Occupier Client Priorities

November 4, 2022



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We are at a unique inflection point in the real estate sector where external conditions have fundamentally challenged the status quo, and corporate real estate leaders are grappling with a diverse range of critical issues simultaneously.

ESG, closely followed by a focus on Sharpening Portfolio Performance, were revealed as the top two recurring occupier topics in our recent survey. It is clear moving into 2023, in the face of growing economic challenges, that longer term ESG commitments will increasingly battle for airtime with short-term cost saving pressures.

The survey leverages our unique access to over 50 occupiers from all industry types and sizes, to help understand the key topics our clients are focusing on, now and into the future.

The colours represent the level of priority, and the line length represents how many clients voted for this topic as one of their top five priorities


ESG came out on top as the number one overall corporate priority, with 75% of clients listing it as one of their top five areas of focus. Furthermore, 11% of clients considered ESG their overall number one priority determining real estate strategy.

Key ESG challenges include:

  • Reaching net zero targets in an increasingly challenging financial environment
  • A desire to be associated with environmentally high quality real estate
  • Wishing to be known as a leading organisation for diversity, equity and inclusion, workplaces and policies

Allan Wickham, Head of Occupier ESG at CBRE, discusses the challenges occupiers face, alongside innovative ESG solutions.

How can we help?

The breadth of our knowledge enables us to simplify complex issues and provide a compelling narrative to engage clients and colleagues.

We can help by:

  • Collaborating with investors and landlords to meet your goals and ambitions
  • Delivering ESG reporting, disclosures and public targets that meet regulatory requirements, demonstrating leadership to your customers
  • Improving engagement with your colleagues, increasing productivity, and creating a culture of sustainability with ESG upskilling and focused training

Sharpening Portfolio Performance

Sharpening Portfolio Performance was selected by 67% of the survey sample as a top five occupier priority, 27% also ranked it as their number one priority.  

Our clients tell us that cost saving is an increasingly important focus as they face challenging market conditions, but what other challenges do they face?

Key Sharpening Portfolio Performance challenges include:

  • Managing expenses efficiently, whilst seeking to realign real estate portfolios with the new realities of hybrid working
  • Creating the best places and spaces to meet both employees' and business' strategic needs
  • Meeting environmental, safety and health commitments

Kate Smith, Executive Director, Occupier Consulting at CBRE, discusses the challenges occupiers face, and how we can work towards rebuilding real estate strategies.

How can we help?

  • We have been helping our clients to rebuild their real estate strategies in response to changing expectations from leaders and employees on working practices
  • Providing guidance and advice on their strategies as they navigate what remains to be an uncertain future in the near-term

Return to Office

Return to Office was ranked as a top five priority by over half (56%) of the survey sample.

Many companies are more uncertain when it comes to their plans for the Future of Work than they were last year. With board level pressure to implement mandates, but the balance still needing to be struck with employee engagement and office occupancy.

Key challenges on Return to Office include:

  • Implementing effective hybrid-fit working practices for the future
  • Attracting people to spend regular time in the office
  • Board level pressure to implement mandates

Kate Smith, Executive Director, Occupier Consulting at CBRE, discusses the challenges of Return to Office, and how we can help get to the root cause of challenges surrounding hybrid working, including guidance, training and strategic planning.

How can we help?

This is a complex and emotive topic for both employees; who have adapted their work and personal lives to remote working, and for leaders who are concerned about employee engagement and productivity. We believe there are three key areas where employers can step up to improve and gain an edge:

  • The workplace experience that employees have when they visit the office
  • The hybrid infrastructure in place to support effective hybrid working
  • The culture and behaviours that are established by leadership

Read More on Making Hybrid Work

Skills & Talent

Skills & Talent ranked as the fourth overall priority for occupiers, with 61% placing this as one of their top five priorities.

The pandemic transformed the way we work, and advances in technology, societal demands and economic changes continue to redefine the workforce, which has resulted in several challenges for occupiers.

