Gurugram, 01 July 2020 – The pandemic has altered the way occupiers and developers had conceived workplaces as the current times warrant increased emphasis on employee wellness initiatives while companies strive to keep business operations afloat. Colliers International conducted a survey of occupiers to understand real estate strategies and measures that they are undertaking to survive these exceptional times. Colliers solicited responses from over 70 occupiers operating in the technology, financial services, professional services, engineering & manufacturing, flexible workspaces and healthcare and pharmaceuticals sectors.
Temporary reversal of workplace design
The current pandemic warrants an increased thrust on health and wellness leading landlords and asset managers to consider several options that help contain the spread of COVID-19. They are now considering de-densification of workplaces, better building ventilation and cleaning, voice or motion activated doors and elevators to reduce the number of points of contact, and anonymous reporting of sickness to help keep occupiers safe and healthy while slowing the spread of germs.
"De-densification of workplace is the key to unlock benefits in the post COVID era. It helps occupiers to maintain social distancing, enhance the office space wellness criteria, and reduce infrastructure woes of a city. The success of "work from home" model in the IT/ITES sector allows occupiers this flexibility today”, said Arnab Ghosh, National Director, Fitout at Colliers India.
Display of openness by occupiers towards remote working
Based on our survey, almost half of occupiers suggested that only up to 30% of their workforce will return to the office in a phased manner over the next two to three months. Further, 38% of occupiers mentioned that they plan to continue with their remote working plan (or Work from Home) for select workforce at least for the next six to eight months. Occupiers are likely to consider remote working policies to the extent possible while still accepting some degree of risk as they begin re-populating their offices, as minimizing physical interaction is the most effective measure to combat COVID-19.
Occupiers are evaluating their core business functions that require employees to be present at offices, so that they can effectively implement strategies involving rotational shifts and flexible working hours. Our survey indicates that about 46% of occupiers plan to resume their business operations with a combination of policies such as flexible work hours and rotational shifts.
Occupiers evaluating de-densification of workplaces by up to 20%
To prioritize employee health and wellness, occupiers are revisiting their density plans in existing offices and evaluating options to adhere to the new norm. They are considering several measures including doing away with hot-desking, repurposing meeting rooms and common meeting places and accelerating adoption of technological tools that enable them to achieve their objective. We understand from our survey that most occupiers are evaluating lowering workplace density by up to 20% compared to pre-COVID situation.
58% of occupiers showed an inclination towards making immediate physical changes to office seating plans when employees return to the office. Further, it may take up to three quarters for occupiers to find their most efficient strategy while reviewing existing office layouts for reconfiguration.
‘The unannounced Covid19 crisis and more so the uncertainties around the recovery, in a way has been a blessing to many Organisations who have been wanting to bring down their real estate spends by encouraging employees to work from home. Capitalising on this situation, the CXO’s will soon figure out how technology can be induced in their business to ensure team collaboration and productivity, while optimising on real estate spends”, said Rajesh Shetty, Managing Director, Real Estate Management Services, Colliers India.
Expansion plans amidst social distancing norms likely to sustain office leasing
Until the pandemic subsides, we believe the de-densification of workplaces to maintain social distancing will push occupiers to scout for more space. Based on our survey, 25% of occupiers stated that they plan to expand their footprint over the next six to eight months. It is noteworthy that almost half of these occupiers intend to expand their CRE portfolio by up to 20%, reflecting positive occupier sentiment in the market. Amongst occupiers planning to expand their CRE portfolio in the next 6-8 months, 40% intend to lease new office space, another 5% intend to lease flexible workspace while 12% plan to incorporate a flex and core model.
We believe occupiers’ expansion strategies coupled with social distancing norms stressing de-densification will lead to increased office absorption over the next six to eight months. This should offset the decline in demand for office space likely to occur due to the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19. We expect occupiers to offer flexibility to employees; however, office absorption will likely be robust and the sector should start showing signs of recovery in H1 2021.
Considering the importance of employees’ health and wellness, we see occupiers making considerable investments that should also boost morale, leading to higher productivity. We understand from our survey that occupiers are taking an extra step to achieve the objective of securing employees’ wellness, in addition to following the mandates issued by the central or respective state government.
“The pandemic has altered the way occupiers and developers had conceived workplaces as the current times warrant increased emphasis on employee wellness initiatives while companies strive to keep business operations afloat. As occupiers begin implementing strategies with the objective of minimizing physical interaction, Colliers expects de-densification coupled with their expansion plans to augur well for the leasing activity leading the sector to show signs of recovery by 2021”, says Megha Maan, Senior Associate Director, Research at Colliers international.
About Colliers International Group Inc.:
Colliers International (NASDAQ, TSX: CIGI) is a leading real estate professional services and investment management company. With operations in 68 countries, our more than 15,000 enterprising professionals work collaboratively to provide expert advice and services to maximize the value of property for real estate occupiers, owners and investors. For more than 25 years, our experienced leadership, owning approximately 40% of our equity, has delivered compound annual investment returns of almost 20% for shareholders. In 2019, corporate revenues were more than $3.0 billion ($3.5 billion including affiliates), with $33 billion of assets under management in our investment management segment.
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