Insights from the 5th annual Australian Proptech Summit 2023

The team from MRI Software APAC recently attended the Australian Proptech Summit 2023 at Sydney’s famous Luna Park as a top-floor sponsor, joining enthusiastic peers and thought leaders for a two-day deep dive into the latest technological advancements and innovations for commercial real estate in the Asia Pacific region.

Speakers covered the latest trends in ESG and sustainability, data and analytics, security and risk management, artificial intelligence, tenant experience and the smart buildings of the future.

We’ve rounded up some of the key presentations here:

Day One

Emerging international proptech trends for 2023

The day opened with a presentation by Amanda Bennie, Head of Technology at Cbus Property who spoke about the increasingly central role of technology in delivering properties that meet the evolving demands of investors, owners and tenants.

She pointed out that Covid has both accelerated the adoption of technology and had a role in shaping its effects. Proptech solutions are helping manage the demand for flexible office space, bridging the gap for remote workers through platforms that function as virtual water coolers and enabling remote and hybrid working through the cloud and mobile solutions.

According to Bennie, the concept of the “CBD” is being replaced by the “BBD” or “better business district”, which includes a fuller spectrum of lifestyle facilities like hospitality and health services. Best-in-class technologies are emerging to help drive this shift.

Communities are forming where people are working and we need to recognise that commercial real estate management is no longer just about business but about planning and designing for precinct-based lifestyle communities.

Bennie outlined some of the other ways proptech solutions are having an impact on the commercial property landscape by

  • Enabling commercial real estate agents to become more customer-focused and introduce meaningful efficiencies through chatbots and virtual assistants.
  • Delivering ever-more realistic immersive experiences for buyers and renters through virtual and augmented reality.
  • Unlocking data through AI to predict property values, find investment opportunities and forecast trends.
  • Streamlining transactions, combatting fraud and introducing new ownership models and fractional investments through Blockchain.
  • Giving unprecedented insights to property owners and managers into how their assets are performing through IoT data.
  • Introducing more efficient ways to plan, build, monitor performance and manage risk through digital twins.
  • Providing systems and solutions to lower carbon footprints and introduce energy efficiencies.

Despite the many gains, opportunities and challenges for the next decade are becoming clearer.

In particular, we need to do more work to find proptech solutions that can help us address obsolescence, meet ESG and sustainability goals and optimise energy management.

Bennie also recognises the difficulties that data presents and how technology can help commercial property managers capture and use it to their advantage.

Data is one of our biggest challenges. In commercial property, we work with high volumes of both structured and unstructured data and companies that can help streamline the sharing of data will be key.

Managing adoption is important – commercial property teams don’t need to adopt every piece of technology but rather make value-based investments and ensure that technology resources are “democratised” by breaking down silos and enabling its use across teams.

Using sustainability to increase ROI and reduce expenditure

Parag Shinde, National Manager, ESG Property at Australian Unity Wealth acknowledged the phenomenal rise of ESG over the last two years and spoke about how property owners can cut through the confusion and approach ESG implementation in a structured way. He said that this essentially involves adopting a strategic approach and backing it up with practical workstream management.

Shinde pointed out that property has one of the biggest impacts on emissions in Australia.

Twenty-three per cent of all emissions in Australia come from the built environment, both residential and commercial, and almost 20% of all electricity consumption is related to property.

Thankfully, a more focused investor push, clearer global mandates and stricter legislation are coming together to accelerate the property sector’s journey towards a sustainable future.

“We are a big sector, we have a big impact and we are also a leader and have a good basis to work on to achieve net zero ahead of the 2050 target,” he added.

He explained how technology can be used to help property and facility managers better comprehend the property’s environmental impact, and harness real-time data to set benchmarks and energy usage goals with sustainability as the focus. This not only helps to meet sustainability commitments for the good of the planet but also to reduce expenditure and increase ROI on commercial property investments.

Shinde outlined some of the practical measures property managers can take over the next 5 or 10 years to achieve a net zero or zero carbon goal:

  • Develop a high-level “zero carbon” plan which goes beyond simple and static carbon neutral measures. This involves identifying your emissions and continuing to reduce them over the long term.
  • Buying renewable power, electrifying buildings, investing in EV charging infrastructure and battery recycling.
  • Reducing construction emissions by curbing the use of high-impact materials like steel, concrete, cement and PVC.
  • Developing design briefs for new buildings and fit-outs that set minimum standards and systems for handovers.
  • Maximise the sustainability benefits of recycling assets on non-greenfield sites.

