Mirvac and WORKTECH Academy whitepaper explores AI’s potential to create the workplace of the future

Mirvac and WORKTECH Academy whitepaper explores AI’s potential to create the workplace of the future

Against a backdrop of the widening gap between employee use of generative AI (more than 50 per cent) and large Australian companies reported official use (under ten per cent), Mirvac and WORKTECH Academy have launched a discussion paper on AI’s potential to have a transformative effect on the workplace of the future – from sustainability to workplace culture.

The paper, The AI Powered Workplace, explores barriers to adoption, opportunities and future possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the workplace, and identifies three key areas in which AI is poised to transform it – design, management and experience. In each of these areas, embracing AI tools will have a meaningful impact on how workplace teams can operate and best prepare for the future of work.

Mirvac’s Chief Asset Management Officer, Victoria Tavendale said currently designers and tenants lack data-driven insights to shape the design of office spaces.

“AI’s data collection and integration capabilities can give us a much greater depth of knowledge around how spaces are used, to develop a more informed view of office space enabling us to deliver tailored and adaptable design solutions for our customers, as well as future recommendations on elements such as sustainability and employee experience,” she said.

“This process will deliver greater efficiency and long-term value for both landlord and tenant.”

Arjun Kaicker, Co-Head of Zaha Hadid Analytics + Insights (ZHAI) at Zaha Hadid Architects in London UK, describes this process as heralding the age of ‘the self-learning workplace’ in which AI can be utilised to analyse the needs of a building’s users in real-time and come up with different spatial configurations for the space.

“AI can generate and assess thousands of potential floorplates and space plans and apply criteria to determine which would be the most efficient and effective for an individual company’s needs.

“This means that designs can be better tailored to a company’s individual needs and architects can produce more innovative and social office space options that boost productivity and teamwork, when time and budget constraints might usually dictate a much smaller range of possible options at the design stage,” he said.

Mirvac’s Adaptive Workplace project is a case in point – created in 2022 as an experiment, the Adaptive Workplace was a highly flexible, dynamic work environment embedded with a kit of parts and design components. Usage was measured by multiple data and employee engagement points. Teams from across Mirvac’s different business units rotated through the space every four to six weeks, and the layout was continuously adapted according to feedback and insights throughout the pilot period. Mirvac tracked how the space was used, how teams collaborate and how leaders manage their teams in this environment, having the ability to adapt throughout the experiment.

“What we found were some interesting differences between what was hypothesised on workplace design usage and requirements, versus what employee behaviour demonstrated was or wasn’t used or needed,” said Ms Tavendale.

There are also significant sustainability advantages to be gained from AI as these tools allow companies to better allocate resources and be more responsive. This will allow organisations to operate more efficiently (such as potentially reducing carbon output) without compromising on employee experience.

“At Mirvac we recognise the importance of building and workplace data, how it can be utilised, how it is shared, and how it will be key to unlocking the power of AI to enhance and evolve the property sector,” said Ms Tavendale. 

At each of Mirvac’s smart buildings, such as Heritage Lanes in Brisbane, Olderfleet in Melbourne and South Eveleigh in Sydney, the building systems are connected to a high capacity, fibre optic network and an integrated building platform. This integrates data from all the separate systems such as access control, energy management, CCTV, lighting and space utilisation.

This allows the transformation of data into actionable business intelligence to identify opportunities to optimise building operations, enhance efficiency and sustainability reporting. It is also designed to securely share data with tenants.

“Mirvac’s broad intelligent infrastructure objective is to evolve from a smart asset to a connected portfolio, collecting data from an integrated network of smart and connected buildings, with the purpose to unlock value across the portfolio with data-driven insights across assets and informed decision making, enabling strategic asset management to drive greater performance. We are early adopters of emerging technologies and designing in solutions to futureproof our assets,” said Ms Tavendale.

In terms of workplace experience, Mirvac’s Manager of Strategy and Customer, Elly Dalziel suggests that creating a frictionless connection to AI for employees will be key to improving workplace experience.

“Employees will want to walk in the door and have an instant tech connection that creates a productive experience by making recommendations on the best room to use for virtual and in-person meetings, and suggesting where they should sit given the capacity of the workplace.

“The next step is using AI to pre-empt behaviour, such as pre booking your wellness class based on a gap in your calendar, ordering your coffee and booking your end-of-trip facilities locker before you even jump on your bicycle. This would create immense efficiencies, a heightened workplace experience and ultimately help drive office attendance,” said Ms Dalziel.

As detailed within the whitepaper, and according to McKinsey’s ‘The State of AI in 2023’ report, a lack of preparedness may be impacting companies’ abilities to harness the possibilities of AI, with only 21 per cent of respondents reporting that they have policies in place to govern employees’ use of generative AI technologies within their work.

Ms Tavendale suggests practical steps companies can take to prepare themselves for the AI revolution:

  • Re-evaluate your space and success metrics. The focus of metrics should be on the experience and level of employee engagement with the spaces (e.g. using sensors) rather than desk or meeting room utilisation.
  • Start having conversations around data sharing. Companies can drive greater value from their space when both the tenant and landlord are able to share insights.
  • Establish what datasets you have and where you can create value. The true advantage of AI in building management is in the ability to integrate multiple datasets, so companies need to establish what data they have and where it is comes from to be able to understand where they can gain advantage from these new tools.
  • Educate leaders. It is critical that senior managers have a certain level of digital maturity to make informed decisions on company policies around technology and data to drive better decisions. Companies should evaluate their level of in-house knowledge and start educating their senior leadership to achieve this.
  • Empower staff to engage with technology and understand the benefits. To get the full advantage of AI, everyone needs to be on board so robust change management practices are needed to ensure that no-one is left behind.
  • Embed flexibility into design. Companies should look to embed flexibility early when considering workplace design and strategy. Instead of designing with a one-size-fits-all approach, consider designing in a kit-of-parts that can respond to suit the changing needs of the business, teams, technologies and environment, to enable adaptation when AI matures.