CoreNet Global was recently invited to explore that question at the annual conference of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7.

The panel session, “Aligning with the Business: What Occupiers Want,” featured CoreNet Global Chairman David Kamen, MCR.h, Americas Real Estate Leader with EY, and CoreNet Global member Peter Barnett, National Real Estate Strategy Leader at PwC.

As the two senior corporate real estate executives explained, it’s imperative that real estate strategies and solutions align with and support the business.

A key requirement is flexibility, because business strategy can change so quickly. That fact, the panel observed, helps explain occupiers’ growing preference for co-working space.

“With people needing varying work environments, sometimes even in a day, the challenge is to provide a workplace that has multiple environments to cover different types of working styles, including furniture that is also adaptable to accommodate,” Kamen said. “Diversity in the workforce and different views on working means that real estate must be able to accommodate these differences and satisfy multiple preferences in design and layouts.”

Additionally, the workplace must incorporate the latest technology, support employee wellbeing and sustainability, and foster collaboration, creativity and innovation.

Finally, today’s workplaces must be colorful, engaging and inviting – and be in the right location, often in an urban area with “vibe” and access to mass transit – in order to help address perhaps occupiers’ top concern: attracting and retaining talent.

“It was not only gratifying but encouraging to see that major investors in institutional real estate are keenly interested in the issues occupiers are facing,” Barnett said. “Not only were they open to discussion about how we can attract the best workforce through amenities and improvements to the underlying assets, but they also realize that we will need to partner together to continue improving the working landscape.”