Shinde points out that to make this a reality there is a huge amount of information to capture, monitor and disclose.

Empty claims and greenwashing won’t cut it anymore. You need independent verification of the work you’re doing through national and global benchmarks like Green Star, NABERs and others.

Platforms that collect and analyse ESG data have a central role to play. They provide you with supervisory visibility over your assets by setting up a baseline and tracking asset performance over time, giving you the tools to manage capex and opex initiatives as you transition assets to net zero.

Panel discussion: ESG in commercial property development, operations, and maintenance

Su-Fern Tan, Head of ESG, CBRE Asia Pacific chaired a panel on ESG in commercial property development, operations, and maintenance and asked panellists about the sorts of strategies they are implementing in these areas as they transition to a low-carbon future.

Tan was joined by Elham Monavari, Head of Green Star Strategic Delivery, Green Building Council of Australia; Albert Eichholzer, Executive Director, Avani Solutions; Danny De Sousa, Vice President – ESG & Innovation, Brookfield Properties and Oscar Zerbst, Director Asset Management and ESG, Aliro Group.

Among the questions posed to the panelists were:
What are some of the best ways owners can start eliminating emissions from the built environment?

According to De Sousa, being able to measure carbon emissions at the building level is critical, and from there being able to identify pragmatic ways to optimise energy usage during operations, upgrades and other essential activities.

Although Brookfield Properties has a roadmap to guide it towards electrification, it also faces challenges such as the size and nature of the equipment needed to support an all-electric future.

Zerbst emphasized that while improvements to existing buildings can be a challenge, new buildings offer clear opportunities.

When it comes to the industrial space, greenfield sites provide a blank canvas and the ability to really incorporate best practice design that achieves ESG goals, especially now that it’s now much more common to have occupants who want to work collaboratively on the design process.

Embodied carbon and materials management is another issue, he said. “Materials like concrete and steel make up the main component of the built form,” he said. “We’re trying to achieve sustainability outcomes by embracing innovation but also weighing up the standards that are required, for example, in an industrial warehouse that relies on automation.”

When it comes to replacing traditional materials with low-impact ones, “There isn’t always the performance proof yet, but we’re actively trying to test and find solutions.”

How is technology helping you reach ESG goals?

Eichholzer pointed out that things have changed from the days when technology was seen as “aspirational and altruistic”.

(Now) ESG is a differentiator and businesses have to demonstrate their credentials. (It’s important) to not have to rely on (evidence) like utility bills and repurposed data to create that information.

Being able to provide real-time data to back up performance is key and technology has a huge role to play in making that happen.

Zerbst described how his organisation was working with Avani to monitor energy usage in several of its buildings and to perform tasks like working out relative demand from building components like lighting, mechanical plant and elevators. It enables them to understand what’s operating when it shouldn’t be and introduce efficiencies from there.

De Sousa said that newer businesses like Brookfield Properties can incorporate technology without having to deal with legacy issues. “It’s about capturing and cleaning the data and making it consistent and usable. We’re still getting to the scale where we can get the benefit,” he said. “But it does really allow you to accelerate towards net zero.”

How can the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) assist commercial property owners in achieving net zero?

Monavari explains that the GBCA aims to promote sustainability in the built environment by offering rating tools such as “Green Star”, and recognises the immense potential for integrating sustainability initiatives into new buildings from the outset.

She told the panel that the Council has developed a roadmap in its efforts to ease contention in the space and be a consensus builder, incorporating the latest science from international scientific research in shaping its rating tools.

“The GBCA upholds the aim of achieving net-zero emissions by 2030 for new buildings and by 2040 for existing ones, ahead of the government’s goal to reach overall net zero by 2050.”

The Council stresses the importance of taking early action to decarbonise portfolios by implementing efficiency measures, full electrification, retrofitting, and minimising embodied carbon in materials, while also addressing any building-related issues.
While so much attention is being focused on the environment, many stakeholders are struggling to do better in the social space. What are some of the social metrics you’re working on?

Zerbst acknowledged that health and wellbeing for staff in the industrial spaces haven’t been prioritised in the same way as they have for office tenants and, as a result, Aliro Group is trying to address this.

We promote the idea of industrial “third spaces” as much as possible, whether it be outdoor seating or common areas and really just raising the idea of health and wellbeing in an industrial space.

