Re-leased or Yardi, and operating platform, such as JLL’s BuildingEngines, is step one, but owners must then link each of their tenant amenities and offerings to their operating system to convert tenant needs into work orders. The best owners will layer AI and automation on top of these processes to immediately action on low-acuity tasks, reduce operational bottlenecks, and even optimize energy-related costs and emissions. 

In a few short years, the working world has changed dramatically, leaving employers and office owners scrambling to meet its evolving needs. Technology helps; however, technology alone is not the answer.  Leaders must deeply understand their business, design workspaces that support their goals, and effectively communicate the intent of these designs to their teams. They must also actively measure and update metrics to monitor the impact on performance and employee morale. Owners must be agile and build robust operational workflows to meet tenants’ changing needs.  

JLL and JLL Spark are on a mission to enable this new paradigm. If you are building technologies that help leaders and owners create and adapt to the new future, we’d love to hear from you. 

Written by Ajey Kaushal, Investment Principal at JLL Spark

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