19 April 2021
The property industry is all a lather with the future of office and how the office market will fare after the events of the last 12 months. As self-serving as this may be, our CBD areas remain the thriving hubs of our cities and I am confident that any long lasting changes to how people work will not result in a decentralised model leaving dark zones in Pitt St, Harbourside or St Georges Terrace. Productivity and the human collective need for collaboration and connection will rise to ensure the CBD survives.

What is of interest to me is why we only focus on the office environment when a significant portion our workforce isn’t located in CBD office towers.

Industrial has been a darling of investors in recent years, with yields showing an attractive margin significantly beyond expectations. Moreover, the growth of online retail, the recent shift to home delivered EVERYTHING (cocktail in a bag anyone?), and the critical importance of cold storage (vaccines!) has meant that industrial has become the darling of COVID. So where is the innovation in workplace experience for our critical industrial workers?

The changing face of Industrial

Gone are the days when it was an all-male, Jackie Ho singlet-wearing, pies and sausage rolls environment. Today’s industrial worker is just as likely to be a 20-something female lab technician with a penchant for cycling and food fermentation, or a craft-beer brewing cat-dad who eats plant-based on weekdays.

Of course, clever Industrial owners like Goodman have long realised the importance of providing a beautiful location for people to work in. Their soaring green arches and beautiful landscaping are well recognised in the industrial market. Others are also looking for opportunities to differentiate. At CBRE we are providing consultation on how industrial landlords can better understand and meet the changing needs of their communities.

Taking perks and amenity beyond office towers into industrial parks

Our Host technology is coming into its own here by connecting workers on industrial sites to perks and amenity, whether onsite or through local businesses – from finding the best avo toast for breakfast, offering a great value car wash and bike repair service onsite for added convenience, even pop up barbers and hair stylists to achieve that Friday night look.

A major focus has been on how to improve the food on offer at various industrial sites - providing mobile options with high quality coffee (of course) and healthy options mixed in with the obligatory pie with sauce. But the recent focus on health and wellbeing doesn’t stop at the Storey Bridge. Workers in industrial sites are as health-conscious as those in CBD offices, and keen to see where their wellbeing amenities are - whether running tracks, onsite yoga classes or meditation sessions. Workers in these asset classes want a piece of the wellness action too!

Sustainability is also a key driver for the worker, the employer and the landlord alike. Those large roof spans have long provided an opportunity for decentralised energy solutions and stormwater capture. An endemic landscaping plan to grow biodiversity, minimise cost and resource use and aesthetically contribute to the world of sheds is a welcome and exciting shift.

Meeting the needs of tomorrow’s industrial workforce, today

The average age of workers in sectors most likely to provide accommodation in industrial assets is on par with the national average of 39 years old*. Coupled with the increase in female participation within these traditionally male-dominated industries over the last two decades^ - it’s time then to ensure we are providing the workplace of the future for this key asset class demographic.

Better end of trip facilities, shuttle buses to assist in public transport access and opportunities to connect with people across industrial parks all have a place to play in “industrial of the future”.

Of course, safety is always key on these assets and ensuring that technology supports and protects a safe work environment is critical. Onsite registration through RFID codes and ensuring people sign out- so owners can be made aware of any concerns or incidents - needs to be seamlessly integrated into industrial assets and technology infrastructure is crucial to delivering a tech-savvy, people-centric work environment.

As we see a shift to last mile distribution, we may yet see the conversion to Singaporean-style high rise industrial assets. That’s conversion that would be interesting to see AND ensure your margarita in a bag arrives cold.