De Sousa stressed that while social metrics can be tricky, his organisation actively promotes wellbeing. “End-of-trip facilities are standard and we have wellness rooms with options for things like yoga classes. Placemaking activities like mental health months and building a sense of community around social initiatives,” he adds.

“There are things outside the performance of a building that go into making payback or ROI on these things real. Employees and tenants are voting with their feet and their sentiments have power and can truly impact landlords and employees who can’t demonstrate credentials in this space.”

Panelists also believe there is a need to broaden what we call the payback or ROI that sits around the “social” part of ESG. Social enterprises, for example, are also a way to meet these goals.

Monavari noted that while the traditional focus has been on environmental outcomes, the GBCA has also started to promote social goals as the sector matures, like inclusion in the design and operation of buildings.

How are you communicating ESG credentials to investors in a way that avoids greenwashing?

Zerbst believes that materiality assessments can help you identify what’s relevant to your customers and stakeholders and put a communication plan in place around what emerges from an ESG perspective.

This may involve communicating your ESG track record and case studies, or your commitment and alignment with benchmarks, green scores, and tenant satisfaction scores. “There’s plenty a business of scale can lean on once they understand what matters for ESG,” he says.

According to Eichholzer, publishing and making data fully transparent can create exciting opportunities for innovation. Curtin University’s real-time energy usage project known as Living Campus is a great example of this.

You can see the exact makeup of the campus’s energy usage and making the data available to staff, students and researchers is paving the way for a whole bunch of innovative solutions from the wider community.

“If we can’t demonstrate our credentials we’re going to land in a place where there’s a whole lot of stranded assets out there in the not-too-distant future,” he adds.

Finding the technology that will make a real difference to occupant services and improve the commercial tenant experience

Carolyn Trickett, Growth Principal – Asia Pacific, JLL Spark, spoke about her role in the venture capital fund which was set up in 2017 with the aim of identifying and investing in real estate technology solutions that align with JLL’s real estate services.

As one of the world’s largest real estate companies, JLL brings considerable expertise to the job of nurturing proptech startups and, through JLL Spark, has invested $380m in 45 companies since its inception in businesses aimed at improving commercial tenant experiences.

According to Trickett, JLL’s broad footprint, established reseller arm, and comprehensive network of client relationships are helping clients gain traction in their primary markets and potentially gain a foothold in APAC and global markets.

“While we’ve got a clear vision as to what we think is going to work in the market, we don’t always know what the ROI will be,” she said. And part of the challenge is trying something new, either on JLL’s or the client’s behalf. “We need to find clients that are open to trying new things although sometimes mixing startups with established corporates is like mixing Red Bull with red wine,” she joked.

JLL Spark has narrowed down its investments into the following areas:

  • Construction technology solutions that improve and automate the property development process.
  • ESG solutions that help decarbonise and improve sustainability.
  • Future of work solutions that streamline and improve the way tenants and occupants interact with their physical space.
  • Smart buildings solutions based on wifi-enabled sensors, building management systems, and products that use data to improve operations.
  • Fintech or “finance and administration tech” that automates and digitises manual or administrative processes.
  • Logistics and supply change tools – especially in the eCommerce, warehouse and industrial spaces, which are also big growth areas for JLL services.

And some of the innovative proptech businesses they’ve partnered with to date are:

  • Shared Studios – creates fully immersive audio-visual experiences that connect people from different parts of the world as if they were in the same room without headsets.
  • Desana – enables staff to easily find and book desks and meeting rooms across a global network of flexible workspaces—or your own offices—from the same app.
  • SwiftConnect – integrates access control systems across multiple buildings, cities and countries.
  • Safehub – provides catastrophe risk management through physics-based technology, smart sensors and AI.

Day Two

The disrupted journey to a smarter building

Jon Clarke, Head of Smart Building Technology at Dexus, spoke about the technology at the heart of smart buildings and how procurement, contracting, and supply chain management influence how we get the most out of building technologies.

“Technology is advancing at a rate 10 times faster than our ability to consume it, and buildings need to be “alive” with data to be smart.”

Unfortunately, traditional design contracting models and value engineering don’t sit well with the practice of implementing technology at the end of the supply chain. As a result, not carefully considering technology implementation with detailed briefs and plans at the outset can have serious impacts, Clarke explained.

The presentation touched on the operational lifecycle of technology in buildings, with Clarke noting that buildings are expected to last 50 years, plant and equipment are expected to last 30 years, but technology is expected to last only 10 years.

