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The evolution of office space in an uncertain era

Stefan Botha, Director of Rainmaker Marketing.
Stefan Botha, Director of Rainmaker Marketing.

Rainmaker Marketing, a KZN-based property marketing agency, recently hosted their seventh property-related webinar. Their series of webinars have covered a broad range of interesting, thought-provoking topics during national lockdown.

Stefan Botha, Director of Rainmaker Marketing, and facilitator of the webinars says that the future of office space post-Covid-19 has been a topic on everyone’s lips.

We really wanted to get experts around our virtual table to provide real perspective and insights from which we could all learn a huge amount from.”

This discussion has been ongoing between business owners, landlords and employees in terms of what the future of the typical office model will be.  

Will remote working be the norm going forward as we see many small office spaces trying to reduce costs or will the work force revert to the status quo?

Paul Kollenberg, the Head of Asset Management (office sector) for South Africa’s largest office landlord, Growthpoint, believes that offices are here to stay but in a less dense format. Employees will want the flexibility of working from home, but they will require an office for gatherings.  

Paul Kollenberg, Growthpoint

In conversation with their tenants, Growthpoint has seen two scenarios; firstly, tenants are finding it a lot easier (and more affordable) to work from home and secondly, that tenants miss their office environment and the social interaction that comes with it.  

According to Paul, there have been different streams of research done in the UK and Europe where respondents working from home were asked if they would like to continue doing so. The stats show that approximately 70% would prefer to continue to work from home for one to two days a week, going forward.

It is hard to collaborate and to be creative remotely. How do you build your company culture if you are working remotely? If you have an existing relationship with your clients, it is ok to work remotely but what about building relationships with new clients? It is extremely hard.”

Ben Kodisang, the founder and CEO of ALT Capital Partners, former MD of Old Mutual Properties, and the former President of the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) believes that investors and property managers will adapt to their tenants’ needs by providing spaces to meet social distancing requirements and the reduced workforce.

Ben Kodisang, ALT Capital Partners

Ben believes that we will see more creative, entrepreneurial models and concepts (such as Airbnb) incorporated into the office space.

Innovation will definitely accelerate. Flexible and co-working spaces will cater for the growing demand.”

Covid-19 is forcing us to rethink and to reset. We cannot approach the new environment with a traditional mindset. As a landlord, if you are not sensitive or intuitive to your tenants’ needs, you will be left behind.”

Lebogang Shole is the Executive Head of National Facilities and Property at Vodacom. The company employs 5 000 people across South Africa and one advantage of the pandemic is it has enhanced their organisation’s collaboration and communication.

Lebogang Shole, Vodacom

According to Lebo, research has shown that there is an increase in trust, honest and integrity in the way in which organisations are operating. She has noticed an uptick in performance and productivity within Vodacom.

Covid-19 has forced many organisations to rethink their technology strategies. Employers have had to be flexible in the way in which their businesses operate which has forced many corporates to be dynamic in their thinking and to be visionary.

The office culture will change and going forward, we will be able to sustain what we need to do with this hybrid model.”

Linda Trim, Director of bespoke office space solutions company, FutureSpace believes that the remote working principle is only sustainable for the levels that we are currently working at.

Linda Trim, FutureSpace

From an ergonomic and occupational health and safety point of view, there are specific criteria that employers and employees need to comply with in an office environment. If we continue to work from home, we will need to access the general ergonomic setup going forward.

“Internationally, questions are being raised about whose responsibility it is to provide employees with an ergonomic setup. Would a corporate come to your house to assess the risk and to evaluate your needs?”

A few of FutureSpace’s global clients are providing their employees with allowances to setup a workspace at home for one to two days per week.”

Linda says that most people do not have big enough homes to setup a full-scale office.

The most fundamental thing is the chair that you sit in.”

Murray Clarke is the CEO of Neighbourgood which offer all-inclusive, living and workspaces in Cape Town. He says that the future workspace environment will revolve around three things: flexibility, design, and culture.

Murray Clarke, Neighbourgood

Landlords are going to need to reposition the way they offer lease agreements in the move towards digital.

There is already a requirement for more remote work solutions. People want to work closer to home and I believe that remote working solutions will be critical.”

From a design point of view, people want to work with companies where they enjoy the collaboration process and the culture that defines that organisation.

Murray says that there are traditional companies who do not create environments that are conducive to thriving and sustainable workspaces. Creating inclusive environments that encourage all forms of gender equality, racial equality and considers mental wellbeing and mindfulness is essential.

Design is going to be critical” he says. “Companies really need to design their spaces around their people and culture which underpins their entire organisation”.

When it comes to culture, we live in an environment where 50 – 60% of the workforce is made up of millennials who identify with organisations who are sustainable and who think differently. International companies – Facebook, Uber, Airbnb – are designing their organisations around their people.

Innovation is centred around creating more productivity, sustainability and driving the organisation’s purpose and culture.

Google is creating spaces that are completely tech free – to stimulate creativity without smart phones and laptops. Airbnb is dressing up their offices, mimicking their best performing accommodations to represent what is going on in their offices.

The common denominator is people and culture” says Murray.

Rainmaker were inundated with questions after the webinar and as a result, they have secured the same panel to do an in-depth interactive session to answer the pertinent questions. The webinar will be hosted on the 28th of July at 12:00 pm via Zoom.

We are very passionate about bridging the knowledge gaps that we currently have in South Africa, and as a result, we recently hosted a webinar titled, ‘How to make property investment more achievable” says Stefan.

Once we enable greater property ownership in this country it will have a knock-on effect on the economy as a whole and the property market” he concludes.

To register for the next free webinar, click here.