Post Covid Our CBDs May Never Look The Same
Federal and State Governments are begining to roll back social-distancing restrictions, and businesses are looking at how to navigate a safe return to the office. Many are questioning however, what the new normal is going to look like.
Covid has given many workers and employers their first experience of working away from the traditional CDB Office and with remote working now the norm, there are doubts once-bustling CBD workplaces will ever return to the way they were.
For the first time since the industrial revolution a large segment of the business community has shifted rapidly with managers having learnt to manage remotely and workers having learnt to work remotely.
Covid has been the lever that has brought about a nationwide change that futurists have been predicting for a couple of decades now but which never seemed to gain momentum.
The question that arises though is this. If this is the new normal, can our infrastructure support these changes?
Large numbers of people working from home is putting a strain on our telecommunications network as thousands of mobile phones that are normally in the CBD look to connect to mobile towers in the suburbs. "Network Busy" has for many of us become a daily event when trying to make calls.
Electricity usage is up in the suburbs as airconditioning and heating systems designed to cool or heat an entire house are being run to keep the work environment in just one room comfortable. The NBN is facing its biggest challenge as daily video conferencing chews up bandwith and working couples jostle for space in houses that were never designed to be workplaces. On top of this, many workers are struggling with the mental stress of isolation.
On the other hand workers are now accustomed to forgoing the daily commute which for many amounted to hours per day in cars or crowded public transport and businesses are questioning the cost of CBD rents for unproductive floor space.
For many, the long term prospect of working from home is not viable. Most Australian homes are simply not designed in a way that is condusive to using them as offices and they don't have the supporting infrastructure needed for a modern workplace.
One alternative that can save businesses money and solve the remote working dilema is the decentralisation of office space by utilising networks of suburban serviced offices. This gives employees a professional and well equipped office near to home at a cost to employers that is less than the current cost of CBD office space. With pay per use meeting rooms and shared facilities serviced offices can provide a substantial reduction in overheads even when in the CBD, but those savings can be even greater when the serviced office is in a suburban or regional area.
Workplace Health and Safety is a headache for companies when workers are working from home. Who is responsible for ensuring proper seating, testing and maintaining electrical equipment etc. WHS is much easier in a professionally managed serviced office where furniture selection, up to date equipment and infrastructure, cleaning and maintenace is a high priority for the operator.
The need to repopulate workplaces gradually may mean that utilising a serviced office to accellerate the return to normalcy could be advantageous for many businesses.