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  • "We want more quality per employee"
"We want more quality per employee"

"But in the future, we'll think of spaces differently, and we'll have to apply those differences to services for tenants."
Jens Böhnlein
Global Head of Office Solutions & Design
Mr Böhnlein, you and your team plan to provide consulting services for office solutions, particularly for future tenants. What does that involve?

To put it briefly: We'll be broadening our asset management offering to include significantly expanded planning and consulting services for our potential tenants. This will serve as a signal to the market that we understand the issues that many businesses face. That's also the reason we chose a name that many businesses are already familiar with from consulting firms.

The goal is to form a closer relationship with the tenants early on, in the contract phase, so that we can work together to find the best possible spatial configuration. Having a high number of tenants in many different countries and industries has given us a great wealth of experience in solutions, challenges and trends for offices. We plan to integrate this more thoroughly into our consulting services for new customers. A parallel goal is to derive trends and ideas from other projects and share them within the company so that we can plan and position our products even more precisely. Another important goal is to make international connections between the strengths of CA Immo's individual locations and to achieve Group-wide product positioning.

Thanks to smartphones, laptops and nearly omnipresent Internet access, we're reachable at any time and can work from anywhere. This is much more in line with the drastic changes in our lifestyles. Why do we even need offices?  

A great question! However, the good news is that there will be offices in the future; that we'll need them. It is offices that create an identity, generate creativity and bring people together. That's the only way to have quick, informal communication – an essential factor for guaranteeing knowledge transfer and a decisive one for a business's productivity. Many companies have already understood this and are shaping their work processes accordingly.

But in the future, we'll think of spaces differently, and we'll have to apply those differences to services for tenants. I'm convinced that we'll be a service provider as well in the not-too-distant future and that offices will increasingly become service locations, which will pay off for our customers. Co-working providers have already demonstrated this fact.

Businesses in every industry are currently in the midst of intensively rethinking traditional office concepts. Will this decrease the average space requirement per tenant?  

That's not a simple question, because space requirements will be defined differently in the future. Is the coffee shop on the corner or the co-working area considered proprietary space?

NEO, München - Office view
What is it that makes people want to come to these particular places? The question I would ask is: What level of service and how much space does an employee need? Let's take the individual office as an example. Many companies still operate under the false idea that, for instance, open spaces should be replaced with space-saving measures. This is precisely the wrong approach. It's about "more quality per employee," as well as more communication and inspiration. Knowledge workers require a wide range of work spaces in the course of a day: a place to sit and work, a place for creative exchange, a meeting room, a place to make phone calls and maybe a lounge to let one's mind wander. For this reason, modern office concepts include very tight as well as very spacious areas. However: Without doubt, businesses will need less office space, because these modern concepts include the consideration that there will almost never be a time when all of the employees are in the office at the same time – that a person can only be in one place at one time: either they're at their workstation or in the working lounge.

It seems that the changes brought about by digitalization have been coming too quickly for people to integrate them. A study by Savills even says that printers, analogue whiteboards and land-line telephones are still far from becoming outdated. What does the office of the future look like?  

That study is a very good expression of the fact that we often forget about people in the course of making changes and often run after new things without thinking of the effects it will have on individuals. Many of our behaviours date back to the Stone Age when we were living in caves; the experiences of 100,000 years can't be washed away so quickly. Seriously though: We are much freer in our everyday private lives than we are in the office. Google has all of our data – they know when I get home and they can recognize me online using their algorithms. But data privacy laws prevent us from using that information to our advantage in the office. That brings me back to culture. If we start looking at work as something communal and free ourselves from presumptions of control, then we'll start feeling the effects of many digital processes in our everyday lives. Only when systems and data provide recognisable benefits will we accept them and see them as normal. We still have a long way to go, however.

CA Immo promotes its recent project developments like Cube Berlin and ONE in Frankfurt under the banner of 'New Work'. What's different about these office buildings? 

ONE Frankfurt, Europaviertel - Office view
They are two different products, but they both reflect the concept of putting the needs and challenges of the tenants and their employees at the centre of the project development process. I've always liked CA Immo's "Urban Benchmarks" claim – both of these projects stand for a way of bringing the urban lifestyle into the building and representing innovation. Cube Berlin exhausts the possibilities of what is technically doable, and we plan for it to be a "learning building" through the interlinking of humans and technology. With ONE, this interlinking is even more pronounced due to the various types of usage in the architecture as well as an application for the building that enables a new dimension in the interaction with our tenants. ONE in particular showed us that this kind of rigorous approach is a surprise for many market players. That's even truer since ONE is a high-rise and Frankfurt's high-rises have always had a rather conservative image. In this case we are a bit ahead of our times, building a building that "thinks ahead" to our office tenants' future needs and desires. The CA Immo project developers are doing fantastic work with this building and creating a product that will define a new category of high-rise in three years' time.

CA Immo is not only a project developer; primarily it's a leasing company. How can concepts like this be applied to existing buildings, and how much sense does it make to do so?

"Our business is based on having tenants who are loyal, and the fewer modifications we need to make, the better."
Precisely because we are a leasing company, we need our approach to have a higher degree of differentiation than a "normal" project developer. Our business is based on having tenants who are loyal, and the fewer modifications we need to make, the better. We're currently developing a clear product definition at CA Immo for our project development as well as for our existing buildings. Important aspects in that include the ideas of urban lifestyle in the building, shared lobbies and co-working areas. For us, it's not about shapes and colours, but offerings and services for our tenants. I think it's exciting that we offer different products at many locations, because the markets are indeed different. Software and service products allow us to create a totally new range of services that will help us in the long-term with our existing buildings.  

What kind of response is coming from the market for offerings like that? Are our customers and tenants already engaging with the concept of "New Work"?

I think that it's an extremely relevant concept – you couldn't get any more current. A little while ago I was at the New Work Experience in Berlin – we were the only real estate company there – and there were almost 1,000 people from all kinds of businesses who came to talk about how work, culture and offices can be integrated with one another. Businesses have to deal with this issue if they want to survive. I believe that CA Immo has a good lead on the competition, and we intend to expand it.

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