Corporate real estate and productivity – the elusive connection

May 15, 2015 / By  

Can real estate play a role in boosting corporate productivity?   While we may have case studies and anecdotes to demonstrate the correlation between the two, it’s a longstanding conundrum.  Empirical data and models to prove the relationship are thin on the ground.  But a recent survey of c-level executives in Asia on the coming Asia productivity challenge, which was conducted by IMA Asia, in partnership with JLL, explored the issue.

In the survey, over 100 executives around the Asia Pacific region, and in multiple industry sectors, were asked about the challenges they face, views on productivity, and how real estate can play a role in boosting productivity.

The survey reveals that “people” issues – talent attraction and retention, skills development and staff engagement –are at the top of the executive agenda:

  • 25% of respondents (the highest proportion of any option) say that talent attraction and retention is their biggest challenge in Asia in the next five years
  • 56% say that skills development and innovation will be very important (highest ranking) as an enabler of productivity
  • Quality of staff, lack of necessary skills are barriers to improving productivity

It’s clear that recruiting the best talent, training them, and providing the conditions that encourage them to thrive, innovate, and (perhaps equally importantly) stay with the company will be essential for corporates in Asia Pacific to boost productivity in the coming years. Improving the workplace, in terms of creating an environment where staff can be optimally productive, is one way to achieve this.


Source: IMA Asia / JLL

Indeed, over one-third of respondents said that staff engagement (improving the quality and experience of the workplace) is the most important contribution that corporate real estate can make to increasing productivity  – surpassing rental and operational cost reduction, sustainability and other factors.   When we look at the aggregate of the top 3 answers, staff engagement is followed by work enablement.  As one respondent remarked, “As achieving growth is getting ever harder, the value of skilled staff that can realise it will be important.  Retention will … become a priority for senior management.”

But perhaps not enough senior managers. It’s encouraging that executives in Asia are becoming aware of the benefits of workplace in their efforts to attract and retain talented staff.  On the other hand, the survey showed that only one-fifth of executives are deeply engaged on real estate issues, and only a third plan to become more deeply engaged. This is slightly disappointing, but not entirely unexpected given the sheer volume of issues they deal with every day.  Perhaps as the talent issue begins to bite in Asia, we will see more executive teams turning to the workplace as the next frontier. Stay tuned.

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