Share:

Location, environment and culture

Andrew Phipps • 15/07/2020

Location, location, location, to steal the title of the eponymous long running Channel 4 series, is what it’s all about…or perhaps not. Coming out of lockdown location of course remains of critical importance, but perhaps not in the way you might think. Location in this context is very much about the location of people as opposed to property. 

Where will people be when they carry out their work, when they shop, when they decide what to eat or drink? This is the critical consideration we need to be addressing right now. As we become ever more location (physical place) agnostic, the relationship between people and place becomes ever more important and the location of people and property will change depending on the task to be undertaken.  

Many commentators have addressed the seemingly pointless exercise of going somewhere to do something that you can do equally as well from the comfort of your home. Others will stress the importance of being able to collaborate, to spend time with colleagues and they are absolutely correct…once we hit a point where we can have a quorum of people in one location and there is flexibility regards how the space is used.  

Taking the decision to change your personal location should be based on the task at hand. Where is the optimum place for you to be for a particular activity? Can buildings adapt to accept this new way of thinking? The answer should focus less on whether they can and more on can they remain relevant if they don’t. A visit to a building has to become an event, in the most positive of meanings, a reason to go the office workplace (beyond commuting to a different location just to have a Teams call with people in other places), a retail and leisure location that offers something that my online perusing cannot satisfy.   

Optimising the building’s purpose can only be achieved if we address the environment people find when they arrive. How does this environment suit the needs of the activity I want / need to perform? You need the building environment to be adaptable enough to allow a series of different tasks to be fulfilled. Traditional workspaces become event driven space, not as in events for 500 people but events as in activity. They need to offer space that can perform a starring role in the need to collaborate. The space has to energise and the environment work for a multitude of needs. The challenge of adjusting space to take account of different day parts has long been of interest in the retail and hospitality arena. From the use of bars in New York as coworking space until the evening when the space takes back its traditional purpose through to the use of moveable walls and modular furniture. This isn’t new thinking. It is however the right time for this thinking. The environment of a building has to work to deliver for the needs of an individual.  

The final piece of this trichotomous discussion is the topic that is taking the energy of many; culture. If location is about people, and environment is about configuration of a space to allow people to undertake specific tasks, how do you instil a sense of corporate culture? An important part of working for a business is understanding what they stand for, what their ethos is. Millennials and Generation Z are often vaunted as the particular demographic that desire the opportunity to work for a company with meaning, one with a clear purpose. Is that purpose or meaning somehow lessened if you interact on a more virtual than physical basis?  

There is a need to review what the culture of a business actually means. The phrase ‘workplace culture’ entered the popular lexicon of business speak many years ago but how would it be defined? Workplace culture has its fundamental premise in the environment a business creates for its employees. As employers are increasingly expected to curate a virtual environment the culture must take its lead from a different set of formative factors. The perceived culture determines the way people feel about working for one business over another. The culture is created from the very first instance of applying for a role, through the interview process, onboarding and formally joining the business. Every touchpoint has role to play in making the culture either feel more empowering or alternatively detracting in how someone feels in their role.  

If we do move into a period of remote working, no matter how many days a week this may be, the way the business maintains its culture becomes increasingly important. Business culture will come to be judged not only on what the business stands for but how the business embraces flexibility and pivots toward doing what’s right for employees as well as for profitability. No company operates in a vacuum and people take a view of the sector, of others in a similar physical location and makes their decision according to what they see and in turn how they feel about this.  
 
One company may enable their team to work from wherever they deem most conducive to completing the task at hand. The same company supports individuals with a stipend to create an ergonomic working environment and perhaps implements training that recognises the difference between remote first and office first working styles and outcomes. The view of this company would be in stark contrast to one that insisted on presentism and ignored the early part of this year as an anomaly and not a learning experience. The interpretation of their respective cultures would be plain to see; one is forward looking, supportive and wants me to give of my best and the other has been weighed, measured and found wanting.  

It’s easy to take this a step forward and recognise which business is the more attractive to a potential recruit, to an established team member and to someone looking to achieve a work life balance (it’s not the one that insists you sit at a fixed desk from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday).  

