Asia’s Office Markets Prepare for a ‘New-Normal’ in a Post COVID-19 World

Companies to focus on design and decentralization as they prepare for re-entry.

According to a survey by JLL, as businesses prepare to return to the office amid an easing of lockdown restrictions across Asia Pacific, many are considering how their corporate real estate portfolios should look in the ‘new normal’. JLL reports more than 80% of its clients have started to explore alternatives to keep their business operational or carried out certain modifications to their offices.

The real estate firm’s latest Guide for Workplace Design Considerations outlines some short-to long-term priorities, including space planning solutions, tech-enabled experiences and operational functions that help corporates navigate the complex re-entry journey. The guide also highlights how companies can re-assess their office footprint with decentralization scenarios or re-designs that can protect their businesses and people in the long run.

“Office re-entry will be a gradual and multi-phased journey that is likely to evolve as economies open up again,” says Martin Hinge, Executive Managing Director, Project & Development Services, JLL Asia Pacific. “As people head back to the office, our clients’ number one priority is to ensure that they’re welcoming people back to a safe and healthy environment.”

This includes setting up private, enclosed workstations, fitting social and break-out spaces with labels or physical dividers, or even installing thermal imaging technology in the building lobby and reception areas.

“In the short-term, organizations will need to find ways to deliver quick adaptations to the workplace, ensuring safety and comfort for employees. However, in the long term, business leaders will face decisions about their workspace usage against a backdrop where social distancing may be required for a protracted period,” says Gonzalo Portellano, Head of Portfolio Design, JLL Asia Pacific.

Over the long term, organizations may have to decide how to plan and optimize their office footprint in a cost-effective manner, according to the guide. It points out that decentralized working hubs may soon be on rise, as these enable remote working from different locations, reducing commute times and increasing convenience for employees.

Portellano adds, “Companies may start shifting their offices from prime locations into smaller, more versatile hubs distributed across the city. These tech-enabled hubs can be located in areas supported by good infrastructure, public transport connectivity and that offer lower rents.”

“Looking ahead, we anticipate that organizations will take a bold step in office transformation, be it with decentralization or spacing designs. The evolution of the office will no longer be about how people occupy spaces but how people use and interact with spaces.”

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