He highlighted the need for an execution strategy for technology, as well as an adequate budget, to ensure that it’s integrated effectively into the building’s design and that value can continue to be extracted throughout its lifecycle.

Clarke explained the “hype cycle” around new technology and how it goes through various stages before it either fizzles out or becomes “business as usual.”

He discussed some building tech currently in use, such as fault detection and analytics, single networks, battery-powered devices, and IoT protocols to enable cloud data.

Problematic tech that isn’t always delivering on its promise, according to Clarke, is mobile 5G in buildings, “single pane of glass” and integrated building platforms.

He stressed the importance of looking beyond promotional claims to understand the value proposition of technology and how it can be scaled across a portfolio.

In selecting building technology, Clarke advised asking questions about:

  • Hype – whether you can separate marketing from substance in a solution
  • Value – not just about dollars or ROI but what it’s giving back in real terms
  • Scale – avoiding “point” solutions that don’t have portfolio-wide application
  • Aspiration – whether it aligns with your brand and meets tenants’ demands
  • Adoption – whether people are actually using it (evidenced by engagement scores)

He pointed out that, with these things in mind, a digital-first smart building strategy includes:

  • Ensuring that there are no systems in silos and that the independent data layout is ready for everyone to access.
  • Having connectivity systems converged on a network designed by IT specialists who understand operational technology.
  • Making data and telemetry scalable, cyber safe, and ready for the cloud.

Clarke summed things up by acknowledging that all buildings, building managers and tenants are unique, and it is important to understand what matters to them to ensure that smart technologies operate well on their terms and consistently add value.

An evolution in sustainability: Q&A with Vicinity Centres and MRI Software

The audience heard from Nick Irvine, General Manager of Business Development, Energy & Media, Vicinity Centres, in a Q&A session hosted by MRI Software’s Industry Principal – Facilities Management, APAC, Heinrich Serfontein.

Irvine spoke about how experimenting with data, AI-powered analytics and new technology has enabled his organisation to become a leading innovator in the retail sector.
Can you give us an overview of Vicinity Centres from an operations perspective and talk about some of the sustainability initiatives (and passion projects!) that you’ve implemented?

Vicinity is a collection of 60 shopping centres which range from small strip shops to massive centres like Chadstone in Victoria, which is the largest mall in Australia.

Each year we have a total of 340 million visiting our centres and for some time now, we’ve been introducing technologies into our operational activities to make visitor and tenant experiences better.

Energy is one of the largest costs for us across the board and it’s twofold. We sell energy to our tenants and we also consume it. In 2017 we started to look at energy integration and we put a proposal to the board to approve a solar energy investment.

Now we’ve almost completed that rollout to 24 shopping centres and we’ve got 33 megawatts of solar ranging from rooftop to batteries and solar glass.

It keeps evolving to the point where we’re not just a “shopping centre”, we’re a virtual power plant!

We’ve also got fast chargers for EVs which are the largest growing type of vehicle and as our stakeholders’ vehicles (like Australia Post) are converting to electric, we’re trying to help solve the challenges for them.

We’re integrating 2 large-scale batteries into the energy grid to respond in high-demand periods for the local networks and community. And because ⅔ of the Australian population live within 30 minutes of a Vicinity Centre, the next step will be selling the energy that we’re generating during the day to our local communities, especially in periods when there’s not much happening in the centres (morning and evening) but a lot of demand in the housing around us.

Waste management is another big area. Although we’ve been involved in buildings and materials recovery and established a facility on site, this has been something of a challenge, given that controlling waste is often in the hands of tenants.

We’ve morphed into using “smart water” by introducing smart metering in areas like food and hospitality where consumption is high.

Also, tenants are now coming to us looking to buy green offsets. As a landlord, we’re working out how to offer a green offset so they can go and buy it in the market.

In 2018, you hired data scientists to join the organisation. Can you explain the role of the data scientist and how they harness the power of data in managing your operations?

At the time we had about 100 centres all doing their own thing and we spent a lot of time connecting those centres to form a backbone. We had the idea of bringing in a data scientist and quickly realised how it could really make an impact.

We have at least 12 now and they’ve gone beyond analysing energy use to managing customers and traffic numbers and on to the next level with AI and leasing optimisation tools that can predict the best sorts of tenants to put into a space.

What has been the role of technology in supporting your achievements over the last five years?

We were one of the first to introduce robotic scrubbers to clean our floors, sourcing them from Canada and bringing them to Australia. Despite the need for some early fine-tuning, they’re still in operation in various centres.

