Four steps to reimagine work and workplaces and implications for Real Estate practice

Before the pandemic, the conventional wisdom had been that offices were critical to productivity, culture, and winning the war for talent. Companies competed intensely for prime office space in major urban centres around the world, and many focused on solutions that were seen to promote collaboration. Densification, open-office designs, hoteling, co-working and co-living were the battle cries.

But estimates suggest that early this May, 68 percent of employed Indians worked at home during the crisis, compared with about 15 percent last year. During the short duration of the pandemic, many people have been surprised by how quickly and effectively technologies for videoconferencing and other forms of digital collaboration were adopted. For many, the results have been better than imagined.

According to surveys in India and around the world, over 60 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home and felt that they were being productive. Working at the traditional office will required all concerned to adopt and apply Pandemic precautions

Our - previous blog Five rules to live by during a pandemic and implications for Real Estate practice has referred to the implications in the Built Environment, namely: many companies will require employees to wear masks at all times, redesign spaces to ensure physical distancing and apply restrict movement in congested areas (for instance, elevator banks and eating areas).

As a result, and even after the re-openings, we expect that attitudes toward offices will probably continue to evolve.

In our view there are four steps implicit in real estate practice that will have an impact:

  • Reconstruct how work is done
    • More video conferencing, zoom, teams etc
    • Less reliance on the traditional built environment
    • Aggressive post-COVID-19 re-engagement measures
    • Applied KPI's and work-performance measures being applied
    • Harsher factory and manufacturing controls
    • Stricter mall engagements
    • Less local travel will be taken and dramatically less international travel will be enjoyed
  • Review: "people to work" OR "work to people"
    • Categorise the traditional work environment into:
      • Fully remote work spaces, fully WFH-compliant
      • Hybrid remote, requiring a shorter built-environment visitation
      • Back at the office, for a reduced exposure
      • On-site, where remote working cannot apply
    • Consider upskilling and training to ensure production and productivity
    • Introduce metrics for performance and output
    • Review staff for travel, HO-visits eligibility
    • Maintain the Pandemic precautions at all times, "where-ever you are"
  • Redesign the workplace, for business optimisation
    • Social distancing forces a reduction in the intensity of business, where the built environment, designed to accommodate a large number of people, is now to be used sans 50% of the people, in the least!
    • We are moving "touchless" . . bathrooms, elevators, doors
    • Sanitisation systems are in place and are working
    • Most importantly, consumers of the Built Environment need to be made aware of the changes and should adopt to these new practices
  • Resize the workspace
    • CRE implications and harsh implications ahead for landlords as some tenants downsize
    • Opportunities arise to re-purpose inevitable vacancies
    • Businesses to consider 'hot-desking' and related practices
    • There will be savings inuring to businesses as they downsize – rental, staff reductions, utility savings
    • There will be re-purposing opportunities to landlords, redesigning spaces to accommodate a different type of tenant, benefiting rentals and property values

Canny real estate developers and investors will apply these learnings, locking in this much needed re-purposing strategies.

About the Author

Jonathan Yach, MRICS

Jonathan Yach, MRICS

Jonathan is a 35 year real estate services and management veteran, with hand-on management experience in the complex markets of South /East African and India

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