prediction series: 6 of 6

Simon Johnson, Director at Incendium, has shared his predictions for the world of corporate office space in the aftermath of COVID-19. This article is part of a series of six, with further instalments published here.

Instalment 6

Prediction 5. “Technology breakthrough in CRE – finally”

In some senses, it is easier to change, manage and adapt during times of crisis as opposed to in a business as usual context. Our hand is forced.

Although much of what I have covered thus far is relatively common-sense logic, what this does in reality mean is a far greater requirement for both cross organisational collaboration, far better segmentation analysis and far better real time management information.

How will companies assess the size, flexibility and functional requirements of their future office portfolios? How will employee performance and effectiveness be assessed in a more remote context? How do I assess homeworking vs office working productivity? How will we know at any one time whether we are carrying unacceptable office vacancy levels (both high and low)? How will we be able to adjust for growth and contraction in business size in a planned and responsive way? How will privacy and the balance between employee and employer rights be navigated? Can our smart phones already provide much of the “where” management information we need?

These are all areas that have been well known factors for consideration for decades and ones that I face with almost every client that I work with, but the data and technology is without exception lacking. Why has the industry still not cracked the technology to unlock this – when consumer technology has raced ahead? There are multiple reasons – this has too long been non-core for the sector, the capability in the sector is lacking, efforts to date have been highly fragmented, the commercial rewards have not been sufficient for adequate investment and data across corporate functions itself is often guarded in corporate silos.

Step aside – we have had our chance – I predict that the technologies that already exist and are applied very successfully in other sectors will be applied to the CRE market – and it won’t be a property or property service company that does this.

I can’t predict when it will happen, but I can predict that when it does, the level of disruption will be akin to the relative impacts of Apple iTunes, Amazon and Netflix on the music, retail and video sectors. Technology has a habit of surprising, so my guess would be within 5 years, but who knows, it could be far, far quicker.


In reality, none of the above is new and most of the above have been features of the directional trend over the last 10 to 20 years, however, I believe that COVID-19 is a wake-up call that has shown the world that we can cope with rapid change, that a new approach is needed and that actually this can lead to a brighter future.

Innovation tends to occur most in times of the greatest adversity and many countries are essentially operating on a war footing. We should not allow ourselves to return to the way things were as if this were simply a bad dream, but rather grasp the nettle that has been forced on us and use it as a positive force for change when we, as we will, emerge from the other side.

A brighter future will require adaptability to achieve and those who embrace agility will be best placed to succeed. I think that the closing statement of Arundhati Roy’s article in the FT “The pandemic is a portal” was very fitting…

“We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

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