A Changing Workplace: Highlights from the Commercial Real Estate Women Network Convention

Posted on 11.05.14

Author: Elizabeth K. Lewis, CPA, Business Assurance & Advisory Services Supervisor | Real Estate & Construction Industry Team

I recently attended the annual convention for Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network in Miami Beach, where a group of 1,200 dynamic, motivated, and (mostly) female professionals gathered to share and learn industry insights.  Speakers included Katty Kay, Ken Rosen, Steve Forbes, and Hillary Clinton, and their messages were motivational for men and women alike.

Here I have highlighted some key takeaways from two of the sessions that I found particularly interesting.

Collaborative Workspaces

Developing productive workspaces is a challenge for employers who lease office space and the property managers alike.   As employees demand more modern amenities, and the structure of office work evolves, the question is not only how our office buildings should change, but also, whose expense is this to bear? This session addressed the changing landscape and identified important considerations for optimizing office space.

›   There are four distinct work settings: Focus (independent work), Collaborative, Social, and Teaching. To manage expectations and gain buy-in from the end users, it is imperative to start a design project with the question “how do you work?” The results will vary not only by industry, but more importantly by the unique culture and expectation set by the employer.

›   In the October 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review, titled “Why We Hate Our Offices,” three articles highlight important characteristics of the workplace, each with contradictory suggestions. This reinforces the importance of choice by the end user – not only during the design phase, but also by offering flexibility and alternatives for daily work. Can a lunch room double as a work space during off-meal hours? Can floor-to- ceiling sliding doors allow an office to be both isolated and accessible within the same day?

›   Study not only “how they work now” but also “how will they work in the future?”. Identify opportunities for seamless change. Can a room used as a huddle room in years 1-5 easily transition to a focus room or office in the future?

›   Be cognizant of cost shifts. In traditional spaces where offices and cubes line the walls, the landlord typically bears the cost of running and maintaining electrical wiring. As bullpens and open workspaces become more prevalent, desks with built-in power supply and other permanent fixtures may be required. Landlords should be prepared to consider offering additional tenant improvement concessions at lease negotiation for modern lessee needs.

›   In purchasing or constructing office space to be leased, consider the current bones of the building and the furnishings. Who are the target tenants, and what type of improvements will need to be made? Are there components of the building that could be reasonably segregated to maximize depreciation and tax deductions? A cost segregation study on construction and/or acquisition costs can maximize tax savings and increase cash flow to finance improvements.

Women in the Workplace

In Katty Kay’s new book, The Confidence Code, she defines confidence as “what turns thoughts to action.” In the professional workplace, her studies find that women typically will not apply for a job or volunteer for a task until they feel 100% confident in their ability; conversely, men will typically take on the same tasks when they feel only 60% confident in their competence. She describes the process of ruminating – thinking carefully and at length about something – and suggests the following advice for professional women:

›   Confidence is built through experiences – both successes and failures. Brainstorm “negative alternative thoughts”; instead of assuming the worst outcome of action, identify 3 positive alternatives and focus on those. Use this process to think less and act more.

›   Be authentic – it is impossible to feel confident when pretending. Be yourself and be consistent.

›   Shift your thinking from “me” to “we” – women’s brains are wired to be motivated by collaboration, and confidence can be gained by focusing on the benefits to your team, colleagues, friends, and employer.

For assistance in determining the accounting and tax considerations of building improvements and TI credits, or for more information about a cost segregation study, contact your Keiter professional.

The information contained within this article is provided for informational purposes only and is current as of the date published. Online readers are advised not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional accountant, as this article is not a substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional accountant.

Posted by: Elizabeth Lewis, CPA

​Elizabeth is part of the Business Assurance & Advisory Services group at Keiter. Her client base consists primarily of private equity and real estate funds and also includes contractors and not-for-profits. Elizabeth specializes in auditing non-registered investment funds and possesses a comprehensive understanding of fund accounting and auditing services. She is also a member of the Firm’s Real Estate and Construction team.

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