Silver Lining for CRE amid COVID-19
A direct result of COVID-19 containment measures is that organizations are having to take a more serious approach towards prolonged off-site work in order to enable employees to continue working productively. Thinking of the future impact of this pandemic on office buildings, it may have dawned on us that many potential long-term trends and current health measures will almost become permanent work-life features in time to come.
- Flexible spaces or flex as we call it, will become more entrenched or form a larger share of the portfolio – Many are citing the mass work from home initiative as a huge experiment, but it is more appropriate to look at it as an inflection point. This is the point where working from home will gain not only more acceptance from employers but also has the potential of becoming much more mainstream, especially for industries and roles where the staff only needs a laptop, internet connection and secure remote access to their documents to do all, if not most of their work.
Will this influence the share of flex in office portfolios in future? Definitely. From here on, companies will become more willing to adopt flexible working and work from home policies, which then holds the potential for positively influencing demand for flex space. Apart from flex working, organizations will also look for smaller and a wider network of multiple locations operating independently of each other.
- Buildings with wellness features will be coveted – Research on direct linkage between buildings and occupants’ health have made both landlords and occupants increasingly aware about having wellness features in offices. Designing places of work that promote better health among employees will gain stronger impetus. Green buildings are better for the planet, but the future will see healthy workplaces that will be good for people too. Features related to indoor air quality, ventilation systems and other indoor environmental factors that will improve employee well-being as well as productivity will become the new norm. Urban planners across Asia are already including green and healthier spaces in built environments to promote physical, mental and emotional well-being of their occupants and this trend will become more popular within the office space as well. As a result, we will see more newly constructed buildings adhering to LEED and WELL certifications.
- Facility management will gain higher importance - Becoming an all-weather team will become second nature to the facilities management professionals. They will learn from a world where we are all prepared to shut down buildings overnight while minimizing business disruptions and ensuring continuity as much as possible. Greater responsibility towards cleanliness and sanitization will make disinfecting a more regular activity at office level, especially for shared amenities like washrooms, cafés, meeting rooms, hot desks etc. Designing and managing facilities to control disease spread will feature as a key responsibility at a strategic level. Decisive and agile decision-making and prompt, thorough and consistent communication would also become key.
- Business Continuity Planning will become strategic priority – Having a centralized, cross-functional response team tasked with ensuring business continuity will become a permanent feature of workplace strategy. Needless to say, a task force that will proactively plan and always be ready to activate business continuity plans during all kinds of incidents and not only mobilized when the emergency hits, will become essential. Their highest priority will be to maintain back up for critical business functions and essential employees, thus ensuring minimal or no impact on the business and their customers.
While many of us are working from home during the pandemic and some of us are longing to go back to the comforts of the known workplace, the world as we know is changing as we speak. Same holds true for our offices – both roles and workplaces will get impacted and the pace of future of work will accelerate.