Property News

Do people still need the office?

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ith many companies not having returned to the office since March 2020, employees are now experiencing what has been termed ‘work-from-home fatigue’. “It’s starting to have a negative impact on the morale of employees who previously fully embraced working from home, but who are now suffering from low morale and other psychological side-effects,” says Natasha Bruwer, managing director: occupier services, Cushman & Wakefield I BROLL. “This is especially prevalent in the younger generation, who thrives on collaboration, creativity, growth and mentorship.”

While the uptake of workers returning to the office is likely to remain low initially, due to the protracted vaccine rollout, how we work, and even the office itself, are likely to change forever.

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Corporate action

Although larger corporates in particular need to have a certain percentage of their employees vaccinated before the bulk is allowed to return to the office, a successful rollout is also critical to kickstart the lacklustre economy. “The series of lockdowns created hesitancy in businesses to invest and that’s why the vaccine is key to enable a period of much-needed economic stability,” says Bruwer.

According to ‘Mantsi Moiloa, director: strategy and consulting, Cushman & Wakefield I BROLL, more corporates are likely to announce that they are pro‑vaccination. “Many have already set up vaccination sites that are open to the public to assist in accelerating the rollout. This is probably one of the most important corporate citizenry initiatives in South Africa to date.”

Future flexibility

Many companies are looking to a hybrid model as this affords employers flexibility in allowing their workers to determine their optimal work environment for maximum productivity and efficiency. “The office will become a destination for collaboration and culture and all of the other elements that are unavailable in a work-at-home scenario,” says Moiloa. While the hybrid model is not new, with many companies already having adopted it to some extent prior to the pandemic, she says the appetite has increased and it has become more structurally formalised as a result. “It has also forced us to take stock of our perception of what management is and should do, and how we foster meaningful relationships with colleagues and to add value to their work performance.”

Sustainable model

“Companies have to understand that their corporate real estate extends into the home, especially as this is an integral part of the hybrid model. It’s no longer just about the rental of office space and its amenities like a canteen, it’s also about how well-equipped the people at various levels of your organisation are able to work effectively from home,” says Moiloa.

The pandemic has provided a golden opportunity for businesses to recalibrate the way they work and implement meaningful and long‑lasting change.

Lifestyle estate rules to be honoured

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hen people buy into a lifestyle estate that promises security, proper care and maintenance facilities, and a fair return on investment, most residents appreciate its rules – until they are affected. Jeff Gilmour, president of the Association of Residential Communities (ARC) highlights a case in point.

Initially, an estate’s rules are created by the developer – when the land is first developed – and a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) is formed, generally when the first erf has been sold.

Once voted in, directors and trustees have a right to amend the rules to best serve the common interests of the community. However, the process the directors or trustees are obliged to follow, is vitally important to ensure the changed rules are valid, especially relating to the use and enjoyment of common areas.

When the court steps in

There are many judgements on record relating to the validity and enforceability of the rules and regulations that exist, contractually, between the HOA or body corporate, and the members of these associations.

Of significance is a recent matter where a member challenged the rights of the HOA of the Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate to apply a maximum speed restriction for people using the roads in the community. It was implied that the HOA was, in fact, applying the rules as they relate to the National Road Traffic Act. The applicant deemed that this was unlawful.

In the view of the ARC, the judges in the Supreme Court of Appeal presiding over this matter, correctly ruled that the HOA was not applying any provisions of the Road Traffic Act, but merely applying the provisions of the contractually binding rules and regulations of the estate ñ the very same rules and regulations that every homeowner agrees to when they buy into the residential community.

Know the law

It should always be safe to walk freely in an estate, where children may be playing in gardens that are not protected by walls, and it is for this reason that rules related to how one behaves when driving dangerously on the estate’s roads, for instance, are absolutely necessary.

There will also be valid reasons for rules with regard to aesthetics, security, the keeping of pets, and the use of facilities, etc.  On saying this, however, all members of an HOA or body corporate have a right to question these rules.

Directors and trustees should check their rules and regulations against guidelines developed by the ARC, and while the voluntary services of directors and trustees are always valued, a robust knowledge of the law, and rules created per community, is vital and enforceable.

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