It was forty years ago that The Buggles predicted that "Video Killed The Radio Star", theme embodied the first video clip that went on in MTV history. What the English pop rock band did not know is that, later, Radio would have an unprecedented capacity for reinvention and agility, giving no respite to the Image Era and, today, the Digital Era. This paradigm shift is precisely happening in the labor market and today, more than ever, it is preparing (or should prepare) for an intense culture of mobility, which will have effects and consequences also in the physical space.
In fact, Portugal was one of the first European countries to enshrine teleworking in the labor code in 2003, but the Covid-19 outbreak accelerated this reality and, for the first time in history, thousands of Portuguese work from home, pushing companies towards rapid adaptation. A successful agility for companies that were already preparing, not for a pandemic that no one envisioned, but for future workplace trends and work flexibility, which are unavoidable. Those who were unprepared and were more skeptical will certainly reinvent themselves and let go of the rigors and hardware to secure their business and, above all, their talents.
If the deconfination plan is successful in the coming weeks, everything indicates that there will be a return to the office market in Portugal from June 1st. The first Monday of this month will be, for the first time in the history of work, a Happy Monday in which teams in mirror and / or 50-50% will be reunited gradually and, above all, companies will return to feel tremendous enthusiasm and confidence in their business and day-to-day activities.
In the short term, interventions are more likely to be operational and not design oriented, with hygiene, safety and protection as the watchwords. The buildings, with frankly fewer people, will limit the sharing of tables that will no longer be side by side, in order to live up to social distance. A single point of entry, combined with thermal imaging or temperature measurement may also be prevalent measures, but hygiene will be paramount in work areas where employees may be more exposed, such as shared facilities, meeting and conference rooms, homes bathroom, elevators.
There is also an increased demand for buildings with characteristics of sustainability, air quality, ventilation systems and well-being, with an increase in LEED and WELL certifications. Over time, organizations will make investments in “touchless” elements, converting the employee's day into a more digital journey.
But, according to our studies, the most interesting changes are likely to be related to human resources and the redefinition of who may be a permanent resource in teleworking, however, this does not mean that these employees never return to the office. Interaction has always been critical in business activity for developing relationships, building trust, promoting a culture of greater collaboration, idealization and innovation.
Will this reality lead to the reduction of square meters in business activity? At CBRE, we believe not. Teleworking, as a benefit for companies and employees, will increase but companies, more than ever, need their square meters. In a first phase, to respond to the challenges of social distance and, in a second phase, to its conversion and adaptation to a new reality that is already at the door.
The “new offices” will become even more a place of experience, where employees will want to work and feel that collaboration flows better in a common space. Companies should reinvent their spaces to welcome the teams' approach, creativity and cooperation between them, creating true experience hubs, where it is possible to find areas with different destinations, whether for work, leisure, well-being and co-creation, everything so that it becomes an attractive and natural asset, generating empathy, commitment and corporate culture.
The conversion of offices will transform their headquarters into true Company Clubs, in which employees, whether working remotely or not, are club members, and it is certain that this is the preferred place to meet. Yes, this pandemic has accelerated telecommuting and this will be a reality that will mark business activity in the coming years, but, like Video, telecommuting will not kill the workplace star.