This year’s Worktech Toronto and Worktech West Coast conferences took place inside of one week, and Melissa Marsh joined both gatherings to debate the future of the workplace with fellow industry leaders. Marsh moderated two days of festivities in San Francisco, where presenters discussed the need to embrace ambiguity and fail-fast approaches, how to understand millennials as more than an abstracted ‘next-gen’ workforce, and the eternal question of measuring the human experience without diluting its complexity. Marsh then traveled to Toronto, where she took the stage as a presenter to deliver a disruptive proposition to the often slow-to-innovate commercial real estate industry: in the not too distant future, all buildings will have a Chief Technology Officer.
The future of occupant experience, Marsh explained, relies on a built environment tech infrastructure that advances the social, economic, and environmental performance of real estate. Organizations across all industries are incorporating technology into ground-breaking workplace designs that support employee creativity, innovation and productivity. As a result, employees have more access to and control of their workplace experience—be it through environmental functions related to light, acoustic and temperature conditions, or facilities functions such as booking meeting rooms. These advances are in line with a workforce increasingly expectant of retail- and hospitality-like conveniences, including the means to easily contribute ratings and feedback.
The turn predicted by Marsh is supported by projects like Hudson Yards, a highly connected New York City development blending retail, residential and office space, WeWork, whose coworking spaces monitor use patterns, link users to amenities and collect feedback through a member app, and Physics Toolbox, a promising tool allowing users to turn on sensors in their phones (e.g. microphones and light sensors) to measure conditions of the workplace. The abundance of high-performance measurement instruments will continue to move the conversation about occupant experience to an ever-finer grain—and it will be the job of the building CTO to implement and manage digital strategies that support this.