Landlords, is it better that you or someone else makes your tenants smarter about workplace strategy?

Graham Lauren
Jun 15, 2017 · 3 min read

Things might currently look good for CBD commercial property owners, but to serve customers better they must themselves become more knowledgeable about workplace strategy, the core of which, for tenants, is working smarter and paying less rent.

Tenants will take less space, and so will their successors

The existential threat to commercial property owners and developers is taking off: tenants getting smarter in their execution of workplace strategy take less space, and so will the generation that follows them.

Thus, workplace strategy changes the landlord’s game, and addressing this reality requires new agility on their part.

One consequence is, of course, that commercial property owners must themselves become more knowledgeable about workplace strategy, the core of which, for tenants, is working smarter.

This means landlords must learn to build for and accommodate ever smarter knowledge factories, as in a knowledge economy, most organisations are essentially concentrations of business model know-how driven by technology and key executional capabilities.

However, where the future may appear uncertain, smart property owners might also contemplate the following juicy prospect.

The commercial opportunity lies in getting smarter about workplace strategy

How huge are the branding advantages to be won by an owner able realistically to present its commercial property portfolio as buildings that make their tenants smarter?

Which tenant wouldn’t want to know about that?

The problem is that accommodating such an emerging demand in a knowledge age presents an unfamiliar challenge to landlords wanting to attract and retain customers.

It also runs pretty much directly counter to their business models.

What property customers want

Above all, if they think of it, their customers want their workplaces to contribute to strengthening their ability to execute business strategy, build workplace culture and to organise around the creation and transmission of mission-critical knowledge and learning.

For them, the emerging discipline of workplace strategy is something that will be taught and learnt, and from which they will ultimately benefit in better space utilisation and lower rents.

Their only current challenge is how to get ahead of it.

This actually has relatively little to do with property, rents and square metres.

Workplace strategy is a landlord’s opportunity

But, why can’t landlords equally use workplace strategy as an opportunity around which both they and tenants can work together beneficially to create new knowledge and more effective workspaces?

The current blockage exists only because there is an absence of knowledge of how to help their tenants.

For the moment, tenants may reasonably be expected to be without understanding of workplace strategy.

But remaining ignorant of it is certainly not good enough for landlords, who should be stepping in to comprehend, shape and sell the field.

If they can see it, the emergence of workplace strategy as a discipline represents possibly the greatest advantage currently presenting itself to them, because even if they don’t yet know it, landlords already have everything they need to turn this opportunity into reality.

Tenants won’t educate property owners in workplace strategy

Landlords need to understand and learn how they can get better at workplace strategy first, because their tenants certainly aren’t going to teach them.

They need tenants to learn workplace strategy from them because then they can compete by anticipating and satisfying their customers’ needs effectively.

If they don’t, the risk is then of trying to sell something to a customer who has better information, and such information asymmetry is almost certainly far more painful and costly.

Not knowing what you don’t know can’t save you

But for many commercial property owners, this is a classic learning challenge: when you don’t know what you don’t know, how do you even begin to ask the right question, or of whom to ask it?

Even if the answer will surely reveal itself, as workplace strategy as an enveloping workplace discipline takes shape and grows, that is perhaps a question many should be asking now.

Workplace strategy

Workplace strategy is where building design, modern technology and new ways of working come together to deliver the future of work. Shiro Architects’ research focuses on understanding how to create a better workplace-design briefing for the future occupants of commercial space.

Graham Lauren

Written by

Shiro Architects director and business writer, writing, reading and researching workplace strategy, learning organisations and knowledge architecture.

Workplace strategy

Workplace strategy is where building design, modern technology and new ways of working come together to deliver the future of work. Shiro Architects’ research focuses on understanding how to create a better workplace-design briefing for the future occupants of commercial space.