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What the office sector can learn from retail

The office sector can learn from the experience of retailers as it adapts to changes brought about by the pandemic, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s Innovation, Data & Proptech Investment Briefing, which was held online recently.

‘Retail has worked hard at offering change and creating experiences in order to bring people back to the shops,’ said Michelle Buxton, Founder and Managing Director, Toolbox Group. ‘Now the office sector has a similar challenge because it needs to give people a good reason to go back to the workplace and feel safe’.

Photo by LYCS Architecture on Unsplash

The global remote working experiment during the coronavirus epidemic has been more successful than anyone expected, which will lead to profound changes in the office sector and even a re-thinking of that constitutes an office – or indeed work itself.

There is an analogy with the retail sector, which had to re-invent iself to deal with the challenge of online shopping. The key is to offer less space but better space to customers or workers.

‘Less people will need an office, so we need to make more people want an office,’ said Antony Slumbers, CEO, PropAI.  ‘If space is the hardware, you need to add software, which is services. Their range and quality will be crucial. If you create the best user experience of your space you’ll maximise revenue’.

This is where proptech comes in, as it can collect and analyse data and provide solutions.

‘We’re going into an environment where offices are not needed,’ said Tom Wallace, Founder & CEO, Re-Leased. ‘In order to feel safe, people want reliable information in real time on their phones on density and air quality in their office building’.

In New Zealand, where fear of the virus is now extremely low, ‘people want to go back to the office, but they have also learnt the value of working from home, so we expect that will continue at least one day a week in future’, said Wallace.

According to a snap poll done by Real Asset Media among market experts, most respondents believe that only half of their team will be working in the office full time by the end of the year. A quarter think the percentage of home workers could be as high as 80%.

The challenge to bring people back will continue for the office as well as for the retail sector.

‘In the UK when shops opened again there were queues the first day but now they are empty again,’ said Buxton. ‘Across Europe however they are back to 80% of footfall compared to before the crisis, so it’s not all doom and gloom. But there’s a long way to go to get back to normal’.

Missed Real Asset Media’s Innovation, Data & Proptech Investment Briefing? You can watch it here: