Reopening Workspaces: What to Expect

PRIME Philippines Research & Advisory Group May 26, 2020

The implementation of lockdown in the country to combat the pandemic has called for a restriction of activity, and thereby a standstill in real estate ventures and pursuits. Various companies and employers have begun to enforce work-at-home procedures to minimize the risk of employees contracting the virus. 


Despite national initiatives rigorously attempting to combat the virus, coming back to offices, is, for the most part, inevitable. Beginning May 16, several areas in the country have been able to send their labor forces back to work. This marks the beginning of companies recommencing their activities and projects amidst the pandemic. Listed below are the top things people can expect from the office sector once operations return to full swing.


A Bigger Preference for Flexible Workspaces

Because of the high contagion rate of COVID-19, many tenants and employers have begun considering ways to lessen the potential spread of the virus in the professional setting. Establishments that offer the option of operating in a flexible workspace instead of exclusively traditional spaces are expected to benefit should offices return to their operations. Additionally, the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) has implored various companies to evaluate and implement various schemes and arrangements with the nature of providing flexible work arrangements to their respective employees. Among the suggestions given by IBPAP’s CEO, Rey Untal, in a press interview are: compressed workweek, skeletal workforce reporting on-site, and staggered start of shifts.


Telecommuting: A New Normal

The presence of the pandemic has forced non-essential companies to operate on work from home settings in order to lessen the risk of contracting the virus. It is expected that this type of work environment can continue even after the pandemic ends. Economist Susan Athey has commented to the Washington Post that people “will change their habits, and some of these habits will stick. There’s a lot of things where people are just slowly shifting, and this will accelerate that.” Working from home, despite keeping employees safe from the potential of being infected with the virus, possesses both pros and cons. The pros include a reduction in transportation spending, a better chance of maintaining work-life balance, and also a possibility of enhanced productivity. Conversely, the cons include a difficult time keeping track of subordinates. 


Impact of Technology in the Remote Work Setting

In line with telecommuting as a new normal for the working force, it must also not be forgotten that technology is expected to be coupled with working from home. Technology, such as the internet, can be the key line of communication in a company, since everyone is spread out. Because of this growing reliance on digital integration, tenants might even begin looking for office spaces with good fiber optic capabilities. On the other hand, technology can also aid those selling office spaces. Landlords can take advantage of the internet and wifi systems to provide virtual tours of their office spaces to interested parties. 


A Bigger Priority on Health and Wellness

With the level of damage brought about by the pandemic, it comes to no surprise that companies will be allotting greater importance to the health and safety of its labor forces. It is to be expected that things such as regular temperature checks and antibody tests will be regular occurrences in the office setting. In addition to this, public spaces, utilities, and facilities are to be routinely disinfected for a certain number everyday. Behavior like this can be expected even after the pandemic ends. 


Sustained performance of the BPO sector

The performance of the IT-BPO sector has slowly, but surely, continued to remain steady. While the pandemic caused a sort of inconvenience to the real estate sector as a whole, the lockdowns imposed have proven to be small inconveniences to BPO employees. In Metro Manila alone, the BPO sector employs over 900,000 workers. Rey Untal, IBPAP’s CEO, has stated in an interview that those who work in economic zones are allowed to work from home, so as to avoid going out. Despite challenges brought about by the virus, opportunities are still to be expected in the BPO sector’s growth, thanks to potential expansions and recovery sites outside Metro Manila. Additionally, the BPO sector continues to stay afloat thanks to the investments brought about by outsourcing firms from different segments, ranging from healthcare services, animation, information tech, etc. 


Overall, the office sector has been subjected to the negative implications dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though such is the case, the industry refuses to be labelled by anything short of resilient. Its alternative capabilities to accommodate companies and employees, alike, are expected to sustain the sector until things reach a new sense of normalcy.

PRIME Philippines, real estate, office sector, philippine real estate, what to expect from the office sector, flexible workspace, work from home, COVID-19
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