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The modern enterprise: How we’re evolving our real estate strategy for the future of work


Workplace culture has undergone a radical transformation, giving employees more control over their work environment in a flexible, technology-driven approach that replaces the traditional office model. 

As we formalize a more agile way of working, businesses must reimagine their workplaces to create spaces that support this transition to stay current, cost-effective, and more competitive in the talent marketplace.

"We are asking ourselves the challenging questions about the future of work and designing accordingly," says Bruno Suppa, CEO, BDO Canada.

Rob Wayne, Partner Lead, Real Estate Strategy, adds, “The global pandemic brought pervasive change to many aspects of our lives, especially in the way we work. The hybrid model is here to stay, and those firms that align their strategies with this model will continue to thrive now and into the future.”

But how can we do that to best meet the needs and expectations of our people? Is a hybrid model right for our company? What does workplace flexibility look like for our enterprise?

Those are the fundamental questions we sought to answer in a workplace survey we conducted in 2021. Just as the post-COVID era was taking root, our firm conducted a global survey to understand how our employees want to engage with our BDO offices. What we discovered is a desire for flexibility, office spaces that foster collaboration, and health and safety as a priority.

How COVID-19 changed the workplace

The pandemic demonstrated that companies must navigate increased uncertainty while developing adaptable work strategies. This report can be used to develop initiatives tailored to your workplace.

Read more

The insights gained from our workforce report have impacted all parts of our real estate and workplace strategy as we strive to deliver office experiences that enhance relationships, operational efficiency, and company culture while optimizing our real estate and infrastructure investments.

A bold real estate strategy to accommodate today’s flexible work environment

Step into our office to learn about the employee-centric solutions we’ve implemented, how we’re balancing these investments with capital expenditure strategy, and how we’re making “just another day at the office” an awesome experience.

With office-based workers having demonstrated they can be productive working from home (WFH), the primary role of the office is no longer just a place to get work done but a bespoke experience where our people can connect, collaborate, and engage in a way they can’t via videoconferencing.

“Our office design strives to balance the ‘me’ vs. ‘we’ space in the workplace to create an environment that fosters different kinds of interactions and working styles, from independent work and private meetings to team collaboration and group brainstorming sessions,” says Kerri Plexman, Managing Partner, Talent & Culture, BDO Canada.

We’ve transformed our office layouts from being divided by service lines to defined by function—an open flexibility concept that allows each employee to have their own space but still benefit from the energy of being surrounded by coworkers and the ability to collaborate with ease. Our offices are hubs for innovation and collaboration, with specialized collaboration spaces—or “clash zones”—scattered throughout where our people can create together, socialize over lunch or coffee, or host and attend meetings.

Employees are a company's greatest asset. In today's competitive job market, business leaders need to offer the best workplace possible to attract and retain top talent by providing something home offices don’t: an amenity-rich, state-of-the-art, and engaging space that fosters community and collaboration like never before.

At BDO, some of the amenities we offer in our offices include: 

  • An emphasis on natural lighting throughout the entire floor plan. We’ve relocated enclosed offices from the perimeter of the floor to the centre, allowing all employees to benefit from sunlight. 
  • Inviting nooks for employees to hang out with conveniences like drink machines, comfortable seating and furniture, and fresh interior environmental landscaping that enhances air quality. 
  • Outdoor lounge areas or patios where employees can disconnect or have lunch away from their desks.
  • A pilot program with the F45 fitness franchise in our Oakville office encourages employee physical wellness.
Take a virtual tour of our modern BDO office at 360 Oakville Place Dr. to see some of the space initiatives we’ve introduced to support a more engaging and collaborative workplace.

The ability to communicate and collaborate in real time is critical, whether our people are at their desks in the office or working remotely from home. To do this securely and efficiently, an integrated technology infrastructure is key to being able to offer a hybrid work experience for our teams in a cost-effective manner without compromising performance or security. Re-adjusting our real estate footprint means rethinking how our people can be even more productive by using the best technology available to them, when and where they need it.

Our technology planning goes hand in hand with the budgeting of new projects. As a firm, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to serve our clients and people. Our long-term strategy leverages emerging trends in the industry, the latest security features, and innovative solutions.

ESG reporting is becoming a stronger requirement for businesses today, as governments around the world, including Canada, have committed to reaching net zero before 2050. Compliance requires a planned approach and targeted investment. For real estate, a software solution to track utility consumption at an asset level becomes critical, as well as a process for tracking metrics and establishing targets.

This may not top your agenda today, but we know first-hand the amount of work required to become compliant. Once you begin collecting data, you'll likely realize there's no time like the present to start ingraining ESG principles in your long-term real estate and construction (REC) strategy.

At BDO, our goal is to release our first ESG impact report in 2023 to detail our operational impact on both people and planet and the solutions we’ve implemented to mitigate it. The path forward involves identifying risks, enacting secure data standards, and setting trackable goals—and then developing action plans within our broader real estate strategy for reaching those goals.

