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Working from home and the digital workplace

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ompanies are re-evaluating their business models and operations. The question is: Do they revert back to the traditional office like it was pre-2020 or do they operate a hybrid model? While Covid-19 is set to have a permanent impact on the real estate industry and the office market, exactly what that impact is remains to be seen.

The latest industry insights from Broll Property Intel, in collaboration with Cushman & Wakefield, explores how organisations worldwide have, or will, adapt to the workplace and embrace the new culture of remote working and traditional in-office operations.

South Africa

The rollout of the vaccine is a key driver to enable larger companies to resume business and, more importantly, assess what level of hybrid working is most appropriate for their particular organisation. From an employee perspective, having been working from home, they have become accustomed to this routine and working environment in that they, too, are demanding the freedom or flexibility to work from home or anywhere they choose.

The pandemic has made corporates realise they might need to decentralise by creating smaller and perhaps temporary nodal office hubs. This caters for employees to work closer to home and to attend team meetings and training sessions, while the head office remains the central hub for invention, innovation and physical collaboration.

In addition, the pandemic has forced many companies to end their lease agreements prematurely or negotiate for more favourable lease terms. Nonetheless, the pandemic has resulted in the highest vacancy rates in history. On the upside, the resultant influx of stock and driving down of rentals has meant that the office sector has become more attractive and accessible to smaller businesses.

United States of America

The shift to working from home had many believing the real estate market would be negatively impacted, with predictions of a collapse in cities like Manhattan and New York. However, over a year later, only 9% (down from 39% in September 2020) of large American corporations are looking to downsize. It is expected that close to 20% of the entire American workforce will continue to work from home permanently.

The hybrid model is, in fact, looking more promising with companies such as Microsoft and Amazon already implementing it. And with most companies anticipating employees spending close to half their time in the office, a decline in office space is actually unlikely, with companies having to re-evaluate office layouts and workplace health and safety measures to accommodate social distancing..

UK and Europe

The likelihood of the populations of Britain and Europe returning to the office in the same numbers as before Covid-19 is highly unlikely. However, even though the majority of UK employees wish to continue working from home and feel just as productive as at the office, 53% of employees surveyed by Boston Consulting Group stated that they would prefer the hybrid model. Half of the staff surveyed by Morgan Stanley in five different European countries (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy) stated that they only wished to work from home for part of the working week.

Conclusion

As many in the workforce have become accustomed to working anywhere and maintain similar levels of productivity, these remote workers have become digital nomads. However, they can lose touch with their company culture. It is imperative that there is a balance between the virtual workplace and on-site office environment.

The office space is no longer the facility that holds employees when at work, but the place of work has changed to a service. The workplace is a holistic solution with integrated technology, furniture, infrastructure facilities to provide a productive place of work.

Co-living, co-working and hospitality concept opens in Cape Town CBD

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n 25 March word went out that the Townhouse Hotel would be closing its doors after five decades as one of Cape Town’s most recognisable hospitality landmarks. The announcement hinted that the new owners had plans to resurrect the hotel in a different form, adding to the investment value of the East City precinct and the Cape Town CBD.

Digital nomads

Less than six months later, the doors on the corner of Corporation and Mostert streets will reopen as Neighbourgood East City, South Africa’s first hybrid co-living, co-working and hospitality concept.

“Given the isolation we have all experienced over the last year and a half due to the pandemic, people are searching for living and workspaces that offer a sense of place, community, flexibility and affordability,” says Murray Clark, founder and chief executive officer, Neighbourgood. “We believe the City of Cape Town is one of the best cities in the world to live in. With flexible work trends allowing people across the globe to have a more nomadic lifestyle, Neighbourgood as a brand is well-placed to deliver an integrated living, working and lifestyle space solution for its members.”

neighbourgood-east-city-main-image

Co-living is the new house‑sharing

The concept offers a solution for what young working professionals need – contemporary, affordable accommodation – and adds the convenience of fully furnished suites, common areas where the like-minded residents can meet while they work or relax, and exceptional amenities including free WiFi and weekly cleaning services, all under one cost-effective bill.

Members can have as much privacy or sociability as they like. Shared spaces include a MasterChef-style kitchen, contemporary dining and workspaces and a common lounge area. The suites are already available for rent. Inclusive rentals (or memberships) range from R5,950 to R9,950 per month and terms are flexible – three, six, nine and 12-month options. Short-stay (one to 90 days) memberships are also offered.

Creating community through a human-centric approach

“Members will love everything about living at Neighbourgood East City,” says Clark.

“The rooms have been thoughtfully designed to be exactly what young professionals are looking for. They can work solo from their private suite, in company at our co-working space, or if they want a change of scene, they also get access to the hot desks at Neighbourgood Workspace at the Cape Quarter.

“We’re building a community and in addition to regular events, members can get to know each other at the on-site cafe and rooftop, as well as the shared kitchen, dining room, wellness area and Friends-style laundry. They get to experience co-living with amazing people in an incredible city.”

Neighbourgood East City will also contribute to the inner city’s ongoing revival, adding much-needed investment value to an area that has felt the effects of an extended national lockdown, Clark adds.

The property is the first hotel-to-residential co-living conversion of its kind in the country, but it may not be the last. Neighbourgood is in the process of working with a number of other hotels, guesthouses and property owners who are looking to do the same.

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