We were also the first to deploy autonomous drones from our shopping centres to deliver food, drinks and other orders. Drones are set up on our roof and when an order comes in through the app and it can take just 7 minutes to make the delivery.

These things were challenges, but we had the ambition to push through them and keep going.

We’ve joined with a group of local businesses who are investing through VC Taronga Ventures offshoot RealtechX, which is focused on global startups and scaleups that develop ESG solutions.

One of them is “Carbon Cure” which injects Co2 into concrete and can help decarbonise our developments. We’ve also used solutions that use sensors to track noise, dust and other environmental interference. Cleaning and security will be the next big challenges – there’s not a lot out there that spans both.

It’s exciting for these early-stage businesses to be associated with us because, after five years of setting things up and connecting them, we can now plug and play and test products instantly.

If you can reflect back on your time with Vicinity Centres, what are the major lessons you’ve learned?

Don’t be afraid to be the first in the industry to try things, and work with providers to build and develop rather than just buy off the shelf.

Solutions we put in place through MRI Sofware are still there and evolving with us. It’s a two-way street and we adapt to each other and can influence the outcomes we get.

Panel discussion: Tech innovations and sustainability in commercial property

Chair, Lisa Atkins, Partner – Head of Asset Management Services, Knight Frank Australia and panellists Zoe Neill, Sustainability – NSW Lead, Norman Disney & Young; James Elks, Head of Product Development, NABERS; and CJ Harshana Wijewardane – Partner, National Head of Sustainability and Technical Services, Knight Frank Australia spoke about some of the innovative trends to watch in the development, construction and management of sustainable commercial real estate.

Atkins set the scene by acknowledging how the commercial office sector has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past decade, with a strong emphasis on placemaking, wellbeing, community building, and reducing environmental impact.

“It’s a whole new world,” she said, “And it’s really looking a lot more like hospitality than property in a lot of ways.”

In building operations, we’ve moved well past clean, safe and compliant facilities management to ESG performance. ESG performance really has become the measure of operational excellence. Now you can’t have a poor NABERS rating and expect to attract a quality tenant and negotiate a good lease.

She went on to put a series of questions to the panelists:

James (Elks), can you share with us a little bit about your role at NABERS and the role that technology plays in your work? And how do you see the future use of technology to enhance energy and resource efficiency in commercial properties?

“At NABERS we’ve rated around 90% of office towers,” Elks replied. “And we’ve seen over the last 10 years, the average buildings reduce energy usage by close to 35%. And there are leaders that are going way further than that.”

“We’ve also seen about two-thirds of our shopping centres reduce energy usage by close to 40% on average over the last 10 years,” he added.

As an advocate of a human-centred approach, he believes technology on its own isn’t going to do much.

Technology is not going to solve the climate crisis whether that’s ChatGPT, or heat pumps or electrification or whatever you consider technology to be. It’s really us as humans working hand in glove with technology to get the best out of it.

Zoe (Neill), you spent many years consulting in sustainability. What are some of the key uses of technology you’ve seen for helping your clients with their net-zero strategies and other commercial asset commitments?

Neill explained that virtual monitoring of buildings can lead to better insights into their performance.

“By putting in place sensors and metering strategies we can get better insight into what’s working and what’s not working,” she said.

Data-driven decision-making, benchmarking against standards like NABERS, and employing existing technologies in innovative ways are key areas of focus.

What’s really interesting is that a lot of what we’re seeing isn’t necessarily new technology. We do have new products but a lot of it is about using them differently or as trade-off tools to achieve the outcomes we want.

Neill also identified electrification as a crucial factor impacting building management and sustainability efforts.

“Over the coming years, electrification will play a big role. That’s where we’re finding an impact on how we manage demand and how we manage buildings end to end. Again, it’s a technology that’s not necessarily new, but it’s being used differently by people in building design and operation.”
CJ (Harshana Wijewardane), you lead a team of several hundred facility managers and you’ve been an FM yourself so you know the competing demands on the FM teams in commercial buildings. What are some of the most exciting technologies you’re seeing that can help management teams achieve operational excellence and sustainability in an efficient way?

“My biggest focus right now is to understand the data points that we’re collecting,” CJ said. “We’re not necessarily getting any meaning out of those data points. I read a statistic that said we currently only use ten per cent of the data we collect for decision-making.”

“We partner up with subject matter experts and look for platforms that are intuitive and have a purpose. And we ensure there’s a value proposition behind all the decisions we make,” he adds.

