The workplace experience—how people engage with technology, space, and each other during a typical workday—is undergoing a major transformation. With the workforce changing, technology evolving, and workplace expectations expanding, corporate real estate leaders are looking for answers and guidance in this rapidly evolving arena. Comfy came of age as the burgeoning concept of "workplace experience" first emerged and we continue to work with our clients on a daily basis to chart the unknown. Needless to say, we are intimately familiar with how to anticipate and solve for shifting market demands. We asked our in-house team of subject matter experts, "what will the workplace experience look like in 2019?" From driving business value to data analytics to the new intelligent workplace, here's what to look out for so you can prepare for the year ahead:
1. CEOs will see the workplace as a competitive differentiator
Increasingly, leading companies are recognizing that their workplaces can (and must) create business value for a company. Anyone familiar with workplace services knows that corporate real estate executives today are tasked with so much more than hitting targets for minimum number of square feet, desks, and chairs. Top companies are already well ahead of the pack in rethinking the office and creating workplace experiences, complete with curated workplace services and technologies that attract and retain employees, enable employee productivity, and foster collaboration and innovation. We believe that in 2019, this trend will come to a head with even more C-suite level executives sponsoring the cause.
What does this mean for today's corporate real estate leaders? Rather than managing space, leaders can anticipate being asked to deliver an “experience” to support people in their space. Beyond traditional workplace initiatives like creating soft seating or funding on-site food and beverage initiatives, leading companies will also need to heavily leverage cutting-edge workplace technology—sensors, workplace apps, and analytics—to enhance the relationship employees have with their digital and physical workplace AND figure out how to get the most value out of their workplace. In fact, a recent survey by CoreNet posits that in a few years the term "corporate real estate" might not even exist and corporate real estate executives will become "experience managers."
2. Point solutions will die off
When different forms of technology and functionalities blend together and amplify one another, a phenomenon called “technological convergence” occurs. We have already seen this play out in the consumer tech world. Consider the smartphone, which combines the abilities of a phone, a camera, a music player, and the computing power of a desktop computer. What once required multiple devices and solutions is now possible with one solution.
In 2019, we expect technological convergence to come to the forefront in the workplace. Comfy’s comprehensive workplace experience solution is one such example. Comfy integrates seamlessly with a wide range of digital and physical workplace systems, offers an app that connects employees with multiple aspects of their workplace in real-time (including room booking, calendaring, lighting, temperature, and more), and provides workplace analytics to drive operational results. What used to require multiple devices and software solutions is possible from one platform.
How will corporate real estate leaders like you be impacted by the rise of technological convergence in the workplace world? First, expect to lead more joint initiatives with internal teams to buy and manage new workplace solutions. Second, your ability to find and partner with a solution provider who is equipped to work across the full spectrum of solution offerings will increase—and ultimately make your life easier. Instead of investing in numerous point solutions to address specific needs, you will find yourself evaluating more holistic solutions: more solutions that provide value to workplace teams, HR, and IT; more solutions that leverage both hardware and software; and more options for technology that will exceed your expectations of what is possible (and that will require careful evaluation.)
3. More robust data will translate into workplace experiences that people ACTUALLY want
Thanks to the increased sophistication of new sensor hardware and the growing user base of employee-facing technology, there’s more data around how people interact with their workplace than ever before. In 2019, we predict that data about building performance and how people are using the workplace will finally become more unified and contextualized. How do we know? Well, for one, because we're developing this capability at Comfy. Through our Works with Comfy partnership ecosystem, we’re able to connect data from sensor hardware and user interaction to deliver powerful, multidimensional workplace analytics to our clients in near real-time.
Why corp real estate leaders should take note: instead of simply saying that a room is being used or not, you can hypothesize why it's not being used and take steps to improve utilization rates, to deliver the workplace experiences employees want, and increase operational results. Ultimately, workplace strategies in 2019 will be better informed by what people ACTUALLY want.
4. Workplace technology will become more intelligent
Many have theorized that the future workplace will be smarter, more intuitive, and more responsive. We predict that in 2019, the first true examples of intelligent workplace technology will take off. How do we define intelligent workplace technology? Think of it as tech that "meets people where they are." For example, apps like Lyft and Google Maps use location-based services to deliver a more intelligent experience. Google Maps started by allowing users to easily find addresses on a map, but now it also offers turn-by-turn navigation, highlights nearby points of interest, recommends alternate routes, and even suggested departure times based on historic traffic conditions. In short, it's more intelligent because it does a lot of the thinking for you. In the workplace, this may look like an app that not only shows a list of available rooms to reserve, but goes a step further to suggest the nearest, right-sized, available room.
Why is this significant? Software-as-a-service companies, like Comfy, are uniquely well-positioned to deliver this intelligent workplace experience in the very near future. For example, because the Comfy platform is already architected with technologies commonly used to solve “Big Data” problems, already collects large volumes of data from an ever-increasing number of sources, and has supported machine learning in our product since its very inception, we have all the necessary technical backbone and capabilities in place. Given the rapid growth of the workplace experience market, it's more important than ever to future-proof your buying decisions and choose solution providers who aim to not only keep pace, but who are continually raising the bar for software intelligence.
5. User privacy and security concerns will become much more central in workplace app discussions
As the ability, and subsequently the demand, to deliver robust workplace analytics and location-based services skyrockets, more information from individual users will be required; concurrently, more and more enterprise data sources will need to feed into workplace experience solutions. Understandably, we expect that concerns about workplace technology privacy and security will increase throughout 2019. At Comfy, we believe this burden to protect the privacy of user information falls on the solution provider and we take ownership of "treating users right", while also working alongside our enterprise customers to meet their infosec standards. It's the reason why we take a proactive approach to meeting GDPR standards and obtaining SOC2 certification, staying abreast of the latest security best practices, and undergoing regular penetration testing.
As user privacy and security questions grow, savvy corporate real estate executives need to be ready to engage with IT early and work with solution providers who have successfully addressed the concerns of employee privacy and enterprise-level infosec requirements head on.
6. Winners and losers will start to emerge
Based on our conversations with clients, the number of RFPs we have worked on in recent months, and the number of new competitors entering the market in the last year, it seems like the industry is nearing the peak of excitement for workplace experience apps.
Our prediction is that as the market for workplace experience apps matures, a lot of the initial excitement around boundless possibilities will begin to fade, and 2019 will be filled with stories of success—and failure. Companies that attempted to build their own, in-house workplace experience solutions, or real estate service providers who hastily jumped on the smart workplace bandwagon without proven experience developing enterprise software, may find their new workplace apps struggling to gain user adoption or generating the analytics they were hoping for.
Given this market maturity curve, corporate real estate leaders should ensure that the partners they are choosing have the staying power to withstand the coming market consolidation. Providers with a deep bench of enterprise solution expertise and a proven track-record of successfully deploying their technology portfolio-wide will power through the industry's disillusionment and see real success in the coming years.
What do you think 2019 will have in store for the workplace experience? We’d be happy to talk with you about how to prepare for whatever the future may hold.