COVID-19: Adapting to the evolving challenges posed by the pandemic

The UK Government announced measures this week to support large and small businesses as they continue to face emerging challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced a £350 billion support package (£330 bn in loan guarantees & £20 bn in grants & other handouts) akin to the sum paid out in the 2008 banking crisis, to prop up the economy. This figure is equivalent to 15% of the UK’s GDP. The Chancellor also announced grants of £25,000 to cover cash flow shortages in the short term, especially to cover fixed costs such as rent. As the UK government continues to monitor the situation, it has said that it will implement whatever measures are needed to keep the economy afloat. Governments around the world are jettisoning fiscal rules to shore up their economies. Despite these financial support measures, businesses, including those in the commercial real estate sector, need to adapt to these hopefully temporary yet uncertain times.

In our last blog, we outlined some of the challenges on the traditional office space that organisations now face. In this piece, we highlight some of the processes that DeVono Cresa has put in place to work alongside our clients to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Our primary concern is to ensure the safety of our people, their families, our clients and the communities in which we serve. With this in mind, and in line with the latest government advice, we have immediately implemented our ‘work from anywhere’ policy, with home being the instructed ‘anywhere’ at this time. Most, if not all of our clients and peers have followed suit.

We will do everything we can to ensure this transition is as seamless as possible and will continue to provide support and services to our clients throughout this uncertain period. With this in mind, we have implemented some measures to adapt to our daily ‘new normal.’

Our approach

All our teams across our various service offerings continue to be ‘on-call’ for you as required throughout this period. We have the infrastructure in place to enable us to carry on as if we are in the office – our ‘work anywhere’ policy is fully implemented, be it convening a video conference or a teleconference meeting to discuss projects, and showcase properties collaboratively with our clients and their teams. We will continue to carry out all transactional work and property searches on behalf of our clients.

As required, we will prepare ‘virtual’ property tours of space, and where clients are still available in-person, we will coordinate (though avoid attending in-person) physical property inspections, and can join these remotely.

Navigating the new normal

This week, the government announced a business rates holiday for all hospitality/retail/leisure businesses, regardless of size. We also saw a large restaurant chain and a major retailer ask their landlord for a rent holiday to combat the COVID-19 impact.

With the change in the work environment, we have already experienced a great number of our clients reach out to us for advice and guidance on specific issues surrounding the COVID-19 situation, such as work from home policies, suitable technology to support that requirement, change management recommendations, Force Majeure, and other lease issues that may come into play during this time. It will very likely be necessary in a large number of cases to review plans to fully account for and mitigate against the impact of the current situation on the originally anticipated project timetable.

With our in-house advisors and relationships with many speciality firms, we have been able to guide clients through these issues and provide answers to their questions. Our advice would be that if your organisation is struggling to find answers, reach out to the right professionals for advice.

Designing for the office space of the future

This is an uncertain time for everyone. We recognise the personal and professional challenges that will come with it. As highlighted in our last blog, we believe that though this is a temporary phase, it remains to be seen if this could have a lasting impact on the way an office space is perceived in the near future. Be it the need for more flexible working solutions, ensuring appropriate technology is in place or the way a team functions as a unit in the physical office space, COVID-19 will almost certainly bring about fundamental and lasting changes to the way businesses think about their work environment set-up and the emphasis placed on wellness in design.

The designers at Dthree, DeVono Cresa’s design & build team, are constantly upskilling to keep up with new technology. They have worked on varied client briefs to design for not only their immediate needs, but also to factor in for contingency office space measures that may be put into place in these uncertain times.

Though these are early days in the response to COVID-19, and while it is hard to understand the full impact of the virus on our everyday lives, with schools now closing and the threat of possible further restrictions on movement, we are confident that we will transition through this with the support of one another. We are all in this together, and in the short term we’re going to be talking a lot more and meeting up far less. I’ve asked our teams to get on the phone and support you in any way they can.

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