Saira Akbar is the Founder and CEO of Frank Plowman Real Estate Broker LLC, a Dubai-based company that provides representation in every real estate transaction and is run by a globally talented group of professionals. This interview covers her takes on the office market in Dubai and UAE, tenants expectations, technology in real estate, ESG and more.

When it comes to the future of the office market and important trends we should pay attention to, Saira starts by emphasising that Dubai is at the forefront of business offerings in the region, through tech trends, shared workspaces or other novel concepts.

The traditional office concept has become dated; there are a plethora of gig workers moving to Dubai to enjoy all its offerings. Even large organisations are allowing ample WFH time. So new project offerings need to be in line with these, specifically enticing the end user to come in and be in the office.

The concept of Smart Offices, that are amenable to different type of employees (office tenants), is slowly coming around. But most importantly, there are two unqiue concepts which are shaping Dubai’s workforce:

  1. Public spaces like hotels or building lobbies now have large work tables, spaces and wifi for anyone to work from. So you could be living or working in the same building, but you could go to the lobby area, and work from there too.
  2. The new smart-home concepts are the new way of living, which in variably includes a small office to work from at home.

Her conclusion? The days of large office spaces are gone, there’s no sense in having work areas for hundreds of employees in this new world order.

Looking closely at what tenants want, Saira lists the most important characteristics of an office space:

  • Location, location, location (access to metro, central and access to other key areas)
  • Latest technology, WiFi and ideally smart offices
  • Favorable size
  • Parking ease
  • Flexible lease term if rented
  • Easy payment plans if bought
  • Amenities as a GYM in the building can be a cherry on the cake.

We are in a people’s based business; therefore, Brokers need to put strong effort towards understanding their client’s needs and matching them to the right opportunities.

Talking about technology, the most important innovations that will have a real impact on the office industry and brokers’ activity include, according to Saira: Smart Building Technology, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Blockchain for Lease Agreements, Space Management Software, Sustainability and Green Technology; 5G infrastructure.

AI-driven tools and data analytics may be utilized to provide insights into property performance, space utilization, and market trends. Brokers and property managers may leverage AI to make more data-driven decisions and enhance tenant experiences. – she adds.

When it comes to ESG, Saira stresses how important it is for the industry to be responsible and take real measures to protect the environment:

We need regulators to provide concrete ESG requirements and enforce them. Lots of developers still take short cuts to cut costs and utilize more wasteful approaches to property development.

Finally, we wanted to know how she sees the future of the office industry in MENA, from her role as an experienced real estate professional:

During the first half of 2023, average office lease rates have demonstrated strong performance. However, without real breakthrough innovation, expect it to be a buyer’s market for the foreseeable future. she concluded.