Guest Post By: Tica Hessing, Cushman & Wakefield, and Sigrid Zialcita, Cushman & Wakefield

Urbanisation has been the dominant demographic trend over the last century. A World Bank study estimates that 50% of the global population now live in urban areas today, significantly up from fewer than 14% in 1900. This trend is seen to continue further, with World Bank expecting the global urban population to increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion by 2045. This is anticipated to spearhead a paradigm shift in the corporate real estate (CRE) function, now seen to focus on pushing the boundaries of existing infrastructure.

Change will also be driven by millennials’ entry into the workplace. Now one of the largest living generations, millennials are quickly representing the new face of the modern workforce. As digital natives, millennials prefer flexibility in their work schedule and seek opportunities to engage and connect with co-workers, a key element in enabling innovation, which is necessary to remain competitive in today’s fast-moving economy.

As the nature of work transforms, so too, will the workplace. Moving ahead, there will be a strong focus towards fostering a collaborative work culture through decentralised offices and flexible co-working spaces. Enterprises are now realising the benefits of establishing a network of satellite offices instead of a single workplace. With heightened workplace flexibility, employees won’t have to stress so much about their daily commute, while enterprises won’t have to spend on unnecessary infrastructure.

With APAC’s population growth expected to fall to zero by 2050, enterprises operating in APAC need to look for ways to maximise the potential of their human capital and address the expected working-age population decline in upcoming decades. This necessitates further adjustments in CRE focus. Moving ahead, we see technology poised to further disrupt the traditional definition of the workplace. The workplace of the future will no longer rely on multiple devices, but rather, on an integrated/unified technology platform that has smart devices ‘speaking’ and sharing information with one another, adapting their function and behaviour based on a user’s current needs.

Envision an office with beautiful landscaping, soft lighting, full-length windows offering breath-taking views, and a workstation equipped with the latest technology and tools of the day. Your artificial intelligence (AI) assistant’s voice greets you as you arrive at your desk, informing you of your priorities for the day and syncing your schedule with Internet-of-Things (IoT) enabled devices integrated across the building. Your meeting room will automatically adjust the lighting and ready the necessary equipment for your upcoming conference call. As you leave work, integrated sensors embedded into the ceiling detect that you’ve had an exhausting day, upon which your AI assistant advises more rest for the night.

A smart office will be closely aligned to human well-being, like a smart home. In 2040, sensors will feed data directly to the right services, enabling the building to automatically customise itself to the needs of its tenants. Instead of employee surveys, the building will get information directly from you or your wearables. “How are you feeling today? What’s your heart rate? Did you drink enough water? Are you carrying a virus with you?” Sounds scary right? Technology infringing on privacy? Perhaps, but if you look at the state of privacy now and how much people have relinquished in comparison to 15 years ago – it’s mind blowing! Think about it, every time we download a new app on our phone, we are giving unprecedented permission to strangers to access, photos, contacts, personal details. This was unthinkable 15 years ago. When a demand, need or even desire for a service is high enough, we are willing to relinquish more of our privacy.

Designed with employees’ needs as a priority, this vision of a technologically advanced workspace can have an amazing impact on morale, productivity, and by extension, an enterprise’s bottom line. Investing in human capital translates to significantly lower absenteeism rates, increased retention rates, increased productivity, and ease in attracting and retaining top talent, all of which will benefit enterprises in the long run.

Tica Hessing, Human Geographer & Urban Planner, Strategic Consulting, Cushman & Wakefield, and a CoreNet Global Young Leader, and Sigrid Zialcita, Managing Director/Head of Research and Advisory Services for the Asia Pacific Region, Cushman & Wakefield, who discussed their vision of the 2040 workforce during the recently-held APAC CoreNet Global Summit in Singapore.