As retailers and restaurants struggle with a sharp decline in business, leases on retail space have not been keeping pace with the situation. In Hong Kong, the SCMP reported on a warning by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association of the impending closure of 60,000 stores in the city.
The association appealed to landlords to offer rent-relief measures to rescue coronavirus-stricken retailers.
This may not be the case for office real estate marketplace, where landlords may be under duress, as business leaders appear to favour a reduction in office requirements following the near universal adoption, and adjustment, to remote working conditions.
From place to purpose
A new report suggests that a granular shift in focus from “place” to “purpose” of work is taking shape as organisations adjust to the COVID-19 crisis. Businesses need to redesign their operations and reinvent the way they work.
Out-of-city co-working spaces, ergonomic at-home work setups and virtual water cooler moments will epitomize a new age of hybrid working.
Following the release of the report, Hybrid Working, Pierre-Jean Châlon, senior vice president, Asia Pacific, Poly, noted that the ongoing pandemic has upended the way businesses operate in the region, with organizations forced to either adapt, or risk being left behind.
He added that we are now witnessing a shift towards a new way of work, referring to it as Hybrid Working.
“Businesses that stand to thrive in this ‘next normal’ will be those who prioritize human connections and collaborations as they look to reinvent current work practices, spaces and culture for their employees,” he continued.
The report says hybrid working models are taking roots at many enterprises. The new model has working policies that give employees flexibility on when and where they work (although likely directed by team leaders).
There is also greater emphasis on outcome-based working – taking the onus off the hours and location, to being productive and delivering results.
Changing workplace is old news
Tom Cheesewright, applied futurist and contributor to the Poly report, noted that the nature of work is changing because the nature of business is changing. While technology is no longer a barrier to changing practices, the lockdown has highlighted the need for investment into the cultural and behavioural components of flexible work.
“The future is a flexible working environment that caters to the needs of all employees, giving them the most fulfilling work experience and in return allowing them to maximize the value they return to the organization,” he added.
New work culture
Megan Reitz, professor of leadership and dialogue at Hult Ashridge Business School in CITY, believes that businesses need to ‘hardwire’ fundamental habits into their teams' culture to bring hybrid working teams together and ensure employees can speak up.
For teams to be agile, innovative, ethical and compassionate, Poly’s report says that work cultures need to be:
Inclusive – diverse teams do better, but you must be able to harness and appreciate difference.
Inquiring – ‘one-size’ management doesn’t fit all. Employees will respond differently to hybrid working and managers must learn the skills to inquire, be curious and ask questions.
Purpose-driven – we are seeing a well-overdue widening of purpose and this focus on impact will serve as a compass in times of change and make for a more meaningful workplace.
As organizations respond, redesign and reinvent their business models, technology will play a fundamental role in enabling the shift to hybrid working.
Châlon opined that as teams become more disconnected physically and connected virtually, technology becomes the key that bridges communication between and across teams to optimize work efficiency and productivity.
“To stay ahead of the curve, businesses will need to respond, redesign and reinvent their practices and meet their challenges head on, adapting to whatever changes they face,” he concluded.