The office's next chapter: How CIOs can shape a positive workplace experience

The future of work depends on a positive, sustainable workplace experience for all employees. Here's how IT leaders can leverage technology and partnerships to achieve this goal
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When the pandemic hit, the first wave of transformation was about moving employees home and supporting remote workers. The result of that transformation has forever changed our workforce – today, people are able to get work done from anywhere.

It’s also forever changed the role of the physical workplace. The office will always have an important role in work. And as employees continue to return to the office, it’s time to think about how we can make it a place where people want to be – not just need to be – and a place where they can work effectively.

Creating an enticing workplace experience is nothing new; years ago, tech companies in Silicon Valley began offering perks such as chef-prepared meals in the cafeteria and massages to attract and retain top talent. Today, the pandemic has employees reflecting on what benefits are important to them and which jobs align with their values, wants, and needs in a career. The perks that get them excited to come into the workplace might change. After working from home, for example, they likely crave time for collaboration and socializing in the workplace. And it’s up to us to help rethink that workplace experience with sustainability and employee needs in mind.

After the warp-speed transformation CIOs have experienced over the last two years, now is not the time to slow down. As you look toward the near future, focus on improving the workplace experience, including by leveraging data from sensors and forming stronger cross-functional partnerships that can drive your organization forward.

[ Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask. ]

Using tech to create a better workplace experience

When you plan a trip to the office, there’s a lot to think about: Can I get parking? Which restaurants are open for lunch? Can I reserve a desk for a particular day? Which of my teammates will also be in the office that day? We want our workers to have the answers to these questions at their fingertips, which is why we created a workplace app to solve this problem.

This app, called JLL Jet, is an example of how we leveraged the technology we see in our personal lives to create a better experience in the workplace. Our employees are familiar with using their mobile phones to shop, book travel, order groceries, make restaurant reservations and connect with friends and family. So, when it comes to planning their time in the office, why shouldn’t they be able to have the same intuitive, user-friendly experience?

As IT talent considers making a move from their home office to their corporate office, offering the innovation and convenience they have come to expect in other areas of their lives can make a world of difference in how they feel about this transition. JLL Jet has helped JLL drive productivity amongst our employees during shifting work conditions.

Another way we’re enabling better experiences as people return to the office is through the use of sensors. Sensors collect real-time data on how frequently spaces in the office are being used and inform office design decisions. 

As IT talent considers making a move from their home office to their corporate office, offering the innovation and convenience they have come to expect in other areas of their lives can make a world of difference in how they feel about this transition.

We use sensor data from VergeSense, a JLL Spark portfolio company, to identify which conference rooms and collaboration areas workers are gravitating toward, and which people are using less frequently. We can analyze this data to better understand how the office is being used to schedule the appropriate frequency of cleanings, for example, or to identify whether more collaboration spaces are needed. This data has helped JLL reimagine office layouts and monitor adherence to cleaning protocols.

There are also significant opportunities to use sensors to improve sustainability, something that is increasingly important to employees. For example, sensors can inform how a building might adjust lighting schedules for areas that aren’t used at certain times of the day, or identify systems that are due for maintenance before they break and need to be replaced. In high-rise buildings, engineers flush the water in the building every weekend to prevent chlorine from breaking down and enabling environments for disease-causing bacteria to fester in the water system. With sensors, we could tell that the system in a particular part of the building has been well-flushed and that re-flushing it would be unnecessary.

As we start to think about the workplace experience and building operations as something to continually improve and iterate upon – just like our products – it will be up to CIOs to ensure we are collecting the right data, and that we have the right technology and talent on the IT team to understand what it’s telling us.

Two emerging CIO partnerships

IT teams have been through a lot since early 2020, but that doesn’t mean we get to slow down now. Two partnerships will be key in the immediate future in order to bring organizations into this next phase of transformation: The CIO-CHRO partnership and the CIO-real estate partnership.

[ Are you prepared to partner with multiple departments? Read CIO role: How to move from gatekeeper to advisor. ]

The CIO’s partnership with HR is critical as organizations rethink and reframe how they attract and retain talent. Increasingly, technology enables our day-to-day work and employees gravitate toward companies offering modern, intuitive technology. As employees work in a hybrid capacity, the potential for tech malfunctions to disrupt their work and impact satisfaction and retention rates magnifies. The CIO and CHRO can no longer work in silos – they must collaborate closely to understand how to adapt the hybrid workplace experience to employee needs.

Additionally, as work increasingly happens through technology, the CHRO and CIO must partner to ensure that employees have information on IT policies, security measures, and procedures at their fingertips. Successful collaboration between these two leaders will be critical to avoiding IT chaos.

In partnering with the organization’s corporate real estate group, CIOs are able to participate in optimizing portfolios and developing a vision for the workplace of the future. A large part of our budget goes into enabling the physical office, whether it’s connectivity or conference room technologies, which is why our input is critical. If we can demonstrate through the use of data and technology how to optimize real estate investments, we’re able to help the organization get a more effective use and spend of the space.

As we approach this next phase of transformation, CIOs should play an active role in the vision and execution of the physical workplace of the future. We want workers to feel good about coming to the office and have a great experience, both of which will be key in attracting and retaining top talent.

Your company’s employees are demanding a better experience and more flexibility. Your HR group wants to use the workplace to help attract and retain top talent. Your real estate group wants to leverage emerging proptech. Your CFO wants to ensure portfolio optimization. According to recent Forrester research, real estate groups have never had a greater need for help in using technology and data in their real estate portfolios – and their in-house technology groups need help to understand how to choose the right options among thousands of emerging technologies, how to maximize existing real estate technologies, and how other companies are integrating across their platforms. CIOs have never had a greater opportunity to provide leadership in how our companies should use technology and data in our real estate portfolio to meet the demands of today and ensure a future fit tomorrow.

[ Want more advice? Watch the on-demand webinar, The future of leading digital innovation: What's next, with Nancy Giordano, plus Red Hat's Margaret Dawson and IDC's Nancy Gohring. ]

Edward Wagoner
Edward “Eddy” Wagoner is chief information officer, digital at JLL Technologies (JLLT), a business division of JLL dedicated to commercial real estate (CRE) technology. His 35 years of industry experience include 15 years as JLL’s Global CIO overseeing its corporate occupier technology platform.