Fewer people in larger spaces post-Covid-19

22-Sep-2020 Intellasia | The Saigon Times | 6:02 AM Print This Post

In an interview with The Saigon Times, Alex Crane, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield Vietnam, discussed the future changes of the office building sector. Excerpts:

The Saigon Times: Any changes your firm has made since we entered a new normal?

Alex Crane: In Vietnam, the lockdown period and severity in comparison to other parts of the world were very minimal. So, what we experienced through from March until May this year was more of a pause. We didn’t see money withdrawing, people pulling out of transactions, or the turnaround on strategy. Actually, May was our busiest month on record for office leases signing, since the longer we spent on lockdown the more we realise we don’t like to work from home. But the way people use offices, design, whether that’s around well-being, cleanliness, or how many people you have in the office at one time would certainly change. And those changes, I think, will be led by multi-national companies which want to be implemented here. Moreover, in Vietnam, we actually see things turn normal very quickly, so no change in operation in most companies.

Many people are now working online. But they are still coming back to their offices, right?

To the average office worker, everyone is back in the office the way they were before the pandemic. What the pandemic has taught us, is that the technology and the infrastructure exist. That if we want to work from home or from any other locations, we can. In the future, I think, companies will look to make use of that opportunity. Maybe on how they prepare their office bases in the future: less space downtown. Maybe they will put offices in decentralised locations.

In Vietnam, when we at Cushman & Wakefield offer people a chance to come back to the office, we said: “You don’t have to, be safe and make your own decision.” But everyone came back. They wanted to come back. If I compare that to some of my friends in London, there is a reluctance to go back. That could be because most people have one hour or more to commute with public transportation. We don’t have that in Vietnam. Most people are on private transport, a bike or a grab, a taxi. The cost of travel is also very different. In London, hundreds of pounds a year to travel to the office, while here transportation is very cheap. They are going to have work harder to get people back to the office in some of these European and Western countries. We don’t have to do that in Vietnam. People just want to be in the office. They miss the office, working with friends. And it could be down to the fact of the demographic family situation.

In case of Vietnam as well as Asia, you may have one or more generations living with you. It will be more challenging working from home. In Europe, you may have more space for your home and have a separate office.

But have you seen people being furloughed, even laid off?

Our specific industry sector was also hit here, of course. But we haven’t seen our clients downsizing to a heavy extent. Anyway, we have seen a few companies not doing so well. Vietnam is a growing economy. So a lot of these well-performing companies are increasing their office space. There will be more new setups.

How is the office now and how would it be in the future?

The design of the building and the office will change for sure. Offices will get small or the amount of space taken will get smaller. But individual office will get larger. Because one thing that we have learned and spoken a lot this year is social distancing. You will probably have fewer people in larger spaces. New technologies will come into the design and operation of buildings and offices. Vietnam just have the first project that will have contact-less technology: “OfficeHaus” next to the Aeon Mall in HCM City. You can enter their office without touching anything at all.

Regarding housing in Vietnam, houses are small, apartments are small. So how about social distancing when somebody wants to work from home?

There is a couple of solutions. One is looking how that space is designed and creating the private work in that space. The second is the use of communal areas. Anyway, we have seen this advent of the co-working concept. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more co-working near office developments that give people space, if not at home, very close to their home.



Category: Business, Vietnam

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