I have written a couple of blogs on the impact COVID may have on the property sector. From the people I have been speaking to and from media reports it does seem that we will experience long term and significant changes to how we work and the impact that will have on property.
I am already aware of two companies who have served notice to quite offices. They will be taking on smaller space but with a different emphasis on use, geared more to collaboration, team meetings or task specific. Meeting with your work colleagues is still very important but maybe with a lower frequency, maybe every other week? Some work streams are less suited to remote working and in my experience negotiations and many legal matters fall into that camp. Face to face negotiating a deal or working through complex legal documents don't work as well with Zoom or Teams.
One other aspect I hadn't thought about was retaining company culture. Although people are key physical buildings certainly add to this and create the required environment. Think on a big scale Apple or Google which have their own style and impressive offices. Not quite as easy to retain the same culture with your PC on the kitchen table.
They have been many reports of signiifcant increases in enquiries rural properties across the UK, mainly at the top end of the market. That of course will only represent a very small percentage of the working population and there will be millions who would love to do the same but don't have the means to do quite so easily. If however there is some equity release in the process of moving to a more affordable area then this trend could add momentum. It is going to be long while before we see public transport running at previous capacities and maybe this plus the saved commuting time which will also be a catalyst for change.
From a personal perspective the clients I work for have moved rapidly and invested the requisite resources to make their workplaces "COVID 19" safe. I work a lot on clients sites and most have been marked out with the 2m spacing, have additonal signage, restricted areas, lots of perspex and where possible things are done electronically. By following Government Guidance, "Staying Alert" plus some good common sense I have been able to undertake all my work quite safely. People where I have been working appear to have readily adapted to revised COVID 19 Work Practices.
In addition to carrying on with day to day work COVID has also brought with it some new opportunities. I am talking to a couple of clients about providing video footage for Planning Committee Meetings. I have also been asked to capture imagery for a meeting. In this case 6 people were due to attend a meeting on site where (1) they all had to travel between 30mins and 2hrs to get there and (2) only a small site office was available. I was able to use a drone the day before to capture, edit and supply video of exactly what the meeting was about. Saved the client a lot of time and cost.
Besides the impact on the property market it will be interesting to learn if companies begin to see improvements in productivity. I have been working from home for over 10 years and long argued that you can achieve so much more without office distractions. Probaly have to wait a while for this to take affect.
One final point. I have heard many many people comment on the improved work/life balance, better health and fitter, less stressed which all is good news. We need more of it.