May 11, 2021
By Brandon Davis

Here’s How Corporate Real Estate Managers Are Navigating the Pandemic

If you’ve read the news during the past year, you might assume that corporate real estate (CRE) has met an untimely end. Headlines about the “new normal” conjure up images of office floors and cubicles sitting eerily vacant after employees left to work from home during the pandemic.

But CRE is far from dead. In fact, decision makers across the industry are busier than ever as they seek to adapt to changing circumstances.

Right now, many of them are focused on answering a single question: How can their organization most effectively use physical office space while preserving capital and creating a safe environment for all employees?

In this post, we’ll examine how CRE leaders are re-evaluating their priorities to answer the question above, and why digital solutions can help them address new challenges.

Why and How Corporate Real Estate Portfolios Are Changing

While space management professionals are still evaluating their post-pandemic options, one thing is certain: Remote work is here to stay—at least partially.

There are several reasons to assume this trend will continue, including the effects on employee productivity and overall job satisfaction. According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, 80 percent of survey respondents reported that they enjoy working from home. What’s more, 41 percent say they’re more productive than before, and 28 percent say that they’re equally as productive.

Organizational leaders are realizing that, even beyond the obvious health and safety concerns, a return to full office capacity could lead to a decline or disruption in business operations and employee happiness.

Because of this shift, CRE managers are re-evaluating their portfolios to optimize their changing workplaces. They may need to retain office space for future use, combine existing spaces, or vacate their offices entirely.

As they make these modifications, here are a few things they’re likely to consider:

  • Flex work options: With many companies offering hybrid work schedules (part-time in the office, part-time at home), managers will need to find spaces that accommodate this new style of work. Flex work office spaces are an increasingly appealing option, as they are usually smaller than a traditional office and have unassigned seating—which means employees can reserve and use desks and meeting spaces on an as-needed basis. These spaces also typically offer shorter-term leasing options (1 to 5 years vs. the traditional 15 to 20 years), which can be useful for managers dealing with short business cycles in the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic.
  • Consolidating existing spaces: If a company’s offices are forecasted to remain underutilized even after the pandemic, it may make financial sense to consolidate existing spaces. Managers will be looking at the feasibility of combining their offices and examining how it can be achieved with as little friction as possible. There are obvious concerns with this strategy—including overcrowding and loss of productivity—which is why managers will need to present strong business rationale for office consolidation.
  • Effective facilities management: The pandemic has changed the way we collectively think about workplace safety. Now, when they enter an office space, employees will expect that the company has proper cleaning and sanitization procedures in place. Part of every CRE manager’s job will be to ensure that facilities management can maintain these safety standards while operating smoothly—whether the company is remaining in the same space, consolidating spaces, or downsizing. Managers will need to work closely with their facilities teams to ensure effective communication and continuity of services.
  • Implementation of digital solutions: The best way to make corporate real estate decisions? Data—and lots of it. Every CRE leader will need to present strong, numbers-driven rationale to their executive teams. That’s why digital tools that provide robust space tracking and analytics will be in high demand as managers determine their organization’s ideal real estate portfolio. Having the capability to see all their numbers at a glance will be a huge value-add for these leaders as they navigate the new challenges.

Making the Business Case for Digital Solutions

Modern challenges call for modern solutions. Unfortunately, many CRE professionals are tackling pandemic-induced problems with outdated technology. They’re overwhelmed with spreadsheets and lack necessary cross-departmental visibility. To make smart business decisions, they need to share data and communicate effectively with facilities managers, space planners, and finance teams.

That’s where a comprehensive solution like Nuvolo Connected Workplace can make a crucial difference. Having a digitally connected workplace means real estate managers can make informed decisions with full confidence, drawing on inter-departmental transparency and up-to-the-minute data.

These capabilities help managers deliver better outcomes across the organization by providing:

  • Enhanced capital planning: A Fortune/Deloitte survey of more than 100 CEOs during early 2021 revealed that they anticipate needing 26% less office space in 2022 than in 2019. These changing needs can either lead to wasted money or big cost savings, depending on how well organizations are planning ahead. Nuvolo’s Real Estate solution offers full life-cycle lease tracking, including automation for on-boarding, amending, renewing, and retiring of leases. Plus, a single dashboard displays every contract in your portfolio, with the ability to create full financial reports in seconds. When it comes to the effective deployment of capital for real estate projects, having these insights at your fingertips is invaluable.
  • Better space management: While it may have been true before, it’s especially obvious now—space management is directly tied to employee relationship management. Like we discussed above, employee satisfaction is a major concern for employers during and after the pandemic. Ensuring that employee needs are met will be a key concern for CRE managers as employees return or adjust to the new workplace. Nuvolo makes managing employee expectations much simpler with our Space solution. Using a single cloud-based interface with interactive maps, employees can view and reserve space from their desktops or mobile devices. This makes it easy for them to self-manage their own in-office experience. It also gives real estate managers full visibility into how and when space is being used, giving them more data to work with when evaluating their portfolios.
  • Improved employee health and safety: Directly connected to space management is employee well-being. As mentioned above, every employee likely has the same concerns about returning to the office, and it will be up to CRE and space managers to address them. Will PPE be readily available for everyone? Are desks spaced out enough for appropriate social distancing? How are spaces being cleaned after use? Fortunately, using Nuvolo, decision makers can mitigate these concerns while ensuring the continued flow of business operations. The interactive maps within the Space solution’s interface allow employees to see the updated floorplan at a glance, while wayfinding capabilities help guide them to desired locations like PPE stations. These features can even be integrated with the Maintenance solution to auto-generate work orders for cleaning and sanitization.

The New Corporate Real Estate Landscape

The pandemic isn’t yet over—and even when it is, CRE managers will face more challenges than ever before. They’ll need to make strategic business decisions that efficiently leverage their existing space while planning for appropriate levels of expansion or downsizing. Using digital solutions like Nuvolo Connected Workplace can help them weather the storm by planning for capital projects, optimizing the employee experience, and exceeding health and safety expectations.

Download Nuvolo’s free e-book to learn more about how organizations are adapting their spaces to meet changing needs amidst the pandemic.