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The New Normal in Commercial Real Estate: Changing the Way We Work

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Colliers International Philippines is one with the nation and the world in Doing What is Right for the people, clients and communities in combating the spread of COVID-19.

When this is over, it will not be business as usual. This pandemic will change the way of life across the board. In commercial real estate, we see significant changes in how this sector will rebound and evolve when this pandemic is over. While we are all busy coping and surviving this challenge, we intend to share our knowledge to accelerate the success of our partners by writing a series of papers about The New Normal in Commercial Real Estate. We need to be ready and preparation starts now.

CHANGING THE WAY WE WORK

From its impact to the global economy to the society, COVID-19 will significantly alter how we work and do business. When the business normality rebounds, companies will look for ways to reconfigure and/or remodel how they do business. Among other things, they may reassess how they utilize and occupy office space, determine whether work-from-home arrangements were effective and, evaluate policies in terms of flexible working hours, and office precautionary measures.  

Remote Work Efficiency

The recent spike in work-from-home arrangements was brought about by the necessity to reduce physical contact and observe social distancing to prevent the advance of COVID-19.  Some companies have invested to put remote working solutions in place and returning to normal office set-up operations immediately after the threats of the virus subside might be impractical for some. Nevertheless, the sudden change in work rhythms has positive implications beyond just virus preventive measures. According to the article, Is It Time to Let Employees Work from Anywhere? by Harvard Business Review, the following are the key benefits to having a remote workforce:

  1. Cost Reduction – Companies will be able to reduce operational and capital expenses such as rent and utility costs, office equipment and others. Moreover, working remotely allows employees to save on travel costs.
  2. Opportunities for Talent – Work from home arrangements can recalibrate recruitment opportunities for a wider talent pool base. Companies will be able to hire geographically diverse groups of people without the need to consider their residence or location.
  3. Scaling Productivity – This is debatable, but according to the research that employees who work remotely are likely to be more productive, hence, more revenue for the company. With a more flexible working environment, employees will also get to enjoy a sense of work-life-balance and, in return, companies may expect higher rates in employee retention.

However, working from home is not for everyone and some businesses will have to return to working in an office environment. Some companies handling proprietary data or sensitive client information, such as in the finance or outsourcing sector, may simply be unable to fully shift operations to remote working.

Evaluating Office Design and Layout

When the threats of the virus subside, higher health standards will be enacted among offices. Occupiers will be prompted to revisit their usage of open space offices and the need for flexible workspace. Most workplace design will ground on how social distancing can be maintained along with space maximization. A delicate balance between safety and cost.

Office space standards and guidelines are also inclined to adapt in the workplace revolution. Occupiers may consider the following in their office space requirements:

(1) lower office space density;

(2) increased technical provisions for indoor air quality, supply, and circulation;

(3) adoption of the LEED and WELL building standards;

Office Policies and Precautionary Measures

Firms which will eventually revert to working in an office environment after the pandemic are mandated to comply with health standards and safety measures for their employees and clients.

 According to the article, What Are Companies’ Legal Obligations Around Coronavirus? by Harvard Business Review, companies will be able to avoid transmission and infection in the workplace by intensifying health policies and communications. Preventive measures should become a part of the office culture such as regular screening of body temperature, access to personal protective equipment (PPE), accessibility to alcohol-based sanitizers, regular disinfection of office supplies, furniture, equipment and common areas (hallway, elevators, comfort rooms). Moreover, social distancing must be kept and observed in common areas such as elevator foyers, lobbies and reception areas, hallways, pantries, restrooms, and other shared spaces.

Colliers View

COVID-19 has become a catalyst in terms of office space use and demand. Whether some businesses decide to continue to adapt work-from-home arrangements or to revert to operating in an office set-up when the threats of the virus subside, Colliers anticipates that the way we work will substantially change either way. Occupiers will have to reassess how they occupy office spaces and landlords will have to adapt to the changing office culture. While companies would want to continue conducting business as usual, we believe that it is important that they find the balance between client and technical requirements and the feasibility of work-from-home arrangements in their operations.

Nonetheless, we urge businesses to figure out ways on how they will be able to deliver their products and services efficiently and effectively without compromising the health and safety of their employees, clients and communities.


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Dom Fredrick Andaya

Senior Director

Office Services

Manila

Dom began his career in Colliers International as a Research Assistant for the Research and Consultancy Division in February 2007.  In that capacity, he was responsible in gathering and organizing of data needed to generate commissioned market reports and quarterly release of The Knowledge, Colliers’ Market Review publication. 

He moved to Tenant Representation – Office Services Department in 2013. As a manager, he was tasked to handle various office space requirements of multinational clients. He was promoted to Associate Director in 2016 leading the Office Services team to hit the revenue target in the midst of leadership
transition. He started heading the Tenant Representation business as the Director in 2017 in charge of ensuring the growth and profitability of this business line. He helped the team stabilize in 2017 amidst market slowdown due to geopolitical concerns that affected the offshoring and outsourcing growth in the country and still achieved 18% profitability.

In 2018, he led the Tenant Representation to exceed the revenue target by 60% and achieve a 48% profit margin.

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