The Future of Offices – Moving Beyond Business as Usual

Disrupted by a fast-moving and unseen adversary, governments around the world have been forced to implement unimaginable measures. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a massive worldwide "work from home" forced experiment and thrown up the question on relevance of the workplace, offices and REITs.

While there is no shortage of reports and comments calling for the end of the office as we know it, our research suggests that offices are here to stay - it is more likely that the workplace will readapt to be an ecosystem serving a variety of needs of its workers.

We summarised our assessment and views into the following 4 key trends.

Key Finding 1
Accelerated technology adoption and digital transformation trends will increase the proportion of the remote workforce

  • Organisations to increase budgets and bring forward digital transformation and automation implementation
  • Proportion of remote workers, telecommuting and freelancers will increase supported by digital adoption
  • There is a ceiling to the proportion of the workforce that can work remotely
  • People want the benefit to choose when to work remotely and when to come to the office - they don't want a permanent work-from-home arrangement

Key Finding 2
The office is essential to bring together customers and colleagues in facilitating human interaction in ways that technology cannot provide – communication, connection, collaboration, creativity, chemistry and culture

  • Humans are innately social beings and the top reasons for wanting to come to the office is to be with other
  • people
  • The office serves as an embodiment of corporate culture
  • The office is simultaneously a place for interactive collaboration and quiet concentration
  • Having an office is critical for attracting and retaining talent
    The office is necessary for certain sensitive job functions to manage risk such as those relating to cybersecurity, confidentiality, execution, staff treatment and productivity

Key Finding 3
Demand and supply forces simultaneously at play with tightening office supply and densification trend reversal offsetting reduced demand from remote work

  • Social distancing, segregation and dedicated spaces will increase the office area per employee
  • Banks tighten their lending and developers reluctant to construct new office spaces due to uncertainty in demand, thus restricting supply in the medium and long term
  • Different trade sectors impacted differently - for example, technology companies benefited while the travel and hospitality sectors are more severely hurt. This results in expansion in office space demand in some sectors and contraction in others, thus rebalancing the supply and demand
  • Offices in regions where remote work adoption is high are likely to see a larger reduction in office space demand

Key Finding 4
Demand and supply forces simultaneously at play with tightening office supply and densification trend reversal offsetting reduced demand from remote work

  • Increased focus on systems to improve employee health such as natural ventilation and light, improved water filtration systems and UV light disinfectant
  • Increased adoption of contactless technologies such as facial recognition biometric locks, motion-activated doors, and sensor-activated dispensing equipment
  • Modified office layouts to increase common walkway space, increased staff segregation, enforced directional movements, increased use of natural barriers such as indoor plants and permanent markings indicating safe distancing
  • More stringent hygiene practices such as temperature checks, contactless sanitiser dispensers, and more frequent disinfection of high contact surfaces

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