Comment: Is proptech the solution to ‘saving’ the office?


By Michael Cockburn, Co-founder at Desana


As the world began to shut down in March, proptech and property businesses faced a conundrum. 

How do you sell something that, for now, the government advises your clients not to use?

We help companies to use real estate more efficiently: enabling them to use their own office more flexibly and, in the same app, enabling their people to work from close to home, or wherever they need to be, from a global network of flexible workspaces on demand.

In a world where almost all knowledge-based workers were working from home, all potential contracts were put on pause for us, as was the case with many proptech companies – from smart building tech to residential letting apps.

Instead of chasing revenue, we decided to focus on our longer-term strategy, using this time to develop our product. And as the months progressed, we discovered that companies were more open to our offering than they had ever been before. 

Companies are actually thinking about the reasons why they need office space and are rethinking their real estate strategies to meet those needs, offering an opportunity to proptech companies able to offer innovative solutions.

Our offering was to help smaller companies eliminate fixed-term leases entirely, opting for a blend of working from home and from close to home with Desana 

For larger companies, the last year has also had a profound impact. The global work from home protocol has forced employers (even the most traditional) to realise the benefits of flexible working and the disadvantages of working from home. 

With some employees in every company unable to work from home, Desana provides access to convenient workspaces, while companies reduce real estate costs by over 50%.

All of this is not to say that we are not facing ongoing challenges. It is hard to plan for anything during a pandemic. 

But we feel proptech companies should be positive about the longer-term trends: the last nine months has accelerated the shift to remote work and more flexible real estate strategies, areas where proptech excels.

New reports are making clear that employees need to have offices available on occasion; remote working has benefits but they are emphasised when a balance is reached. Proptech can provide this.

Change that would normally take years has happened overnight. The future is flexible, and it has arrived.