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Navigating Through a Changing World

Patsy Richardson and Saif Derzi comment with special contributions from Adam Lawrence, Richard Wallace, Coralie Richardson, Kwasi Affum, Rupesh Tailor and many others.

The last three months have bought unprecedented change to our lives, the scale of which is being compared to the Great Depression and World War II. Businesses are facing bankruptcy and many jobs are being lost. In response, we brought together a group of forward-thinking leaders in the property sector (many of them from the Partners in Property network). They donated their time to brainstorm possible responses to the crisis and look at how different property sectors can navigate through the crisis and find opportunities in this rapidly changing world.

We are sharing the output here in the hope that it will bring clarity and something of a guide as people navigate through these extraordinary times. It feels like everything has changed, but in fact many trends affecting the property market were there before and will now either accelerate or decelerate. A few sectors will be re-invented and some will have to pivot to survive in the short term.

It also feels like everything is happening at once, but we found it helpful to look at the crisis in terms of first order effects, which broadly takes us up to the stage when the lockdown is fully lifted. This stage is followed by second order effects and lastly the longer term third order effects.

The vast majority of office workers are now working online from home
One of the most obvious first order effects of the crisis is the exodus of workers from their offices to social distance by working from home. This is obviously the acceleration of an existing trend, which is being pushed to the extreme during the crisis. During lockdown as a first order effect, many people are experiencing working from home more than ever before and becoming comfortable with tools and ways of working that they hadn’t been exposed to before.

This brings many benefits like increased productivity, less time commuting, more family time and even easy parcel delivery options. However, it also introduces downsides like social isolation from colleagues, distractions from family members, and increased pressure on space in the home.

When DVDs were introduced people predicted the wholesale demise of cinema. Who would go out of their house to the cinema and pay more to watch a film when you could own the film, for much less money, in the comfort of your own home? Well, years later there are many more options to watch films at home and after a period of re-invention cinema is still alive and well. The market has simply expanded. We see office working following a similar trend and assume that home based work will continue and office based working will resume in a re-invented form when the lockdown is fully lifted.

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