Proptech Is Enhancing Efficiency And Human Experience
Property Report|August - September 2021
The pandemic has forced the real estate industry into a more meaningful embrace with technology after years of flirting with innovation
Liam Aran Barnes

For decades, the real estate industry remained stubbornly jejune. As other sectors embraced innovation, tech companies played at the edges of one of the largest industries in the world. But proptech has stepped out of the shadows to enhance efficiency and human experience within the sector.

While the pandemic has had a devastating effect on real estate in the short term, it is now proving to be a catalyst for the adoption of tech.

The last 18 months have been an inflexion point. Even though many companies are preparing to return to their offices, the working landscape will likely transform forever as workforces shift towards hybrid models. The pandemic has created a demand for products that previously serviced primarily niche markets like digital home financing services. Other tech solutions experiencing a surge include virtual and augmented reality to meet the virtual walkthrough needs of homebuyers and agents.

Few will remember the pandemic period with much fondness. But it might well be recalled as the era when the property sector’s relationship with tech finally came of age.

OFFICES OF TOMORROW

The future of the workplace is likely to be a hybrid model geared towards better work-life balance

The pandemic has hastened the realisation that work is not somewhere you go, but something you do. And it is the workforce—empowered by technology and demanding improved sustainability and individual well-being—that is driving change.

This shift in mindset has not appeared overnight. Companies have been adapting to suit the needs of a modern workforce for years.

“Younger generations were already rejecting their parents’ generation’s symbols of success,” says Alison White, co-founder of UK-based workplace designers and advisors PLACEmaking. “With less emphasis on securing a mortgage, they are better placed to take career risks and more focused on work-life balance.”

Work-life balance is now the number one workforce priority ahead of salary, according to a recent JLL survey of 1,500 employees across Asia Pacific. Remote working may have largely succeeded over the last 18 months, but that does not necessarily make it the preferred choice of businesses and employees moving forward. Homeworking fatigue is growing, and productivity levels are dropping. Almost 70% of respondents said that three days in the office and two days of remote work is an ideal arrangement.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to adapting offices for hybrid working. Instead, employers need to consider how the built environment adds value, according to Ben Hamley, JLL Asia Pacific’s future of work lead.

“Having come through the fatiguing haze of remote work, we are seeing much more interest in the neuroscience of workplace design,” he says. “New technologies will help occupiers better design spaces, ways of working and employee engagement programs to support focus, reduce distraction and stress and drive greater mental wellbeing.”

Still, questions remain about what a permanent and wide-reaching transformation in working and living patterns means for the office. Many organisations are expected to adopt a hybrid workplace model, with physical space dedicated to socialisation, collaboration, in-person meetings and people management.

“The design of the central office workspace needs to be transformed into a ‘centre of excellence’ and employees need to be rewarded for the effort of going there,” says White.

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