The reimagined office

As the Covid-19 pandemic pushes firms to run remotely, forcing workers to adopt tech and adapt to virtual collaborations, the conventional function of the office as a physical meeting place for work has been tested. Property consultants dive in on the permanent changes they expect will be here to stay in the industry:

1. The office will have a new function

The office of the future will have a new purpose. Instead of a workplace to report to physically, it will “provide inspiring destinations that strengthen cultural connection, learning, bonding with customers and colleagues, and foster creativity and innovation”, says C&W.

2. Companies will require less office space

JLL believes office space can be cut by 15%, yet still have 10% of structural vacancy. Before the pandemic, the average office utilisation of traditional businesses hovered between 65% and 75%, it says, based on multiple surveys conducted by JLL’s workplace strategy and occupancy planning teams.
It highlights that a reduction of 15% to 30% of office space is anticipated by many of its clients, which is also in reach for the majority of them, without having to implement drastic transformation of work habits or processes. This will happen with productivity kept at similar levels, or higher for many workers, it adds.
EDGEPROP SINGAPORE - Workplace issues which must be considered when businesses resume office operations (Source: JLL)
Workplace issues which must be considered when businesses resume office operations (Source: JLL)

3. Firms will work out of many offices

Rather than just running out of one core location, businesses are likely to have multiple offices. JLL and C&W expect a gradual shift to the “hub and spoke model”, where companies maintain a smaller office front in a more central location, and operate other offices in locations further from the city.
Decentralising office spaces would not only help maintain social distance among employees, it could also help save on costs. “These hubs can be distributed across the city, with good infrastructure and public transport connectivity, and in areas with lower rent pressures,” explains JLL.

4. Certain roles will continue to operate remotely

Depending on the structure of the role, some functions could continue working from home with limited disruption. This extends to functions such as sales, marketing, and project management, says JLL. The impact of such a move would be “negligible”, as these are positions that already work remotely a significant amount of time already, it explains.
Although remote working has been a trend for several years, the key difference now is that most organisations have succeeded in continuing their business remotely, and in some cases, with all of its staff working from home, JLL adds.
C&W expects that moving forward, organisations will embrace more remote working. But this will be adapted to different functions. It has found that salespeople are struggling to operate remotely, as face-to-face interactions are key to fostering rapport. On the other hand, R&D teams struggle to maintain dynamic collaboration and brainstorming, it says.

Operation teams and support functions, meanwhile, appear to have “little downside” in their remote working experience, notes C&W.

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