make work better?

By Brattle Cameron, Incendium’s talent specialists.

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity for CRE professionals to change the perception of the profession.

Although many of us truly enjoy our jobs and are proud of what we do, explaining CRE can be a bit of a conversation killer. But now we have entered the largest remote working experiment, enabled by technology, but delivered at pace by CRE teams and their providers around the world, then there is a chance that the perception and reality of our industry may have changed forever.

The transformation was already underway in the decade before COVID-19: CRE work-streams were initiated that focused on themes such as “nextgen working environment” and the “workplace of the future”. Teams were built to analyse and execute on location strategies to ensure organisations were optimally located in terms of talent, infrastructure, cost and services, whilst others were hired to “redefine / curate colleague experiences” across the globe and create “wellbeing strategies” – recognising the need to focus on and care for the “person”, not just the physical asset. The combined impact of these initiatives on talent attraction, retention and productivity was just starting to be understood.

We were on a journey towards improved agility and flexibility, with some headline grabbing disruptors challenging views on how “we” work and what we want from the workplace. But in real terms, progress was often slow, held back by traditional perceptions, behaviours and working practices, sometimes from within CRE, but also from above at the C-suite / decision making layer where meaningful change needs to be initiated from.


The immediate shutdown of the global economy in Spring 2020 is a lesson that few business and political leaders will ever forget. Many commentators are writing insightful pieces seeking to predict the future and help us to prepare for the “new normal”, including what will this mean for CRE. What is clear, is that we in CRE are likely to encounter a mandate for change unlike we have seen previously. The trust and credibility earned with C-suite by today’s CRE leaders in their handling of the response to the crisis, should help to re-enforce this mandate and accelerate the change process.

For a long time now, our industry has been wrestling with the relentless need to deliver in-year cost reduction above all else, often stifling the ability to innovate and transform. I am hopeful we will see a new balance struck between these important agendas with a tilt towards innovation and a heightened recognition of the criticality of CRE in enabling the workforce to operate safely and productively (wherever and however they work), prioritising wellbeing, sustainability and connectivity over “bricks and mortar”, design and utilisation.

The increasing interplay between CRE, HR and IT has been discussed at length in the past, but truthfully these functions have largely operated in isolation from each other, with CRE often perceived as the poor relation. The “new normal” will surely require a much more strategic and operational connectivity between these vital functions as organisations seek to understand, evaluate and deliver new working practices and solutions – the voice of CRE in this debate should be greater than ever before and opportunities for talent from all sides to influence a broader landscape should improve.

We will undoubtedly see new disruptive forces develop in our sector, harnessing the opportunities that this sort of wholesale change generates. Whether they come from within our sector or outside of it, these disrupters will attract new talent and fresh minds to our industry who will challenge previously understood norms and encourage us all to think differently about the future of work and our role in enabling the same.

At its heart, what we do in our sector is all about people – whether they be colleagues, customers or the surrounding community (typically all of the above). Our ability to directly influence / improve the lives, experiences and environment of these groups of people through what we do is very real, tangible and lasting. COVID-19 has impacted us all in many ways, some very seriously, but I am confident that its future impact on the profile, importance of CRE within the corporations / workforces and communities they serve, will be a lasting and positive one for us all.

To find out more about Brattle Cameron, visit