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What Uber and Airbnb Can Teach Us About the Future of the Workplace

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The mobile world is one of convenience. We can now access whatever we want, whenever we want. This is no longer just a novelty of modern life — it’s an expectation.

We have become almost reprogrammed by the likes of Uber and Lyft when it comes to transportation. Services such as Airbnb have done the same for lodging. And WeWork is bringing a similar mindset to the workplace.

Critically, this mobile-enabled movement offers greater convenience and constant access without imposing the burdens of ownership. And this on-demand, hassle-free principle has been foundational for so many service providers and tech-centric companies.

Mobile-enabled movement offers greater convenience and constant access without imposing the burdens of ownership.

Such disruption requires a response.

How is the world of corporate real estate reacting so far? How are these trends changing the way an industry built upon leases and building ownership thinks about the workplace experience? How might this all be changing the future of work?

These questions — and more — are something that we at Density dove into during a recent webinar called “Intro to the Connected, On-Demand Workplace”

Some of the established players are already speaking about the transformation underway.

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), for example, stated in a report this year that, by 2030, some 30% of all office space will be flexible — up from less than 5% today. It identified five of the nation’s tech hotspots (New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Austin, and Boston ) as the markets that have the greatest growth potential for flex space, which grants employees access to a variety of spaces without necessarily providing them a designated desk or locking a company into a 20-year lease.   

By 2030, some 30% of all office space will be flexible — up from less than 5% today.

The CBRE Institute, in its “Solving for the Future with Agility” survey report last year, said that achieving an “agile workplace” requires creating a “space strategy that is inherently flexible, supported by technology, and designed with the employee experience in mind.”

Almost half (45%) of the participants in the CBRE survey reported that they are in the process of migrating to an “activity-based workspace curated for employee effectiveness and future design flexibility.” Moreover, 81% said they “perceive amenities as integral” to the employee experience, while 59% responded that they plan to introduce mobile apps to “enhance the employee experience by helping them navigate the built environment more effectively.”

Based on this and other signals in the marketplace, we can see that the winds of change are blowing in a clear direction. And those with a stake in the game are beginning to learn lessons from Uber, Airbnb, and Instacart about how to offer employers what they need.

Indeed, as we have seen in transportation, travel, and retail, today’s end-users want three specific things: more choice, better service, and less time to get what they want.

These are the new experience expectations across the board. And choice, service, and time are now becoming demands for modern workspaces as well.

Increasingly, employees will want specific amenities at the push of a button.

Increasingly, employees will want specific amenities at the push of a button. They are tired of spending, as outlined in Gartner research, an entire hour of their workweek just looking for an empty room. More and more they will expect to have exactly what they need when they need it without any hassles or compromises. 

How will your company keep up? How will you meet your employees’ needs? How will you provide the workplace experience that the top talent is coming to not just want but demand?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. But the organizations that can start to understand their employees’ needs and can respond quickly will likely become leaders in attracting and retaining the right people.