JLL on the rise of technology in the office
Market volatility, political turmoil, and a rapidly changing environment are some of the key elements that businesses will have to factor into their real estate portfolio planning this year. Technology is another factor disrupting the workplace as it reshapes our offices and what these spaces can do.
In Intel’s office in Israel, for instance, facial recognition has now replaced security passes, while the building itself is adapting and learning employee habits and preferences, from working environments to preferred refreshments.
JLL’s Corporate Real Estate 2017 trends report predicts the technological issues facing business in the coming year. From the growth of cyber threats to the development of digital businesses, the future is already here – and our offices are at the forefront of this change, riding the wave of technological development.
Automation and the organisation reorganised
Rarely out of the headlines, robotics and automation are already being adopted widely across the corporate world. Importantly, however, this does not necessarily mean that the robots are coming for your job, or that we are about to see a wholesale replacement of humans with machines. In fact, although 25 percent of tasks across every job category will be automated by 2019, just nine percent of jobs are at risk of being totally automated – according to the OECD.
Rather, the automation of repetitive, simple tasks in the business process, could help firms increase the speed, precision and cost efficiency of their operations, freeing their (human) employees to focus more narrowly on actual value creation. Over the long term, automation has the potential to transform real estate portfolios, condensing them into fewer strategic locations and urban hubs. Enhanced productivity and lower costs would be some of the significant benefits for companies, but it is in the short term that we can see crucial changes in the workspace.
Workplace attitudes are already shifting, just as people are becoming more comfortable with smart technology and robotics in the home. Automation has transformed manufacturing processes and what we are seeing is an extension into new industries and job functions.
User experience will take primacy in the design of office environments as the war for talent grows more intense. To meet the expectations of the next generation and boost the productivity of those using the office, a greater variety of spaces will be available to work in. Activity based working – an approach to creating workplaces that provide users with shared access to spaces for individual and collaborative work – will become commonplace in workplace design. High-quality services, from food and beverages to recreation spaces, gyms and space to support wellbeing, will become standard features in core locations.
With high-profile cyber attacks occurring with a grim monotony, it is little surprise that 61 percent of CEOs are concerned about cyber threats, which will have an estimated cost of $6million by 2021.
Naturally, many firms will now start to think critically about what measures they can introduce to help mitigate the risks. This is particularly true for firms using external coworking spaces, where employees from different companies work in close proximity to each other. But with careful planning such as, for instance, the creation of a clear cybersecurity policy and the provision of separate servers or private Wi-Fi networks, there is no reason why firms can’t ensure that they are protected from cyber security threats.
Digital future proofing
By 2018, more than 50 percent of large organisations globally will compete using advanced analytics and proprietary algorithms, causing the disruption of entire industries. Firms will be able to harness the power of AI and predictive data analytics to improve real estate performance: enabling cost savings, providing data driven insights and improving productivity.
In Amsterdam, for instance, Deloitte’s headquarters is equipped with more than 30,000 sensors to track the movement of staff from the moment they walk through the door. Each of the 6,800 LED lights in the building is powered by low-voltage Ethernet cables and is equipped with a sensor that monitors temperature, movement, light, CO2 and humidity.
Navigating the changes set to take place will be a challenge for even the most forward-thinking of firms. The companies that will benefit from this disruption will be those adopting a change of mindset, ensuring their businesses are ‘tech-ready’. Investing in expertise and planning towards a more intelligent management of space, will become key to talent retention and attraction strategies as the current and next generation of workers will expect greater personalisation and choice, with IoT and device adoption becoming key components of the workplace customisation.
Successful businesses will be those managed by leaders able to think beyond and have the vision to make bold decisions on how these forces will reshape their business and real estate.
By Tom Carroll, Head of EMEA Corporate Research, JLL
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”