How has the popular home office affected the physical occupancy of your buildings?
Our portfolio consists not only of office buildings, but also retail and logistics / industry. Logistics is currently in a full swing and our regional retail projects are limited only marginally, where we can see that people buy bigger purchases less often. As for office buildings, it is very individual. Some, especially US corporations, have issued a decree for a mandatory home office, and their offices are literally empty. However, most of our office tenants understand the need of their employees to meet and therefore with the adoption of various security measures, COVID hasn‘t significantly limited the operations of their offices.
As part of the restrictions you mentioned, has the operations of the buildings you own changed?
Movement in office buildings is smaller than normal, compared to the standard situation. As the landlord, we try to use this situation to modernize and improve common areas of our buildings. For example we invest in painting common areas, such as corridors, garages and receptions, we change the lightings in common areas for more economical LED technology. Our biggest projects of the "COVID period" are modifications of the common areas of Smíchov Gate building and the ongoing total modernization of the main reception of the Anděl 17 building, where we are changing everything from scratch. We try to think optimistically and find something positive and beneficial in every negative situation.
Who within companies initiates the request to work from home?
In our opinion, it is neither the CEO nor the HR department, but it is the employees and their direct supervisors. In industries with high added value, these people are the company's "gold" that creates value, they are a key element to the company's success. And here we see that many of them are already tired of the situation and want to go back to their offices, even if this requires compliance with restrictive safety rules. People are social creatures. I have read about concept of the so-called need of third place and its importance for the good and happy functioning of society. Imagine a third place as a space away from home and work, where people like to go to just talk (cafe, fitness, church, club). I do not believe that people would change so much during the COVID situation that they do not even need their second place (offices). In addition to the need for socialization, we perceive the added value of offices in work efficiency, based on data collected over the past few months, which is confirmed by many CEOs.
Let me give you one more example.Imagine that sport teams allow their players to train exclusively at home. And a company is actually a team of people who need collaboration and coordination to succeed. As I have mentioned, people are social creatures and ideas usually do not arise by themselves. The "humaness" is very important, which is why companies organize various teambuildings and similar events.
Do you see any other trends?
The trend of modernizing the premises in order to create a flexible, agile and open workplace, which started before the arrival of COVID, continues. Our tenants see added value in the correct setting and functioning of their office space and at the same time are currently working intensively on their security. Companies emphasize a sufficient distance between workbenches to prevent more people from gathering in a small space, while adapting spaces for joint meetings. In this, we give maximum support to our tenants and work with building managers and their interior designers to set them up correctly.
Do you dare to predict the future and impact on office buildings?
We don‘t have a better crystal ball than anyone else, but we try to communicate as much as possible with our tenants and monitor their situation and think about the future. We believe that if there is any long-term impact, it will be in a segment with less added value, often with automated processes which employs a less sophisticated workforce. In general, these companies already use office spaces in areas outside the main locations such as Smíchov, Karlín or Pankrác, where, in our opinion, this will not have an impact. We are inclined to the opinion that once this COVID situation subsides, we will go back to a state that will be almost identical to the pre-covid period.