Real estate has long been a pillar of ambition, where towering structures and expansive landscapes are symbols of human aspiration. Yet, beyond the concrete jungle and within the glass-walled facades, it’s the people who truly shape this sector. Moving away from age-old traditions, real estate is becoming a vibrant ecosystem that is driving more inclusive ways of working and living.
Gone are the days where a single template defines our professional and personal spaces. Today, it’s not just about constructing walls and roofs; it’s about crafting environments that resonate with diverse communities, individual identities and #FlexibleWorking patterns. To be a part of this new world calls for bravery.
Historically, flexibility policies like part-time work, job-sharing, or flexible hours were often framed as ‘women’s issues’, designed to facilitate their roles as primary caregivers. In some cases, this perspective has limited women’s career tracks, while at the same time imposed societal expectations on men that prevented them from embracing family or other personal commitments.
In this ongoing drive for diversity, we’ve ironically found ourselves in a bit of a “them and us” situation, where men have become marginalised. To act as true allies and DE&I supporters, they need to share their stories too, contributing to a more unified and inclusive narrative.
But it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when it contradicts conventional thinking.
To create a more inclusive and equitable world, we need bravery to challenge established norms and redefine our existing ways of working. This means creating a workplace culture where ALL people, regardless of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, social mobility, neurodivergence, family situation, disability — or any other aspect of a person’s identity, feel supported and empowered to achieve their professional and personal goals.
This isn’t about demanding remote working for everyone, but rather advocating for a more balanced and thriving work environment, championing shared parental leave, and endorsing flexible work settings. Flexibility policies have benefits for individuals and organisations: at the individual level, flexibility can help reduce stress, improve work-life integration, and boost productivity; while at the organisational level, embracing flexibility can lead to increased employee engagement, improved retention, and innovation.
By embedding such policies within our workplace culture, we empower all employees to take advantage of these policies without hesitation, which can lead to a more inclusive and productive workforce.
It’s crucial, however, that all leaders communicate the importance of this, sharing its broader societal and organisational benefits, and role model them visibly and vocally.
Yet, bravery doesn’t stop here – it goes beyond policies to conversations, especially those that are more difficult. Fostering a culture of open dialogue helps to create a safe space for everyone to share their stories, ideas, and concerns. To make this cultural shift, senior leaders, especially men, need to be a part of, and lead these discussions.
It’s not just about having policies, such as shared parental leave, in place; it’s about embracing these policies and proactively encouraging employees to utilise them. Instead of waiting for others to initiate these discussions, leaders need to set the tone. In the absence of strong leadership support, employees may hesitate, fearing that their requests or concerns won’t receive approval. This, in turn, can perpetuate long-standing gender stereotypes that have historically discouraged men from taking on caregiving roles.
Reimagining our spaces
Our evolving lifestyles and professional demands are prompting a look at our physical environments – often through an ESG lens—particularly focusing on social value. Every structure, from residential to commercial, needs to be designed to meet the needs of its inhabitants. This approach requires more than just visionary planning; it demands the bravery to drive collaboration and to innovate with purpose. Key considerations in this transformation include:
Human-centric design: This means designing buildings around the people who use them rather than the other way around. It’s an approach that considers the physical, emotional, and social needs of its inhabitants, ensuring comfort, functionality, and a sense of belonging.
Sustainable foundations: Sustainability is more than a guiding principle; it’s a necessary framework for our future. This involves the sensible use of building materials that not only mitigate climate impact but also stand the test of time. In doing so, we create a harmonious balance between ecological responsibility and long-term viability, that not only benefits current occupants but also leaves a legacy for future generations.
Flexible spaces: Modular designs, multi-purpose areas, and easily reconfigurable settings are more sought after in our new ways of working. It means that structures can evolve alongside the changing needs of their users, ensuring longevity and relevance.
Leading with inclusivity: An inclusive design ensures that everyone, regardless of their physical abilities, age, or other factors, can access and utilise a space to its fullest. This goes beyond just ramps and elevators; it’s about creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and included.
Fostering collaboration: Open layouts, communal spaces, and interactive zones act as catalysts for spontaneous interactions and collaborative ventures. Such designs break down silos, encouraging a mingling of ideas and fostering a spirit of collective innovation.
Tech-infused spaces: Embracing technological advancements can enhance user experience. Smart buildings, equipped with the latest tech, can offer personalised experiences, energy efficiency, and seamless operations, setting the stage for innovation and progress.
Leadership in a brave new world
As physical spaces evolve to become more human-centric, inclusive, and sustainable, so must our leadership styles and requirements adapt. Leaders must now embrace bravery to guide their teams with vision and empathy. This call for brave leadership extends beyond mere decision-making; it’s about fostering an environment where innovation, inclusivity, and empathy are the norm.
As we redefine our cultures and spaces, let’s all aspire to be a bit braver to drive change that resonates for generations to come.