DiscoverREALtalk - Conversations with Commercial Real Estate LeadersReimagining the Office – with Antony Slumbers
Reimagining the Office – with Antony Slumbers

Reimagining the Office – with Antony Slumbers

Update: 2022-03-08


On this episode of REALtalk, Antony Slumbers joins Michael Brooks, CEO of REALPAC, for a discussion on the relevance of the office, the need to reimagine office spaces, and what owners and operators of real estate need to do to stay relevant.

The episode covers:

  • Understanding “what work is and how work is done”

  • How office owners can make their product useful and relevant

  • Rethinking who the customer is

  • Understanding what customers’ needs are today

  • Considering an office space vs a productive work force

  • Why sustainable buildings matter

About Antony Slumbers:

Antony is a globally recognised speaker, advisor and writer on proptech and space-as-a-service. A serial entrepreneur, he has founded and exited several proptech software companies and now consults real estate boards on their transformation, technology and innovation strategies. He writes an influential blog at and is a prolific Tweeter (@antonyslumbers). In 2020 he co-founded the online training company, the Real Innovation Academy, and teaches the #FutureProofRealEstate course to participants from around the world.

Podcast transcript: 

Michael Brooks (REALPAC): Hello, everyone, thanks for listening and welcome to REALtalk, the show that brings you unique insights from leaders in Canadian and international commercial real estate. I’m Michael Brooks, CEO of REALPAC.

I’m pleased to be joined today by Antony Slumbers. Antony is a UK based, globally recognized speaker advisor and writer on prop tech and space as a service as a serial entrepreneur. He’s founded and exited several prop tech software companies and now consults to real estate boards on their transformation, technology and innovation strategies. He writes an influential blog at and is a prolific tweeter at @antonyslumbers. In 2020 he co-founded the online training company The Real Innovation Academy and teaches the #FutureProofRealEstate course to participants from around the world like me. I’ve taken the course – it’s excellent and will get you challenging your own long held assumptions about our business. Antony, I’ve also seen you speak. I think it was maybe 2018 in MIPIM that you were presenting. I don’t know. It’s a long time ago, but always, always enjoyed your presentations. Always well researched. Always thoughtful. Welcome, Antony.

Antony Slumbers: Thank you, Michael. Thank you for the introduction and I’m glad you like this meeting. It’s I’m very much looking forward to being able to get back to it in in real life.

Michael Brooks (REALPAC): Yes. Well, we all are. So today we’re going to talk about the global office sector and competitive strategy and what new opportunities there might be for differentiation. And obviously, we’re all looking towards and anticipating the subsidence of this pandemic. And given what appears to be a widespread adoption of a hybrid work model for offices, where to office owners go from here in terms of continuing to make their product useful and relevant.

Antony Slumbers: Useful and relevant absolutely are absolutely the key words here. Well, sir, what we have discovered during the last two years. Is something that many people did know, but was not widely accepted, and that is that working remotely by and large works over the last two years, we were we’ve learned what does work and we’ve learned what doesn’t work. And as I say, by and large, most people are pretty comfortable for most of the time where they are and where they’ve been the last couple of years. But there are very clear, gaping holes on what would work better, being back in being back in the office. And I think what we’ve got to really look at is how in what way do we make our offices useful and relevant? How do we make them places that are the best place to go to do X, y z? And I think we’ve got to really, really dig down into this because people are not just going to go back and do exactly what they’ve been doing the last the last year. Certainly people who are sitting at their computer today and typing away on the on their keyboard are not going to commute in and just sit at another desk doing exactly exactly the same. The whole use of an office is going to become much more deliberative and much more purposeful, and it’s incumbent upon the real estate industry to really dig deeply into what it is that makes the office a better place to do something that at the moment, people are doing elsewhere.

Michael Brooks (REALPAC): Let me jump off from that because that’s a fascinating point. And it suggests that office owners need to better understand: what work is and how work is done? And work is what you do, not necessarily where you do it from. Do you agree with that? The owners just can’t say, here’s my building and of course it’s going to fill up because it’s in the great location now. I got to understand more about my tenants.

Antony Slumbers: I think there’s a very fundamental change that has happened and that is historically and this is something the retail industry found out a decade or more ago that historically people needed an office. So we in the industry were selling our products to people who needed it. That is where they had to go in order to do their work. What’s the situation now is that our customers have got to be made to want to come to our space. We don’t have a customer that needs us anymore. We’ve got to make them want us. So we have got to completely upend and rethink and change the way we look at our customer in the sense of we need to know our customer much, much better, but also who our customer is completely changes. So our customer, historically, if you are a developer, was probably frankly the investor. You weren’t that interested in the people, it was the investor. But let’s put that to one side. But even if you were, you thought of the customer as your tenant. That dreadful words. But you know your customer is the company occupying your space. But really, your customer now is every single person who’s coming into your space because if you cannot enable every individual in your space to be as happy, healthy and productive as they are capable of being, they have no need to come to your space, they can go elsewhere. So it’s an upending of the fundamental dynamics of the industry where historically we used to be selling a selling a product. Our business is now in delivering a service. Our business is in creating a space that, as I say, enables people to be happy and productive as they are capable of being. We can’t affect whether our customer is a good company or not or has a good culture. But there are things we can do in terms of real estate to make the space that we put people in as good as it is possible to be. And then that’s as far as we can go. So we need to put people in spaces that are environmentally provide very good environmental conditions and enable them to operate a maximum cognitive function. That’s the best we can do in real estate.

Michael Brooks (REALPAC): The line about happy, healthy and productive is interesting, and certainly they’re not all office owners are going to get this because this isn’t what they’ve always done. They’ve got the change. What do you think of the opportunities for those enlightened office owners to do some brand differentiation by focusing on what you’re talking about, the more space as a service and attracting people back to offices?

Antony Slumbers: I think it’s very important to think about who owns the relationship with the customer and if we start thinking of the as being every employee of the company that signs the signs are lease, who owns the relationship with them, who is responsible for their user experience of the building. And this is something that particularly landlords are going to have to be very careful with because they have to make a decision. Do they want to own that relationship with the individuals who are in their building? Or do they just want to do what they’ve always done? And we are in the real estate building. We let space. I don’t really care what you do with it. That’s my job is to let to let space, let someone else be responsible for the user, the user experience. So what I think you’re going to find is that the value of the operator in space is going to is going to rise dramatically. And that, of course, is going to be going to mean there’s an extra cost to the landlord because the customer wants a great user experience. Somebody has to provide that to them. Now that might be the company does it all themselves, but more likely, the company is going to do it in collaboration with the operator and or the owner of that building.

Antony Slumbers: And the very the very best companies, I think, are going to start to understand their client base in terms of the type of user experience that their clients, their clients require. And that is going to differ by industry. You know, if yo

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Reimagining the Office – with Antony Slumbers

Reimagining the Office – with Antony Slumbers