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94 years later, what does work look like?

Prop Tech

In 1930 or so, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that in the not-too-distant future, we’d be working 15-hour weeks. The idea was that, as national wealth grew and efficiencies in how we worked developed, we would choose leisurely pursuits to while away the hours.

The ‘not-too-distant future’ is, of course, all relative. But it’s fair to say that, at time of writing and on the balance of probability, you – dear reader – and I are not working 15-hour weeks. But 94 years, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that long.

Is that likely to change any time soon? Probably not. But what is happening is an altogether more subtle shift that could suggest that, in another 94 years from when Keynes made his prediction, the world of work would be as unrecognisable to us as our current habits are to him.

Take three of the themes that’ll be among the most-discussed among delegates at CREtech London, Europe’s leading event for innovators in the built environment and technology firms, next week.

Firstly, artificial intelligence. Are the robots going to take all our jobs? No. In fact, I’m quietly confident that AI will give me as a strategic communications professional quite a bit more to do (that 15-hour week is getting further and further from sight).

Over the next few years, organisations are either going to embrace artificial intelligence – and to do so requires extensively employee engagement programmes to ensure they embrace it correctly in a way that doesn’t just create hundreds more problems, inefficiencies or full-blown crises – or they won’t. And inaction brings its own actions.

For businesses and organisations in the built environment, the bulk of the clients I advise, there are transformative opportunities. Everything from researching and pulling together valuation and sales reports, through to what could be the single biggest shift in capital markets: AI-drafted contracts that reduce a legal process from months and years to hours or minutes. That could single-handedly reshape how individual property assets and portfolios are transacted. This in turn means not necessarily that jobs will be lost, but instead that they’ll be shifted into areas like asset management, social impact, and customer experience. Areas that will focus on strategic thinking and creating positive experiences.

Which ties in neatly to the second theme: the increasing focus on customer experience in the world of real estate. This spans sectors, but it’s particularly true in office real estate. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve seen big news of investments into hospitality-led office real estate: from proptech firm Yardi’s agreement to become a majority owner of WeWork to GPE’s plans to organically grow its Flex offering to more than 600,000 sq ft in London.

Thirdly, and it always comes back here eventually, is climate. The climate crisis is, in many ways, the biggest individual influencers on the future of real estate and how we work. From the insurability of property in areas that will face extreme change, from rising sea levels to intense heat, and the transactability (particularly among institutional investors) of real estate in a market in which stakeholders have sky-high ESG requirements, to the commute to and experience of the office, all parties in the built environment value chain are reconsidering what work looks like. That may, in part, be why your shiny new office has what is essentially a garden on the 11th floor.

Are we working 15-hour weeks? No. Are we going to tomorrow? No. But actually we’re at a moment in which – if change is managed correctly – work will increasingly become more people and planet-focused.

Not quite leisure, admittedly. But not bad. It will at least make the next 94 years, given the inevitable indefinite extension of the retirement age, much more pleasant.

SEC Newgate is proud to be the official media relations partner to CREtech London for the fourth year in a row. If you’re attending and would like either to meet journalists in attendance or to talk with us about how we can support you tell your property, technology, or climate organisation’s story, get in touch on