Urban Living Webinar: The Future of Work

Miles Hurley Miles Hurley Uploaded

In the lead up to International Hospitality Media’s Urban Living Festival, SAN editor George Sell hosted the second in a series of webinars on urban living trends.

The discussion focused on the future of work in the aftermath of COVID-19, centring on the ideas of work from home and its widespread adoption, as well as the necessity of work travel. The panel featured:

• Giles Fuchs, CEO and founder of serviced office firm Office Space in Town and Burgh Island Hotel
Carol Neil, global travel manager, Fidelity International
• Jack Sibley, head of innovation and technology strategies at Nuveen Real Estate, the investment management arm of TIAA
• Sean Worker, managing director and principal, T5 Strategies

The panel noted that the future of commuting will depend on company culture, and on individual workers themselves. Many will see the opportunity to work from home a few days a week and choose that, only coming into the office when absolutely necessary.

Jack Sibley said: “Some tenants want to bring in their workforce due to their culture, senior leaders, or type of work they do. Other companies have already made the decision that they won’t come back into the office until 2021.”

These changes in occupancy may change the physical structure of the office itself. The regulation of post-COVID office space may lead to lower-density workplaces, cleaning mandates, and general flexibility as to how workspaces can be constructed and leased.

Sean Worker communicated that any shift in Office structure is a part of a dialogue between government, employee and employer on what can and should be done. Many of these conversations are dominated by psychology, and the elements of fear and practicality in these discussions impact how businesses strategise going forward.

The generational swap was also emphasised, as older workers may feel more inclined to stay at home, with additional space and less commutes, while working from home is less practical for younger people in smaller homes.

Giles Fuchs noted the importance of the social value of the office. He said: “The office is greater than the sum of its parts; in the office we train, we mentor, we meet our partners, we socialise and have culture. I do not believe we’ll give that up full time to work at home.”

The panel noted that the decisions made will be short term, and that the discussion about work post-COVID will rely on our attitudes to COVID shifting. This short-term thinking may lead to uncertainty, particularly with regard to blue collar work, whose demands are different than traditional workers.

Business travel has also been completely affected by the global pandemic, with many borders still closed to non-essential flights. While, similar to office shifts, much of this is difficult to track, the return of business travel is far more dependent on government rules, as it interferes with that demand far more. 

Carol Neil said: “We’re not going to send someone out on a short-term trip with a 14-day quarantine. Until that changes, I’m afraid there’s not going to be a lot of movement.”

This may lead to a shift to longer-term travel, as well as a re-establishment of why travel is essential for business.  

The possible downsizing of central city offices may lead to landlords and developers creating more mixed-use spaces, tapping into a currently running trend. That flexibility may also blend into the way employers think about work- not only offering a standard office but also offering work-from home, co-working, and mixed solutions.  

In the end, the panel all noted they would spend reduced time in office, ranging from full time work from home to only working four office days.  

The panel concluded that the way we work and understand office work is changing, and the global pandemic has revealed a new mode of work that some will continue to use. However, short-term and long-term impacts will be different, and the office, as an idea, has not been made obsolete.

The full recording of the webinar is available in video form here. This week's webinar will focus on investor sentiment in urban living. To register, click the link here


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