“We have an ESG platform, for example, which collects data from myriad points. What sets it apart is an AI validation process that happens behind the scene.”
What are some of the innovative trends to watch when it comes to the development and construction of sustainable buildings?

Elks said that as far as innovation goes, it’s no longer just about the environment.

“A lot of this came to light when the rating tool WELL was released in 2014,” he said. “WELL is the leading global rating standard to address health and wellness in a building. And essentially, through using data, sensors and research it allows you to establish different metrics that are attributed to people’s engagement in the workplace.”

“It’s an opportunity to enhance wellbeing by enabling occupant control in both new and existing buildings.

In regard to trends, Elks believes that dealing with embodied carbon is the next big thing. This involves measuring and reducing the impact of all of the carbon emitted from building materials as construction takes place.

The conversation about embodied carbon has really matured. And now we’re seeing people coming up with strategies and plans to deal with embodied carbon and really moving the process along.

He points out that there’s still a lot of complexity because everybody has their own measurement methods and different assumptions are leading to different outcomes.

The development of embodied carbon standards is on NABERS’ radar as the process evolves.
Do you anticipate any kind of blockchain-type technology being implemented in order to start accurately tracking emissions?

According to CJ, there are already a number of products with this purpose, including KPMG’s “Origins”, which is built on blockchain and allows different suppliers to input their information and calculate emissions.
How can building management systems and IoT technology enhance the occupier experience in commercial buildings given the constant tension between performance and comfort?

CJ gave an example of how Knight Frank has implemented gamification techniques with its technology to encourage positive behavioural changes in occupiers.

“We have run projects in many of our managed buildings, where we have leaderboards showing how many grams or kilograms of carbon are being emitted on a specific day, and that can be translated into how many trees you saved during the week.”

So you create an environment of healthy competition, and all of a sudden, you see the shift in people’s behaviours, and that’s the hardest thing to change.
Atkins bought the session to a close by asking panellists to sum up the challenges technology poses.

According to Neill, it’s about not becoming too dependent and uncritical. Not just collecting data for the sake of it.

Elks believes we should focus more on human-centred technology, and said that many initiatives fail because we ignore human factors in the design.

CJ emphasized how important it is to understand the limits of AI and how you need to have a human behind the scenes to get the right outcome.

Successfully managing the sophisticated and demanding commercial tenant

Rob Johnston, Partner, Tenant Representation – Office, Knight Frank spoke about how the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for digital transformation in the office sector and how the accelerated adoption of digital engagement technology in offices is shaping the intelligent office ecosystems of the future.

He looked at developments in a range of key areas:

Virtual tools and efficiency

During the pandemic, virtual tools played a vital role in tenant interaction, property management, and workplace management. As Johnston pointed out, their efficiency increased dramatically and has led to some ongoing benefits like the reduced need for dispersed and international teams to travel to get work done.

Information exchange and marketing spaces have also been made so much easier. Design teams can now virtually present space representations to clients, enabling them to visualise and evaluate potential refurbishments. He said that digital render-based decision-making has also led to faster and simpler pre-commitments for improvements.

Data-driven insights and space optimisation

The availability of large amounts of data has revolutionised facilities management. Extensive data means we know more about how many employees are using end-of-trip and bicycle facilities, for example, and it’s enabling better use of base-building capabilities and common areas.

With the help of design and data teams, office footprints have been substantially reduced. Clients benefit from the cost savings associated with reduced space requirements, but Johnston emphasised how important it is to reinvest those savings in creating an exceptional workplace experience.

Investing in technology for collaboration

To entice employees back to the office, it’s essential to provide an amazing workplace experience because even though remote work has shown that employees can be equally productive offsite, the office environment offers unique opportunities for intelligence gathering and fostering collaboration.

Johnston explains that companies are now expected to invest in state-of-the-art fit-outs, including exceptional AV facilities like digital whiteboards and high-quality video conferencing. These technologies are needed to support seamless communication and collaboration, particularly when so many employees are working remotely.

Balancing security and flexibility

As remote work becomes more prevalent, ensuring data security is an essential part of safeguarding the balance between flexibility and security.

As Johnston points out, employees have to be equipped with technology that protects sensitive information while working outside the office, especially when it’s so easy to leave mobiles and laptops in cafes or buses. Making sure clients’ data is secure in these situations is a key challenge. Tech needs to support this and protect against data vulnerability.

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