The world is opening up again and people are starting to get back into old routines. 

Emma Shone

Emma Shone

Thank goodness for that. However, things have changed dramatically over the past 14 months or so, most notably in terms of people’s relationship with where they work and where they live, which have become intertwined during the pandemic.

The office is not dead, of course. But as Patrick Morley, vice-president of global product management at Sungard AS, points out: “The mass shift to homeworking has meant that the commercial spaces we offer have to be more safe, more reliable and more attractive to employers and their employees than they have ever been.” As a result, office providers have to offer a product that is capable of luring workers away from their home office and back to the workplace.

Their task has been made harder thanks to the stiff competition they face from operators in the beds world. Residential developers and operators have identified an opportunity and are creating spaces and services that enhance the homeworking experience for residents. Take Hyperoptic’s decision to break into the build-to-rent sector. Launching on 1 July, its new service aims to give residents seamless connectivity across buildings so they can work without disruption from anywhere they like.

But while the homeworking revolution presents significant opportunities for canny operators it also throws up a number of challenges and as LandEnhance’s head Grace Manning-Marsh points out, the living sector cannot afford to repeat past mistakes. LandEnhance’s data shows that enquiries for high street retail-to-resi PDR conversions skyrocketed in the month after the new rights came into play. Some people believe the rights could help revive the nation’s ailing high streets, but even with the introduction of minimum space requirements, Manning-Marsh cautions that people cannot be expected to live in “rabbit hutch” apartments.

Especially when they are working remotely – a trend that is evidently going to stick around for some time to come, even as people do start to head back to their offices. Yardi regional director Mike Cook says this means businesses need to be savvier than ever when it comes to their processes and platforms, and argues that the way forward is to have everything in one place that tenants and employees alike can access wherever they’re working from.

The collection of thought leadership essays in this issue of Perspectives examines how businesses can boldly move forward into the new normal as the world gets going again.

Emma Shone is news editor at Property Week