The future of work is complex, and we can no longer dictate future challenges. Learn more about how we can ‘Navigate The Change Together’ from Bruce...
Future of Work Pioneers - Kevin Selig
Learn from Kevin Selig, co-founder of Alidade, about the future of work and the challenges of adapting office spaces to changing demands.
Over the last three years, we have interviewed 2,000+ Future of Work Pioneers who have shared their insights into new work paradigms. Today we feature Kevin Selig as part of our series. Enjoy!
Kevin is one of the co-founders of Alidade, an innovative data analytics platform aiming to better measure and address changing commercial office demand for both landlords and tenants. Prior to founding Alidade, Kevin ran site selection and lease negotiation for WeWork in North America. At WeWork, Kevin oversaw building selection, term sheet negotiations, and lease transactions for most markets in the US and Canada. Kevin started his career as a broker at JLL in Washington, DC where he focused on large federal leasing transactions across the country.
I think the Future of Work is…
…bespoke. Anyone who tells you they know what the future of work looks like is, at best, over confident in their analysis. Every tenant who has given even the slightest amount of WFH autonomy to their employees has broken the standard office leasing model–and leasing transactions will look increasingly bespoke over time.
"Every tenant will have its own unique demand for office space moving forward."
What were the top three challenges you faced implementing Future of Work structures?
When we advise our clients on what the future of work looks like, we advise them to reject anecdotes and let the data speak for itself. Forget about what you read in the headlines, let's figure out exactly how you are using space (or if you are a landlord: how your tenants are using their space) and adjust our offerings accordingly. Anecdotes and sweeping policies are fairly poor at capturing what employees are actually doing with space, so trying to find the truth about how much space people need to do their work is becoming increasingly murkier as more anecdotes get thrown around in the market.
How has the transformation been for you and your organization thus far?
As we get more visibility into how employees are using space as WFH becomes more prevalent, it has been extremely eye-opening. Commercial real estate as an industry has been reliant on legacy and slow moving systems that will need to be overhauled with the changing nature of office demand. There are a number of sacred cows (procurement systems, space planning ratios and financing models, to name a few) that are hindering most landlords and internal occupier real estate teams from adapting to their end clients’ (i.e. employees) needs as quickly as they should. As an organization, we are still adapting ourselves. The only thing we know: we have to constantly reevaluate what we think is true for the market in order to stay ahead of where the market is going.
What is the most influential decision you’ve made over the past two years with respect to hybrid or flexible work?
The most influential decision we have made is to reject space planning ratios in response to the rise of WFH. Most other influential decisions we have made can be traced back to that one move.
"As companies gave autonomy to their employees to decide when they wanted to use the office, all of the old tools that allowed architects, brokers, etc to quickly size space requirements became pretty useless."
You can’t just take 100 employees and multiply it by a density and then assign a ratio of desks, conference rooms, etc anymore. You have to actually understand how employees are showing up to the office and what they are using when they are there in order to make informed decisions.
How has your approach to real estate metrics changed as the result of hybrid work?
Metrics mean everything to us. As office demand becomes more bespoke and space decisions are being made at the employee/team level, you have to get more granular in your analysis of real estate needs. As an industry, a lot of the metrics we looked at were used to make our lives easier by either supporting our intuitive decision making or building quick heuristics to make decisions faster. It's time for everyone to slow down and start thinking granularly about how supply and demand really align.
"How are individuals using space (instead of how are tenants using space) and how do we build leasing procurements and reporting systems that respond to occupier needs below the tenant level?"
Have you seen a shift in real estate leadership and people ops leadership working together to solve for hybrid work? If so, what are some of the challenges and opportunities you see between those two stakeholder groups?
The million dollar question! Pre-WFH, office demand was really a product of supply. Real estate teams would estimate needs based on how many employees could be assigned to a space taking into account what was standard for their industry. Now that people ops is setting WFH policy, demand for space becomes a function of when people are showing up–not necessarily who was supposed to show up five days a week. The challenge is: most occupiers have never had to deal with demand being dictated by variable policy before, but the opportunity is great for internal real estate leadership or even landlords who can offer space products that meet these variable needs.
What does the purpose and vision for an ‘office’ look like from your perspective in the next five years?
I’m going to steer clear of predictions if I can. But I'll tell you one thing: demand for office space has changed, and those of us who can figure out how to adapt office supply accordingly will create a lot of value in a struggling market.
What is one tip you’d give to your peers or have you learned from your peers?
Reject anecdotes about what’s happening in the market. Use your data to see what's actually happening in your building–and make decisions for yourself accordingly.
Can you share one prediction for the Future of Work that you’d strongly bet on?
I’m no gambler, but I truly believe the long term lease isn’t going away. A 10 year lease is still the cheapest way to procure the space you know you’re going to use. It’s figuring out how to get the space you don’t know if you really need that's going to drive value over the next couple of years.