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Workplaces will be forever changed

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Covid-19 will be a “huge gamechanger” in the way office workers operate in the future.

The pandemic is also likely to affect investment in, and the design of, commercial properties.

Experts not only foresee a dampened demand for office space, as a result of remote working, but a big slowdown of retail property “traffic” because for a long time after this crisis many people might avoid crowded spaces, such as malls.

As a result, online retail is likely to get a boost, says FNB’s John Loos. “This virus has forced many companies to change to technology-driven remote working…

“While I’m sure a lot of the office commuting and physical interaction between staff and their clients and/or business partners will return after the crisis, I expect far more remote working and use of technologies, such as video conferencing, post-crisis than pre-crisis.

“In the coming years, therefore, I believe many businesses will require less office space which, in the near term, probably means more pressure on an already over-supplied office property market,” Loos says.

However, many people enjoy an office environment and in cases where physical space is still preferred, David Sedgwick of Horizon Capital feels there will be a scaling down in size into environments offering shopping and social facilities nearby, such as mixed-use precincts. Covid-19 will also give rise to big thought changes regarding the design of properties, and this will come “fairly soon” in the residential property sector, Loos believes.

“We are all spending large amounts of time holed up in our residences and I’m sure the result for many of us is that we are all thinking about the flaws in the design of our homes.”

Gardens, for instance, could be better used for recreation and exercise, and for growing food. “For those in high-density apartments, how could they have been better designed to create the impression of space and reduce the claustrophobic feeling that must be creeping into many minds?

“Over the years, that old-fashioned ‘study’ – a room where breadwinners could often hide away undistracted and work while kids entertained themselves in the rest of the house – has been less and less a feature of new homes being built. “But, with a remote working surge expected, perhaps that quiet workspace needs to return? And if so, how can I soundproof it?”

Loos says the affluent might shun cramped upmarket clusters in favour of homes with garden space in more remote areas or have renewed appreciation of gardens.

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