Four trends that will shape the workplace in 2024 and beyond, and the technologies that will help you navigate them.
The past year has been an opportunity for organizations to catch their breath and take stock after a tumultuous 2022. Inflation has cooled, supply chain bottlenecks have eased and the Federal Reserve has signaled that it may be done raising interest rates. As we enter 2024, the sun has finally set on the pandemic era and organizations are enjoying a period of clarity, stability and predictability they haven’t seen in several years.
As occupiers and facility managers settle into this new normal, here are four workplace trends that will drive real estate technology adoption in 2024.
Hybrid Work in Flux
There are indications that the prevalence of hybrid work may be on the downswing, as the job market cools and employers regain the upper hand in encouraging their employees back into the office full-time. In our recent Inside the Workplace 2023 survey, for example, 60% of respondents said they expect employees to be working in the office full time in the next one to three years. This is already complicating the lives of workplace stakeholders, as companies that downsized their offices to reduce expenses are now faced with having to make room for returning workers.
“One of the primary factors that has driven employees back into the office up to now is meeting with other employees and collaborators,” said FM:Systems Chief Strategy Officer Brian Haines. “This has already introduced some complexity for occupiers and facility managers, and we think welcoming more people back to the office is going to continue to be quite complicated, adding to the chaotic nature of utilization of many people’s facilities.”
In 2024, more companies will turn to technology to help them optimize space and keep up with fluctuating attendance and utilization, with 40% of respondents to our survey indicating that they are planning to implement workplace management solutions for space planning over the next year.
Technology for gaining real-time, accurate visibility into who will be in the office at any given time will be crucial in utilizing and allocating space in a way that eliminates distractions while supporting efficiency, productivity and employee wellbeing. But these insights won’t just be useful for day-to-day operations. As the refocusing of the workplace solidifies, clarity on how much, what type, and where that space is needed will become more important in long-term decision-making. Technology to help understand how, when and by whom space is being utilized will help inform a massive rationalization of the real estate portfolio to align to the “new normal” workplace.
Sustainability Becomes a Bigger Priority
Another big headline for real estate stakeholders in 2024 will be the growing influence of sustainability on enterprises of all kinds. Long considered a matter of social responsibility and brand preservation, taking steps to address climate change will become increasingly compulsory with the proliferation of sustainability laws like NYC Local Law 97. As organizations rationalize their real estate portfolio over the next year, they will continue to invest in and leverage sensor technology to better understand the carbon footprint of their buildings and portfolios, and use that information to support net zero initiatives.
“When it comes to net zero goals, understanding what your greenhouse gas emissions are is extremely important,” said Andrew Butterworth, VP of Strategy. “But even more important is understanding what’s driving those figures. Organizations will need to invest in technologies that can provide those answers.”
Integrated Workplace Management Systems, IoT sensors and technology that ties anticipated workplace utilization to energy consumption and achievement of those sustainability goals will become indispensable.
AI Takes on a Bigger Role
Deploying technology to measure, collect and manage data is a fool’s errand without solutions to turn all that data into actionable information. Artificial intelligence was created to parse terabytes of data in short periods of time, and it will be the tool of choice for real estate stakeholders in 2024.
“AI and machine learning will begin to drive significant new capabilities and workplace software that will set the groundwork for future autonomous buildings,” said Haines.
The role of traditional AI, which is trained to tease insights out of limited sets of data according to specific rules, will continue to grow. But it’s generative AI applications that will take real estate, and many other industries, by storm over the next year and beyond. GenAI is capable of teaching itself how bits of data are related and relevant and creating new ideas and insights. It can potentially predict scenarios and prescribe actions to address them based on multiple data sets, rather than leaving it to an individual to try to interpret the data. Technologies that use AI to control things such as HVAC or BMS systems based on utilization, environmental, weather and other types of data will revolutionize how occupiers and facility managers operate workspaces.
“AI will be front and center in providing many of the insights that enable organizations to better refocus and rationalize their office space to align with their mission, to advance their NetZero goals, and to create the workplace experience their coworkers need to do their best work,” added Haines.
As organizations refocus their workplace around supporting the mission and needs of their teams in 2024, we expect to see continued growth in the use of technology to optimize space, reduce costs, support net zero goals and pave the way for even more advanced and impactful tech solutions to come.