We’ve launched Desana Events in response to the growing market demand for high quality space that supports in-person connection and collaboration for global teams. To help drive understanding of this emerging CRE trend, our CEO and Co-Founder Michael Cockburn hosted a bite size webinar to share the expert insight we’ve built at Desana on how to effectively leverage event space for greater portfolio efficiency.
Iain Franklin, Global Director, Consulting, at JLL joined the discussion to share his extensive experience in analyzing CRE market behavior and why growing demand for event space is a trend he and his team have long been predicting.
For those who missed it, we’ve put together a round up of the key discussion points, and you can also access the webinar recording to watch in full.
With hybrid and distributed working now the norm for many global companies, how employees connect in-person has changed. The knock on effect of this for CRE is that people are using workspaces more flexibly. As Iain outlined: “people are meeting their teams less frequently, but they’re doing so with more purpose”.
When employees are meeting once a quarter instead of every week, the role of workspace becomes about meeting the need for meaningful connection and collaboration. Portfolios must respond to this demand, and the job for real estate teams has evolved to incorporate a wider set of considerations. They must understand the reason their teams use space, ensure this is supported and that the experience is a high quality one.
As Michael explained; “team bonding needs to be done more programmatically” and it's no longer primarily the role of HR and People teams to facilitate this - Real Estate and Workplace Leads have become central to delivering company engagement and connection.
One of the most common questions we’ve had is when a ‘meeting’ turns into an ‘event’? Upon digging into this with our global customers we found the definition varies widely from company to company. For some there’s a specific number or policy, for example when attendees hit 25 people and above, but for others an event could even be 6 employees coming together for a significant reason.
Delivering purposeful connection repeatedly emerges as the key difference between events and meetings and why facilitation and investment around that experience is required. Employees are not just coming together to make a decision or discuss a single issue, there are a variety of engagement needs and often activity types involved. For Michael, it all comes down to “getting people together on purpose”.
As Iain explained: “it’s about a social as well as business side, bringing people together to drive the dynamic of the company, as much as it is about processing what you need to do”. When it comes to what’s then required from the space itself, as Iain describes it: “the difference is the agility and flexibility of the space that's needed, based on those activities.”
If people are spending time together for an in depth period of purposeful activity then, clearly, the facilitation of the experience and the programming of that event has different demands to a traditional meeting.
Importantly, the ability to incorporate these moments cannot simply be met by holding capacity in a CRE portfolio. The intermittent nature of events often means that designated space isn’t being used on a consistent basis, so has poor utilization, and the events will be tied to specific portfolio locations that might not be optimal for those attending.
By getting rid of surplus space, budgets can be used more effectively. Removing event space as a fixed cost on your balance sheet frees up valuable budget and allows for flexibility on choosing a third party location that suits employees and your purpose best. As Iain puts it: “giving you that flexibility for event space to be whatever you want, whenever you want, for whoever you want”.
From conversations with Real Estate teams, there are a number of key opportunities that effectively leveraging third party event space provides for a business.
The first is easing occupancy peaks within a portfolio, as running efficient square footage within leased real estate portfolios can disrupt the ability for the business to bring a large group together - there's simply nowhere to put them. Instead of acquiring space to accommodate event space requirements, businesses are able to programmatically leverage third party space.
Leaning on third party space ultimately de-risks portfolio disposal decisions, as demand can always be met, regardless of portfolio capacity. By gathering data on the type and frequency of space required, decisions on larger space requirements are validated. Rather than limit choice and conduct a desktop study on use you can continue to give optionality, monitor behavior over time, and make informed decisions on permanent space.
Spend on events can often be hidden when it’s booked through travel and expense budgets. By bringing event space into Real Estate team decisions you can analyze the data alongside office use. The insight becomes highly grounded in fact, budget can be more tightly controlled, and best value can be easily shown back to the business. This level of visibility and control is a relatively new concept for events in the real estate business, despite its normalcy for meeting rooms and hot desks. Bringing these requirements together and managing them accordingly ultimately makes better business sense from both an operational and budgetary perspective.
To successfully incorporate event space into a workplace strategy there are some identifiable challenges that Workplace and Real Estate teams will need to consider.
Where do you tell your workforce to go to find space? For many companies this could be across 50 or 60 countries, with different business units and requirements. Too often the catch all solution becomes sourcing locations through Google, which makes it difficult to adequately assess quality and suitability. A service that provides a single source of high-quality options is vital for maintaining consistency and quality.
How do you allocate spend? What budget is it coming from? How do we communicate how to pay for that? Formalizing a process for bringing on vendors can be hugely complex. Centralizing this process with a single vendor improves management and reporting, both from an employee experience perspective and a financial and data perspective.
Often the spend can end up going through a business leader's credit card, rather than a centralized budget, and becomes very difficult to track and manage. The ability to track spend is also important in supporting future decision making. For example, if a business knows they’re regularly booking a large nearby space it could signal the need to reallocate desk booking within their own building to accommodate event space. Or, it offers an opportunity to formalize the relationship with the third party space and negotiate a capacity purchase agreement instead of booking it individually.
We’ve worked to develop a solution that solves the above challenges and enables businesses to take advantage of the opportunities posed by leveraging event space. By bringing to market our Desana Events product we’re providing our customers with:
The ability to source event spaces from flexible workspace providers and hospitality businesses globally.
One entity to take through procurement.
A single source of data and reporting for all event space bookings globally.
One entity to invoice, with multiple ways to to pay.
At Desana we think there's a huge opportunity for businesses to be leveraging event space to deliver a higher quality employee experience. This includes their experience in sourcing and using these spaces, as well as management and tracking by real estate teams. Ultimately, there is a huge level of efficiency to be gained by sharing resources and data.
If you’d like to hear more about how Desana Events can help you better leverage your real estate portfolio and support team connection then book a demo directly with our team here.