Key challenges surrounding Skills & Talent include:

  • Defining new roles and/or skills to promote optimal performance in ways of hybrid working
  • Building a people pipeline from unconventional sources to fill vacancies
  • Creating quantifiable behaviour change within talent groups, from changing how people use the office to how often they use the office
  • Building inclusive environments

Georgina Fraser, Head of Human Capital Consulting, discusses these challenges and how we can implement human behaviour science to enhance your employee value proposition.

How can we help?

Our Human Capital practice team delivers competitive advantage through:

  • Deep knowledge on the intersection between people and place
  • Insights from comprehensive data and client conversations
  • Partnerships with technology platforms proven to accelerate diagnostics and transformation

Labour Supply & Location Selection

Labour Supply & Location Selection was chosen by 37% of the survey sample as a top five real estate priority.

Aligning corporate and location strategy to identify the opportunities and risks in talent attraction will help secure the right location, and deliver potential cost savings.

Key Labour Supply & Location Selection challenges include:

  • Attracting and retaining talent
  • Reducing cost by relocating roles to lower labour cost locations
  • Rightsizing portfolios to respond to the impact of hybrid working
  • Entering new markets

Stephen Fleetwood, Head of Location Advisory, EMEA, discusses actionable solutions to help occupiers with their site location to help attract and retain talent.

How can we help?

  • Identifying opportunities to improve talent attraction and retention or reduce cost
  • Identifying saturated labour markets
  • Reducing labour cost by 20-30% through relocating to low-cost onshore alternatives, or 50-70% through nearshoring and offshoring
  • Providing independent, objective advice, and a decision framework that gives a rationale for locations being selected or rejected

Digital & Technology

Digital & Technology products and services were viewed by 31% of the survey sample as a top five real estate priority.

Having the right digital strategy will help occupiers identify the best digital outcomes to meet business, asset and workplace needs.

Key Digital & Technology challenges include:

  • Addressing the variable demands from occupiers based on the hybrid workplace model
  • Asset performance that reduces OPEX and CAPEX, including ESG and carbon targets
  • Complexity of the PropTech market; finding the right solution and integrating it into current infrastructure

Harri John, Director, Head of Digital Advisory, discusses these challenges and how technology cannot be considered in isolation as the singular challenge, nor the full solution.

How can we help?

  • Digital strategy: helping you identify the best digital outcomes to meet your business, asset and workplace needs
  • Digital solutions: developing the strategy into a solution via a design that defines the requirements, system schematics and schedules. Identifying and securing the best solution partners for our clients
  • Digital transformation: supporting the roll-out of transformation programmes through programme management, change management and organisational design

Economic Challenges

Economic Challenges were selected as a top five priority by just over half (51%) of the survey sample.

After some positive readings in the immediate post-pandemic period, various factors have combined to cause a weakening in the short-term outlook.

Key Economic Challenges include:

  • Rising energy prices, higher interest rates and cost of capital to corporates
  • Some rebalancing of demand away from manufactured goods towards services
  • Inflation persistence and uncertainty around the speed and scale of monetary policy response
  • Labour market challenges including shortages in certain skills markets

How can we help?

Our Economics team maintains and regularly updates a proprietary model that forecasts property rents and values across the main commercial sectors and markets across Europe, based on a range of underlying economic factors.

We can help to:

  • Pinpoint areas of opportunity, and risk, based on the future pattern and timing of rent and value growth
  • Inform key decisions on acquisition, disposal, lease events and tenure, with key input to portfolio audits and stay-go analyses

Business Analytics & Data

Business Analytics & Data was identified by 44% of the survey sample as a top five real estate priority.

Interpreting Data at scale can be challenging, but it’s imperative in order to drive proactive business decisions and operational transparency.

Key Business Analytics & Data challenges include:

  • Turning data into insights
  • Data governance, quality and reliability
  • Integrating datasets across disconnected real estate functions to drive decision making with context
  • Benchmarking and automation

How can we help?

