Pandemic transforms office market

Pandemic transforms office market

An office building at the Rama IV intersection in Klong Toey is under construction. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
An office building at the Rama IV intersection in Klong Toey is under construction. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to create a radical change in the Bangkok office market within less than a year, particularly in behaviour and use of space, according to property consultant CBRE Thailand.

Roongrat Veeraparkkaroon, head of advisory and transaction services for offices, said companies for many years have been exploring remote work or work-from-home strategies to either minimise costs or cope with the millennial generation's behaviour even before the current outbreak.

"At this time, almost every company, even those who are under-prepared, is being forced to undertake this new way of working without choice," she said.

Companies are experimenting with work-from-home policies and perceive an opportunity that it could work when applied to certain business functions and set the right balance between empowering and monitoring teams.

This could mean that the future workplace will have a combination of agile workplaces, with a permanent office complementing work-from-home and co-working spaces.

The outbreak is acting as a catalyst that will give a company a clear view on whether its tentative remote working policy is feasible.

Once businesses realise what platform or infrastructure they are missing to support remote work, tech services companies will be some of the first beneficiaries after the storm has passed.

"Many organisations will look for satellite offices and cloud-based platforms as part of a business continuity plan (BCP) to ensure their businesses will not go dark if staff cannot access the headquarters," Ms Roongrat said.

Co-working spaces will be one of the best choices because a company can rent space on demand when needed.

Still, operators of co-working spaces will need solid measures to satisfy users that their spaces are safe and well-prepared after the pandemic is over.

While some hotels have to shut down when they don't have guests, meeting or conference rooms may be occupied by some organisations that need backup meeting space.

Ms Roongrat said the agile workplace has been a hot topic before the pandemic, with collaboration and engagement encouraged.

Initially, the agile workplace might sound like a high-risk option for companies, but this concept of activity-based work areas can be easily reconfigured to support social distancing strategies and split teams within offices.

The pandemic has also delayed many office developments in Bangkok as construction activities are interrupted and developers take a more defensive stance to assess the situation on a daily basis.

It is also possible that development plans will be revised to make projects more appealing in the post-pandemic era, with better property management systems, air filtration (as PM2.5 pollution still lingers in Bangkok) and a well-thought-out BCP to support tenants.

Agile and adaptive will be key words in the post-pandemic office market, not only to increase efficiency of a workplace but to prepare a business for any unforeseen changes that could occur in the future, Ms Roongrat said.

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