CRE and HR Data Strategies

By Shaun Guyver, Consultant at Incendium

With the sudden emergence of COVID-19 seeing companies working from home, business leaders have been forced to take a closer look at how HR, real estate, and technology can work together to give them greater confidence in their ability to weather this storm and prepare for the future world of work.

Tracking productivity, ensuring safety, promoting wellbeing, and encouraging collaboration has never been more important than it is now. The challenge facing business leaders is how to cut through the complexity in areas like data, productivity tracking, wellbeing, and business flexibility to allow them to achieve and then monitor these vital objectives.

This will no doubt be made even more challenging by the loosely connected relationships between HR, real estate, and technology teams that are commonly found in major corporates, each driven by its own culture, performance measures, and way of seeing the world.

So the question for businesses seeking to come out of COVID-19 is: how do we harness real estate and HR data to help us establish and maintain a stable and productive workforce?


Recent Trends

Until now, HR and real estate teams have had a fractured working relationship. Group-level business decisions around where to operate have been primarily driven by two factors: local skills and total cost of operating. Real estate follows these decisions by constructing and leasing properties to support their underlying objectives.


In recent years, we have seen many exciting examples of real estate teams taking a more central role in these strategic decisions. One of our major financial clients had their entire global location strategy driven by its real estate team working alongside the C-suite, with HR advising on areas like demographics, transport, local employment laws, and remuneration.

As a result of this convergence of real estate and HR within the long-term decision making process, combined with advances in technology infrastructure and software capabilities, an array of possibilities have opened up around how to accurately measure the impact of real estate on individual and team working patterns, and how these patterns can in turn influence future workplace design and real estate strategies.


Art of the Possible

In recent years we have worked with our clients to explore greater areas of data from a growing number of sources. Gone are the days of simply measuring your estate with cost per square foot, employee, or workstation. Our customers and their stakeholders now expect a more holistic approach and are moving beyond traditional cost-based metrics, towards real estate delivery centred around human experience and productivity.

As a result, new value drivers and KPIs are emerging to allow business leaders to answer the following questions:

How can I boost productivity and collaboration in my workforce?

To boost productivity, it needs to be measured. This can be simple or highly challenging, depending on the nature of your organisation. For example, call centres turn to the number of successfully resolved calls as a reliable indicator. For sales teams, the number of deals closed, and so on.

But for managerial and other teams, HR functions have a range of specialist methods for accurately measuring productivity. These include quantifying manager feedback, observing how a team’s outputs are supporting company objectives, and measuring the quality of tasks completed.

Once real estate teams have visibility of productivity measures, demographics and geographies, there are a number of strategic levers they can use to drive them up. Greater collaboration and breakout spaces, increased lighting levels, tweaking with temperatures and colour-schemes, and tactical use of quiet rooms are just some of the design interventions that CRE teams can deploy, so long as they are closely aligned with the proven working practices of their target occupants.

How can I ensure that our offices are designed to attract and retain talent?

In the ongoing war for talent, companies have never been more eager to ensure that their offices attract the very best skills and personalities. This is one of the most vital selling points for any CRE leader seeking to have more input into group-level decision making.


Leveraging HR insights into workforce behavioural patterns, having visibility of employee questionnaires, and combining these with productivity measures will provide you with all the information you need to start designing spaces for the talent your organization needs. Limit your risk by trialling new office designs in existing spaces and gather feedback from occupants.

Speak with managers to see if this had an impact on productivity and collaboration. Work with curated experience experts to scale this up with detailed occupant journeys, taking into account demographic and working-style splits between different teams.

Work closely with technology to quantify everything you can, including any physical assets used by occupants, and you will be in a strong position to deliver modern, data-driven office spaces occupants will thrive in.

How can I ensure that my workforce is safe in a post-COVID 19 world?

While we are still waiting for national and international scientific advice to guide us in this area, we can start to prepare ourselves with the relevant data points and measures that will prove useful in the future.

Measuring core real estate metrics such as square foot per person / workstation will become a core measure by which we will all be judged. While some believe this means an increase in space to achieve lower density (and much higher costs), we believe that a more intelligent use of existing space and capabilities promises better results.

Improved use of collaboration technologies is already in full flow. Working closely with technology teams to roll out tracing apps will no doubt become commonplace, as companies seek to ensure that headcount densities remain low. A massive increase in the number of ‘contactless’ features such as automatic doors will be needed. Dividers and well-spaced desks, coupled with work-from-home rotas, will ensure employees are protected.

A root-and-branch review of FM services will also be needed, particularly around cleaning (which will see a scaling-up) and catering (which will likely be scaled down).

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Considerations for CRE Leaders

To get the best out of CRE and HR teams, leaders need to remain assertive and focus on the positives of maintaining a close relationship. Without consistent focus teams drift apart, and their objectives diverge. To avoid this, focus on the following goals:

Maintain your relationships

Ensure that you stay in regular touch at all levels with your peers in HR. Visibility of their goals, areas of focus, and the challenges they’re facing will go a long way in making sure that your objectives remain closely aligned.

Regular meetings, share insights, adopt ways of working

Where possible, establishing knowledge share sessions between CRE and HR teams to exchange case studies and insights in your respective fields. Getting people into a room (or a Zoom call) and telling stories is the best way to encourage collaboration and resolve issues.

Keep CRE relevant

Traditionally, real estate has been seen as a low-innovation support function within major corporates. But recently, real estate teams have begun to take a more central role in long-term business strategies. CRE leaders must maintain this momentum by emphasising the potential of a well-run estate to C-suites. Share success stories, communicate insights to leadership, and stress the criticality of connected CRE / HR / technology strategies for attracting, retaining, and getting the most out of talent.

Privacy and trust

With the potential for technology to measure areas such as real-time property utilization and employee productivity, privacy naturally comes to the forefront as a risk worth discussing. When engaging with HR and technology teams to carry out initiatives of this nature, ensure that you communicate the importance of privacy to your stakeholders and follow through with this by implementing strict privacy standards to protect employees.



With new working practices thrust upon us, we are in a unique position to completely re-think the role of CRE functions within wider organizations. By sharing data and aligning goals with HR, and by leveraging the capabilities of your technology partners, you will be well positioned to challenge the scepticism many C-suites have about the ability for real estate to be fundamental for the long-term success of your organization.