Our Business Analytics team deliver specialist knowledge through:

  • A technology-agnostic approach: To date we have integrated 194 different source systems (and counting) into our analytics platform
  • Talent: We have more than 100 data analysts, scientists, architects, and engineers, specialised in real estate analytics that support portfolio strategy, occupancy planning, facility management, project management, and more
  • Data governance: We apply rigorous data standards and controls, guaranteeing the security, integrity, and usefulness of data
  • Our proprietary Vantage Analytics platform is built with a series of ‘best in class’ dashboards to address a broad set of known business requirements

Logistics, Manufacturing & Supply Chain

Logistics, Manufacturing & Supply Chain was regarded as a top five real estate priority by 29% of the survey sample.

Development and manufacturing costs, alongside supply chain resilience, are a huge point of concern in the face of economic uncertainty, but this isn’t the only challenge the industry is facing.

Key Logistics, Manufacturing & Supply Chain challenges include:

  • Maximising cost-efficiency of Logistics & Manufacturing operations and assets
  • Tackling rising operating costs, primarily labour and energy
  • Planning and executing the required supply chain for the business
  • Delivering ESG improvements in a challenging financial environment

How can we help?

  • Reduce on-site operating costs by 5-15% whilst driving service improvements
  • Reduce supply chain costs and emissions by 10-15%
  • Deliver cost-optimal facility design
  • Deliver market-first action-driven recruitment and retention strategies

Home & Third Party Flex Spaces

Home & Third Party Flex Spaces were seen as a top five real estate priority by 23% of survey respondents.

Developing a flexible portfolio strategy helps future-proof organisations against unforeseen changes, but there are more challenges associated with this.

Key Home & Third Party Flex Space challenges include:

  • Creating a real estate portfolio that can react to changes in business strategy and space demands
  • Providing an effective workspace for employees, to help with client attraction and retention
  • Aligning with balance sheet pressures and constraints

How can we help?

Our Agile Advisory team delivers competitive advantage to our clients via:

  • Innovative technology tools and data-driven advice: we are the only leading real estate company to provide a specialist agile consulting team; we can help you create a diversified and flexible future-proof portfolio
  • Leveraging global relationships with key coworking operators
  • Combining our specialist advice with on-the-ground brokerage expertise: we have the broadest network of dedicated local flex brokers, augmenting our global brokerage network

Critical Environments for Digital Advancement

Critical Environments for Digital Advancement was seen as a top five occupier real estate priority by 13% of survey respondents.

The rise of digital work and growing digital ambitions requires occupiers to have robust and diverse storage processing capabilities, but this comes with its own challenges.

Key Critical Environments for Digital Advancement challenges include:

  • Creating an informed strategy for change, incorporating real market commercials and capabilities, whilst accommodating IT and business aspirations
  • Reducing cost of existing and legacy IT environments and infrastructure
  • Delivering ESG and Sustainability improvements related to IT infrastructure
  • On-premise IT impacting real estate decisions and reducing business agility

How can we help?

  • Develop compelling transformation business cases
  • Reduce cost by up to 800%, by moving on-premise IT to purpose-built facilities
  • Reduce cost of existing third party sites by up to 20% as well as improving OLAs and SLAs

Landlord & Tenant Relationships Redefined

Landlord & Tenant Relationships Redefined was voted a top five occupier real estate priority by only 4% of the survey sample.

Landlords & Tenants must work more closely to help satisfy the changing demands of employees, both in terms of the physical product, the amenities and services provided, and the supporting digital infrastructure.

Key Landlord & Tenant Relationship challenges include:

  • Bringing the right people around the table to collaborate in a way that maximises benefits, especially those that rely on multiple parties/cross-functional inputs
  • Defining the minimum requirements for each party, and what the right middle ground is to meet the objectives of each party (Landlord, Occupier, Investor/Developer)
  • Ensuring flexibility in the provision of space, services and amenities, and simplifying the procurement process moving towards an on-demand/space as a service product

How can we help?

  • We help both Landlords & Tenants negotiate, restructure, or exit leases across all property asset types, and help to influence the design and purpose of tomorrow’s workplaces to meet the evolving needs of all stakeholders
  • We offer tailored property and facilities management solutions to meet the unique needs of both the employer and employee, throughout the property lifecycle and across all asset classes
  • We deliver workplace solutions from strategy to change, providing competitive advantage in scale, unified products and services, and a user-driven approach to inspiring workplaces

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