James Shannon is the Chief Product and Technology Officer at essensys

The needs of occupiers are changing. The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards flexible working. People are putting their working habits and their wellbeing needs under the spotlight and creating real change in their approach to work to better suit today’s world.

Landlords and flex space providers are responding to this, assessing how they can enhance their workspace offerings to give them more agility, better services and amenities, a higher level of ESG accountability and of course provide flexibility to their tenants.

Conversations around changing market trends are not anecdotal, in fact a recent industry report by Savills highlighted the growing prominence of flex offices, and importantly the pivotal role that technology plays in enabling office space providers to adapt to the evolving landscape.

This shift is not a London centric trend, it is happening across the UK as operators seek to geographically diversify their portfolios to minimise risk.

The flexible office space has become a fast-growing sector within the industry, with workspace providers and landlords alike looking at how to respond to the changing occupier demands – it is hard to ignore this trend.

As flexible solutions start to see success at scale, the commercial real estate industry is looking at how best to mitigate risk across their portfolios, whilst adapting to changing market dynamics.

Savills noted that key to this is balancing the provision for face-to-face interaction, considering the commute, creating a collaborative environment, as well as addressing personal safety and providing the right workplace experience.

The physical office itself becomes an important element in supporting workers in their return to the office, and this means being able to facilitate various working styles depending on the occupier. Investing in workplace technology is central to landlords and flex space operators delivering what occupiers actually need, today and for the future.

Technology and software solutions can range from touch free technology, through to monitors and sensors, leasing and asset management tools. However, whilst each item can address one part of the occupier journey, ultimately there is a need for a seamless and frictionless experience throughout the leasing process and subsequent tenancy.

One of the main challenges for landlords and occupiers has been reducing time-to-value. This is the amount of time it takes for an occupier to get up and running in an office space, and the associated cost implications. A technology enabled office portfolio can provide both the tools and the data driven insight to remove long lead in times and the need for installation roadmaps that have historically made it difficult for a tenant to quickly occupy a space.

Technology does not stop at the front door. It is able to deliver seamless, secure and uninterrupted connectivity and Wi-Fi access, across a workspace or entire portfolio network. It is this layer of digital infrastructure which can then support an entire ecosystem of best-in-class solutions to best suit the occupiers’ needs.

A proactive approach to technology adoption is critical to unlocking the full potential of an office space or portfolio of assets that modern tenants are looking for. It can have a direct and positive impact on meeting changing tenant expectations and digital security standards.

The use of a secure, and seamless digital network has become increasingly important following the pandemic, as there has been a shift to a more distributed workforce. Occupiers are demanding flex offices with enterprise-grade security requirements, which traditional digital security measures can’t provide – they were simply not designed for the complexity of a flexible workspace operation.

Ultimately, it will be the application of a more holistic approach to technology, where a platform seamlessly integrates enterprise-grade network security with needed functionality such as remote booking or touch-free access, and captures the right data to provide meaningful insight, which will allow today’s flexible office providers to answer their tenants’ needs.