Locale explores the impact of the current pandemic for Commercial Property – a five part series that examines the virtual space vs. the physical space, and how the sector must evolve and adapt in a Post-Corona marketplace.
2020 could see the beginning of preferred working patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen millions of people across the globe take on remote working – many for the first time. The idea of working from home is nothing new, with the Office of National Statistics predicting back in 2017 that 50% of the workforce would be working from home by 2020 – a prediction ominously accurate to the current situation.
There are pros and cons to working in the home environment, and with a plethora of technology – it is easy to do. But what will the long-term impact be? And what will this mean for Commercial Property and general working life post-Corona?
What about human connection?
Pre-Corona, many players within Commercial Property understood the need for a strong connected community, and have begun to adopt property management technology in their buildings in an effort to offer an enhanced customer experience for tenants. Now that working from home is becoming the ‘new normal’ employers and property managers have had their hands forced, with many seeing the immediate need for technology. Not only to keep businesses operating but from a Commercial Property point of view – to remain competitive. No one can predict what the future of the physical office space will be post-Corona, but there can be little doubt that long-term impacts will be felt. Commercial space providers will need to offer above and beyond the norm to persuade businesses back into the physical space (especially when many have seen business continue as usual without it.)
However, one of the biggest cons to working from home must be a lack of human connection. For a world that is increasingly digital, we still crave the authentic human experience. However all the social apps in the world could never replicate the same relationships that are built face-to-face. Could this be the niche for commercial space? It seems that post-Corona managing agents will need to capitalise on this need in order to entice companies back into the physical space.
Is technology enough to sustain a virtual office?
There is certainly no shortage of communication tools to choose from. Pre-Corona, forward-thinking businesses had already adopted and fully implemented alternative communication channels – from Zoom & Microsoft Teams to Google Hangouts and Slack. Without the normal interaction that typically happens in an office, ‘Can we catch up for 5 minutes’ or ‘Want to grab a coffee?’ – providing communication technology to compensate for this is essential. This is evident from the recent surge in uptake, with providers like Zoom seeing a jump from 10 million daily users to more than 200 million since lockdown.
With more and more companies operating smoothly and efficiently with the aid of digital communication tools we may be looking at a turning point for the more traditional office set up. Post-Corona this may see a change in demand for Commercial Property, with more businesses going remote and saving costs. To maintain the demand for a physical space, commercial property providers will need to enhance their proposition to entice back businesses who may no longer see the need for physical space. This may be through providing services and experiences to provide or through the implementation of property management technology to deliver a more efficient, connected workplace.
Will the virtual office become the new normal post-Corona?
We already live in a virtual era, the Coronavirus pandemic has simply amplified the speed of change when it comes to the virtual office. Businesses and professionals are seeing that they can achieve the levels of efficiency and productivity from their workforce without the need for a physical space.
Now that we have experienced a prolonged taste of the remote working life, employees may challenge what companies now offer as part of their role and work experience. If one of the main downfalls of working remotely is a lack of human interaction then the commercial space needs to adapt to offer an enhanced customer experience and social interaction for tenants. Some may see this as an opportunity to provide a superior working space, one that provides social interactions, services, activities as well as the tools to operate from within both the physical and virtual space.
Once thing is certain, Commercial Property must evolve if they are to survive – by providing a superior experience within the physical space as well as the infrastructure and technology to enable virtual working and connectivity.