Nobody could have predicted the past year. The pandemic has affected all people around the world, and it is a tragedy that is being played out in different ways around the world.
Here in the UK and London, vaccine introduction continues at a rapid pace and restrictions are eased. There are already comments about “returning to normal”, as well as various speculations about what the “new normal” might look like.
I am very optimistic about the future and am convinced that there is enormous potential for positive change in the midst of what can sometimes seem like deep uncertainty. In this regard, I hope that we do not just wish for a “return to normal life”, but rather, shape a more positive future for our children and future generations.
With most businesses going through a tumultuous year of crisis management and telecommuting, it’s no surprise that the workplace and the role of the office have become a topic of much debate. But the office debate for many forward-thinking companies was in full swing long before the advent of Covid-19. We are fortunate to have participated in this discussion for a while. We constantly communicate with companies and tenants from different sectors, as well as with agents and potential buyers, to provide an in-depth understanding of the ever-changing factors of demand and needs.
Many of the trends already observed have accelerated over the past 12 months and will continue to stimulate our thinking. More important than the specifics of what a particular office floor will look like in the future, is our focus on more important issues, behavioral changes and new ways of working that will affect us all and which ultimately determine what an office building and workplace must provide.
Inspirational spaces – caring for our planet and people
Over the past year, our work has led colleagues, employers and employees to better understand people’s personal lives and needs. The individuality of people is important, everyone is different. We can all empower people by appreciating and respecting what sets them apart from others. Those businesses that fully understand this will become the leaders of the future.
Increasing flexibility in how, when and where we work, as well as changing workplace behavior, seem inevitable. The traditional Monday-Friday from 9 am to 5 pm may well be a thing of the distant past, and who can say that this is bad? It seems to me that this is a very necessary adaptation to the reality in which we live today.
Office buildings for the next generation of talent in London must provide inspirational spaces that offer experiences and a community that people want to come into and want to be a part of.
A high-quality physical environment must be digitally enabled, sustainable and offer best-in-class design and customer service. It must be a safe and healthy environment in which the user’s well-being depends on its DNA. Multi-convenience solutions will be of paramount importance, offering ample space – both inside and out – where social and business collaboration can naturally occur.
The strength of the office lies in its ability to provide people with space to be together, live and breathe a business culture and identity, understand purpose, inspire, innovate and drive critical collective productivity. We must also recognize that every business is unique and as we progress it will be important to take a personalized approach based on customer solutions.
A sustainable office should be at the heart of all our future offices. It will continue to be a key factor in all real estate decisions. Sustainability is an integral part of our office planning and we are fully committed to our path towards zero carbon by 2030.
Through the amazing work of scientists from around the world who have been responsible for supplying vaccines against Covid-19, we are convinced of the true power of collaboration. As an industry, we can learn a lesson from this. We now need to move to a higher level and work together to purposefully move forward on the Clean Zero Carbon program to protect our planet. Together we can achieve much more.
Something that I personally knew about over the past year is how our habits have changed in the way we communicate with each other, and I think we need to do some really important retraining. An obsession with email and video calls, coupled with the inability to meet people in person, means that personal communication and regular phone calls have been suspended. We work with people and strong relationships are a huge part of our success. It’s not just about business, it’s about life, and this is one area that the younger generation will need to tread carefully. I am fully aware of the benefits of new technologies and I am a strong proponent of digital change, but we must not forget about the power of human interaction. Whether it’s building relationships and trust, solving problems, innovating, creating or collaborating, some things need to be done in person, not behind the veil of a screen or app.
I look forward to moving beyond the old norm into a new world of sustainability, collaboration, innovation and well-being. We understand the power of the Derwent London office and we understand that the success of the office will depend on the quality and service provided. As companies and individuals continue to make decisions about their return to the office, it becomes more and more important to ensure that this office is a great place to go and that meets all the complex demands of today’s working world.