Capturing employee headcount and estimating future demand for office space in this new agile workplace environment can be challenging. These considerations require comprehensive thought and extensive planning for organizations to identify and meet the levels of operational efficiency that are satisfactory for their goals and budget. 

We’ve dedicated concentrated efforts towards assessing our people’s job roles and activities, defining the workplace locations that support our various functions, and using comprehensive forecasting models that estimate office demand, all while applying flexibility principles to the organization and execution of collaborative design processes.

A live moss wall brings a touch of nature to our Oakville office employee lounge and state-of-the-art kitchen area.


We encourage our people to disconnect from work tasks during their breaks and lunch time. A ping pong table at our Bay office invites employees to refresh, re-engage, and socialize in a fun way.


The café lounge in the Oakville office is built to accessibility standards with wheelchair space under the sink. The area, also designed with sustainability and waste reduction initiatives like a refillable water station, is a space for our people to grab a coffee and mingle.


A moveable wall turns the Oakville employee lounge into a multi-functioning space. The panels, seen tucked into the left side of the room, double as a writeable whiteboard surface and can be closed or opened depending on the function required.


As our Oakville office is not within walking distance of any gyms, BDO partnered with the F45 Training fitness centre to offer our Oakville employees an on-site fitness program as part of our wellness offering.


Balancing cost controls with real estate investment and innovation opportunities

This vision of a hybrid workplace that’s flexible, employee-centric, and able to meet the needs of our company and goals sounds great—but it comes at a high cost. How do we balance managing fiscally responsible capital expenditure and creating a space that will enable this further? 

For our hybrid workspace to work, we’ve established standards and benchmarks—metrics with expected inflation increases that we use to plan long-term. One of our key strategies as a firm is to align our suppliers, from furniture vendors to technology suppliers, to optimize operations, get access to competitive prices, secure effective service level agreements (SLAs), and free up funds to invest in innovation.

“From a real estate planning perspective, our ongoing strategy is focused on finding that sweet spot between serving the right locations, our client needs, and accessibility to our talent. Taking a full inventory of our real estate footprint and aligning that with our needs will be increasingly important moving forward,” says Jameson Bouffard, Partner, National Real Estate & Construction Leader, BDO Canada.

“To reach those goals, we are consistently evaluating our current needs, but also forecasting the future needs of our business, our employees, and our clients.”

Where do we want to be accessible to clients and staff? Which markets are advantageous for us? Which aren’t? These are important questions we considered throughout the development of our long-term real estate strategy. 

“The future of cities is fluid and a versatile real estate strategy should account for that. This means being familiar with the future development plans of cities, knowing where urban development is headed, and trying to stay ahead of that curve by having a plan for the immediate, medium, and long term,” Bouffard adds.

An essential part of our commercial real estate equation is sustainability, from waste reduction and energy efficiency to how (and why) we use our physical space. We’re highly focused on finding ways to incorporate ESG features coming into the market and continually estimating the future demand for office space to ensure our physical footprint remains lean enough for our needs.

3 lessons for transforming your office layout and real estate strategy

When it's time to make a change, the process can be overwhelming. We've learned three valuable lessons in adjusting our real estate footprint that you can apply to your own modernization journey:

Thinking only of short-term needs can create long-term problems. The ends justify the means—if you know where you're headed, it's easier to set realistic goals, define game plans, determine how to measure progress, create a budget, and guide day-to-day operations. A real estate strategy should be a living document that provides the framework for business operations and goals.

Information management systems are the foundation of the business world, helping leaders track ESG performance, improve processes, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Without the right tools at hand, you risk wasting time and money on inefficient systems and processes.

Your business, employee, and client needs will change over time. The ability to adapt is an important trait for any business, no matter how small or large. Be flexible, keep an ear to the ground, and find the right partners who will help you stay ahead of change. Businesses that stay competitive and current are the ones that succeed.

Helping you create agile, adaptive workspaces that encourage innovation

Our goal is to help organizations set and meet workplace transformation objectives that enhance collaboration and connection, optimize their investments in real estate, help attract and retain top talent, and prepare their workplaces for what's on the horizon.

Our coast-to-coast real estate footprint occupies over a million square footage across some 120 locations in large and small markets—that comes with a significant workforce. We’ve found a way to transform our operations in a way that makes sense from Prince George to Toronto. Our ability to manage a diverse footprint and a wide range of industries means we can help business owners anywhere in the country find success, leveraging the lessons we’ve learned in our own transformation experience. 

We have a varied, experienced network of capable consultants and partners who can assess your organization’s individual needs and develop a long-term real estate strategy that propels your business towards the future working world. We can accelerate your transformation with services that help your business and people make the shift, including solutions around workplace modernization, change management, real estate strategy, and sustainability integration and reporting. 

We’re the strategy behind bringing together your physical workspace and business goals, whether it’s securing your modern workplace, developing a financial plan to accomplish specific objectives, or calculating a footprint that meets the needs of your talent and operations. Working with our real estate team can help you reduce the time a workspace transformation can take and scale solutions cost-effectively.

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