Post-Pandemic: Landlords Redefining Workplace Experience

Post-Pandemic: Landlords Redefining Workplace Experience

To get people excited about returning to the office, real estate owners and managers must create an experience that is better than staying at home. The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. Organizations must reimagine their work and the role of offices in creating safe, productive, and enjoyable jobs and lives for employees.

According to the Harvard Business Review back in 1998, the entire history of economic progress could be captured in the four-stage evolution of the birthday cake; that is:

  1. Birthday cakes made from farm commodities that “cost mere dimes” to “a dollar or two”
  2.  Betty Crocker for pre-mixed ingredients
  3.  Ordered cakes from the bakery.
  4. Outsourcing the entire event.

The review’s predictions about the experience economy are relevant to a real estate sector reconsidering work and place. Architects and real estate professionals who are not only navigating vast changes in their businesses but also helping their forward-thinking clients plan for a post-pandemic world stated that the real impact of COVID-19 on how millions of people work and how they plug into a modern office will emerge in the coming months.

Before the pandemic, it was believed that offices were critical to productivity, culture, and acquiring talents. Companies competed intensely for prime office space in major urban centres around the world and focused on solutions that were seen to promote collaboration. Densification, open-office designs, hoteling, and co-working were the battle cries.

According to McKinsey research, 80 per cent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home. Forty-one per cent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 per cent that they are as productive. Many employees liberated from long commutes and travel have found more productive ways to spend that time, enjoyed greater flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives, and decided that they prefer to work from home rather than the office. Many organizations think they can access new pools of talent with fewer location constraints, adopt innovative processes to boost productivity, create an even stronger culture, and significantly reduce real-estate costs.

As millions of offices wait to be brought back to their full potential, the message is clear. Marble foyers and sweeping city views will not be enough. The idea of a workplace has moved from shiny headquarters in the city to any place.

The office needs to work harder than ever to be safe, stimulating, functional, and experimental. It also has to balance both in-person and virtual experiences. This is impossible to execute without the help of new skills, a customer-centric mindset and smart technology.

To get people excited about returning to the office,

  1. Real estate owners and managers must create an experience that is better than staying at home. That should not be difficult given some of the downsides of working remotely. Most corporate leaders are now creating “hybrid” workplace strategies that bring together remote and in-person work. But this hybrid world of work risks falling flat unless we understand the clear purpose of the office – as a place that helps people do their best work, create meaningful connections and enjoy “adjacent experiences”, whether that’s five o’clock drinks or team-building events.
  • Real estate sector must invest in new skills and technology to help tenant customers. It must also question the purpose of real estate.
  • The best real estate will not deliver a product or service. It will deliver an experience. We have learnt through COVID-19 that “place” is at the heart of the human experience. Each of us holds dear places that are imbued with special meaning, whether a natural wonder or a cultural marvel. A place that does not evoke a human experience is just wasted space.

This is why real estate now commands a seat at the table. Real estate is no longer the responsibility of the facility managers and the finance team paying the rent each month. Real estate is now at the heart of our human experience, and integral to people, place and culture.

What could this mean? Perhaps a new-look chief experience officer, or CXO, who is responsible for more than products and services. The CXO must now take charge of people (employees and customers), place and culture. Real estate is an obvious but overlooked part of this. With so many square meters of office space currently sitting empty, now is the time to get creative.

In 1998, Harvard Business Review predicted a future that the real estate sector is only now beginning to understand. The experience economy will grow through “gales of creative destruction” – that is, with business innovation that renders irrelevant those who remain focused on the “diminishing world of goods and services”. The best real estate will not deliver a product or service. It will deliver an experience.

The challenge is not solely for asset owners. Australia’s prosperity is almost entirely a product of productivity growth – something that has been steadily declining over several decades. The Productivity Commission’s latest Productivity Insights paper sounds a clear warning: “Remote work has risks.” Innovation is elusive, and while new ideas can be cultivated through a virtual exchange, a prolonged period of remote work may reduce the organic development of ideas and dampen potential productivity gains. This brings an opportunity to appoint executive leaders with a passion for bringing together people, place and culture to turn our offices back into productivity powerhouses.


  • Taking charge of the workplace: the chief experience officer

by Selina Short

  • The Office: A Hardworking History

by Gideon Haigh

  • Reimagining the office and work-life after COVID-19

By Brodie Boland, Aaron De Smet, Rob Palter, and Aditya Sanghvi

  • Workplace Reimagined: COVID-19 to Reshape the Modern Office Experience

by Peter Wilk