To Office or not to Office

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November 17, 2022

A Blog by Patrick O’Connell, CEO of Spectrum Valuations & Asset Solutions

Will the Office Sector recover to pre-pandemic levels or is it doomed to be the thorn in the jeweled crown for years to come? Walk with me as I unpack this further.

We have recently entered the world beyond Covid-19 where all regulations and restrictions have been removed.  It goes without saying that this is indeed a tremendous milestone and one which we have been waiting for since end March 2020.

Further to the above, it has also been well documented that the property sector has been significantly affected by the Black Swan that was Covid-19; I would however like to remind you that black swans are not as commonly found in the world, as was the arrival of C-19, and that it was only a black swan.  At the onset of Covid-19 I was involved in many online meetings with a multitude of people and organizations who were seeking inputs and opinions on what would happen to the property sector as a consequence of the C-19 lockdowns and “new ways” of doing business. My view then, as it still is today, is that things will return to what they were prior to Covid reaching our shores.

There are numerous media reports of the Office Sector being lackluster in color compared to its Industrial and Retail Sector cousins; this is well the case presently however there are signs of greenshoots appearing.

work from home

  The culture of Work From Home – WFH – is just not that ingrained in our society as it may be in first world economies, given how South Africa lags behind the rest of the world.  Added to this, there are societal issues which prevent a significant shift to a WFH culture which is not entirely endemic to South Africa alone; here I am talking about the great digital divide, safety, security and abuse – either physical or substance. 

These are real issues which cannot be ignored nor denied and which do affect a significantly large part of our population.

Most importantly though for me when it comes to the conundrum of “To Office or Not To Office” is the matter of company culture, collaborative working and the interaction amongst office staff, with the latter ranking high on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the workplace.  The WFH phenomenon will not do much when it comes to company culture; a company with a good culture delivers well above the average in terms of services and customer satisfaction. Company Culture is certainly not developed through isolated workstyles and exclusively interacting via a telephone or online meetings, it is just not possible.  Similarly, the case made for Gen Y, or Millennials, does have some merit; however, consider for a moment that a substantially big part of this generation’s world is social media together with physical interaction with their friends.  Given this, where a company has a great culture and has refined their workplace to accommodate the Millennials, it is my view that they too will be attracted to the workplace environment, not of old, but spruced up, dynamic and fun.

So, my view therefore, with the above as context, is that there will be a return to the office environment and with the greenshoots currently revealing themselves, there is a good possibility that this will be sooner than later.