Location – where people are and where they want to be when they undertake specific tasks 
Environment – the layout, design, style of a building that empowers people to deliver 
Culture – what a business does to recruit, retain and develop individuals  

Each of the three have changed as a result of context. Understanding the context is paramount, the how, the when and the where will evolve. Being able to interpret how people contextualize the situation they are operating in is where you should be focusing your energy as we progress to a new way of working, and indeed a new way of being. 

Latest articles in this series

Leeds North Star cafe closure COVID-19
Insights • Economy

Outlook for 2021: Small Prizes and Big Penalties

Long-term property investors should focus on location and asset quality, as those factors drive performance over a cycle. But, right or wrong, risk aversion to income risk tends to trump other factors in downturns and will dictate pricing trends in 2021. 
Greg Mansell • 04/11/2020
Westminster Bridge towards Houses of Parliament, London
Insights • Economy

Brexit Trade Negotiations and What They Mean for Businesses

Like COVID-19, Brexit has major implications for businesses across the country whatever the outcome of the negotiations. 
Richard Coleman • 04/11/2020
Ship with shipping containers
Insights • Retail

Retail & Supply Chain

2021 will continue to see growth in e-commerce and logistics demand and new retail supply chain models will be required to capitalise on the structural shifts in the sector.
Paul Durkin • 04/11/2020
Woman doing yoga next to home desk
Insights • Commentary

Locked Down and Locked In

What will happen in 2021? Perhaps there will be a vaccine, perhaps there won’t. Perhaps people will return to the office, perhaps they won’t. The smarter questions focus on what adaptions business and people will make over the coming year that set them on a new path for the future.
Richard Pickering • 04/11/2020
Technology 3D (image)
Insights • Technology

The Impact of Technology on Real Estate

Technology has created huge changes to the property markets and real estate industry in 2020. We asked Chris Hancocks from our Futures team, and Ross Hodges from our Global Innovation Hub what they see as the proptech to watch in 2021. 

Chris Hancocks • 04/11/2020
George Roberts Cushman & Wakefield
Insights • Commentary

How 2021 Might Reshape The Real Estate Industry

We will look back at 2020 as the year in which COVID-19 accelerated forces of change. These forces will shape the industry for many years to come and for those that are able to interpret and take advantage of them, the opportunities are enormous. 
George Roberts • 04/11/2020
air filter
Insights • Commentary

The Beginning of the End for Our Take, Make and Dispose Culture

The only sustainable approach to economic growth is by engaging with the core principles at the heart of the circular economy. 
Andrew Phipps • 02/06/2020
desktop screen at home with iphone with Skype logo
Insights • Commentary

Leadership Resilience

The resilience of our leadership is brought into sharp relief during times of crisis. The nature of the crisis is moot, it’s how people in positions of responsibility respond and the messages they send to their teams, clients, and in the cases of governments around the world, their electorate and the voracious 24-hour news cycle. 
Andrew Phipps • 07/04/2020
Woman working on laptop in kitchen with glass of milk
Insights • Commentary

Introducing the New Normal

A week is a long time in politics would be a very apt phrase for the current global situation. The change we’ve seen since we shared our last view of the UK real estate market has been dramatic in two ways. 
Andrew Phipps • 07/04/2020
Mother walking in countryside with toddler on back
Insights • Commentary

COVID-19 EMEA The Power of People

A spotlight on the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on people. 
Andrew Phipps • 02/04/2020
eye in blue duotone
Insights • Forecast - Outlook

Outlook 2020

Addresses key challenges and opportunities that will define the future of European commercial real estate in 2020 and beyond.

Andrew Phipps • 03/12/2019
demo
Insights • Forecast - Outlook

Demographics Outlook 2020

Over the last 40 years, Europe’s population aged 65+ has almost doubled in size. Meanwhile, 55% of people now live in cities, and single-person households are increasingly standard. In our Demographic Outlook report, we examine how real estate is reacting to these trends – and where the opportunities lie in 2020.

Andrew Phipps • 03/12/2019

CAN'T FIND WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?

Get in touch with one of our professionals.