Covid Blog

Dowlas Property Group are a unique organisation as we straddle across so many different sectors working with business owners, landowners, occupiers, education providers, investors, construction partners, etc. Public sector, Private sector and quangos who sit in between.

Like everyone, Dowlas is adjusting to working alongside the implications of Covid-19 and thought we would share a few observations from our perspective taking into consideration the variety of conversations we have had over the last few weeks and applying them to our sector of property.

Covid- 19 is going to be in the backdrop of our lives for the foreseeable future, therefore, we all need to consider the implications of this both from a short- and medium-term perspective. Some of our headline thoughts are as follows:

Social Distancing Support & Guidance: short term requirements to keep 2 metres apart where possible will mean working environments are restricted. Rota working, staggered start and end times, no face to face meetings, are some of the suggestions being made. But what happens when passing on the stairs or using a lift? The crowding around coffee machines, and microwaves, will these need a timetable approach? Common sense approach is being preached, but no guide on how to implement social distancing in an office or working environment. Business owners are not necessarily experts in office configuration, Dowlas are supporting clients to ensure they can create safe environments for their employees by utilising our experience in refurbishment and space planning so if this is a concern of yours then please do get in touch.

Flexible working vs remote working: this is perhaps one of the biggest concerns that people have when they take a longer-term view of the situation. The requirement to work at home if you can has set a new precedent for the working world which will now need to be written into policies that need to cover a multitude of employees’ unique situations. Without any certainty around schools reopening, expecting parents to return to the working environment is tricky, then there are people who live with the vulnerable section of society who are being advised to adhere to strict social distancing rules.

The anxiety that people are feeling about interacting in larger circles and the effect on their mental wellbeing is also a massive consideration for employers. On the other hand, there are people craving normality and find working at home really difficult. Lack of interaction, routine and collaboration are also contributing to higher levels of mental health issues, etc. Property is obviously not as important as the health of employees, but it is a major factor in the planning process for companies as they attempt to move forward and embrace the new working world.

Repurposing underutilised property for financial gain: Empty buildings are detrimental to the overall economy, so another thought process we have had is how can we repurpose some of the space to help all sectors work together to move forward. You may have a business that is successfully operating in the remote world which leaves space for other occupiers to utilise perhaps? If you are based in the regions that have a population of workers who travel to larger cities for work then there may well be a cluster of people who work for the same organisation, could offices be repurposed to support people being forced to work remotely but who are struggling to do so? Another thought is the requirement for additional space from nearby companies who are unable to successfully work remotely and need to space people out to adhere to social distancing. But how do business owners identify these potential users? Again, Dowlas are supporting clients as they plan their ways forward and can bring people together to support some of these options.

Refurbishment the route forward: As we head towards the likely recession, will there be the opportunity for development that there has been? There will be likely be an impact on rental levels that can be achieved in a downward market which will make funding of development challenging. This coupled with an uncertainty around covenants would suggest that new build commercial development may slow down over the next 6 months as the economy and the country take stock. However, we see a real opportunity for some more inventive ways of occupiers being able to share space and for landlords to ultimately enable the economy to keep moving forwards. Subletting space could help to sustain a business through the uncertain period we are hitting but this will need an element of refurbishment to happen. But again, business owners have enough to deal with now without over complicating their worlds with what could be seen as over complicated deals to fill space.

Simplicity is key, in these uncertain times we all need to be able to work with people we trust to be able to get on with the task in hand. Dowlas have been supporting business owners to plan for their long- and short-term property needs, please get it touch if you would like any advice through these times,

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