Konsekvenser i Pandemins spår - Har efterfrågan på kontorslokaler förändrats?
Sammanfattning: Since the outbreak of the pandemic early 2020, the world has experienced disruptive change in many of its foundations. Privileges as free movement, the freedom of assembly and simply being able to go to the movies have been replaced by strict local and national policies, limiting humans and companies. The Covid-19 agenda has forced a lot of businesses into crisis mode with transformation as a consequence. The real estate market is no exception. Since the Swedish authority “Folkhälsomyndigheten” developed guidelines which urged companies to send home their white-collar workers, to conduct the work from their homes, the question has been discussed, will the routines established around remote work make the phenomena more permanent? And if that is the case, what will then happen to the office space market when authorities have created room for tenants to question their own needs, and in the greater picture the business model of the industry. With regards to the arguments above and my deep interest for the industry, this study was born. Considering the current state of the subject, it was decided to include an external mentor with specialist knowledge and experience from this business field. The search for a mentor landed in a constructive cooperation with the department of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives at Castellum AB. The aim with this study is to investigate whether the Covid-19 pandemic had caused permanent change of the demand for office space in Sweden. Further, the aim is also to examine and answer how the demand has changed, and to present suggestions on how the real estate companies could act to counter the change and hence prevent a loss in competitiveness. The aim is answered by dividing the concept of demand into four different questions: 1. How has office work changed? 2. How has the demand changed regarding office location? 3. How has the demand changed regarding the design of the office? 4. How has the demand changed regarding the form of contract? The research method used was qualitative and it consisted of interviews with four groups of different firms in the industry, tenants, real estate companies, analysts and leasing firms. A couple of possible scenarios were formulated for each question above together with Castellum using a hypothetic deductive method. The scenarios were then put into a theoretical context and compared with the results of the study and conclusions were drawn regarding their future probability of becoming true.The study shows that in the wake of the pandemic and with so many people working remotely, new routines and an acceptance for remote work have been ingrained in people’s every day. This fact increases the likelihood of all these changes to become permanent. The flexibility between both the home and the company offices is likely to split the work an employee does at each place. In that scenario the home office will primarily be used for individual concentration work while the company office will serve as a more creative place for teambuilding, relationship building and other types of work and activities that require a higher degree of physical presence. Although the normal work day means greater flexibility, but how it practically plays out will differ depending on several factors such as business type, personal living conditions and individual characteristics. The study also indicates that the office location will be at least as important in the future as it also will fill other important roles. In order to promote the tenants operations, the location has to be attractive from the employee´s point of view and still be strategically located considering their business needs. The conclusions are that demand in the CBD and the outskirts of the big cities will continue to be attractive, while less central B and C locations will lose attractiveness. One consequence of the employees working more flexible is that today´s office space will be used less efficiently which will lead to a desire for restructuring the office design. The desire consists of larger social areas that can be used for joint work once the employees meet. The new digital video communication tools will also require a higher degree of meeting and conference rooms to able to face the demand of more people working remotely. Office design will also play a role in both stimulating creative work and attracting employees in the future and it’s likely that the restructuring can have effects on the total amount of office space required. The pandemic has shown how quickly conditions can change and as a reaction to the change, tenants have started to request more flexible contract forms. The flexibility could include terms of termination and the ability to expand or reduce the amount of space used based on the current needs in the business. Regarding flexibility, the tenants also want the general contract period to become shorter. The desire for flexibility is although related to the general size of the tenant, which argues that smaller ones are likely to be more dynamic and thus more agile in their office requirements. The conclusions above considering various changes in demand are all factors that affect a certain part of the demand, but the overall effect could only be studied within the framework of the general economic development. The study concludes that the aggregated effect on office demand depends on how well the reduced demand for space, due to lower occupancy, is absorbed by the additional factors in the form of restructuring, anxiety due to the pandemic and the underlying market growth driven by the rest of the economy. The summarized need for space in the future will hence be determined by the net effect of the listed factors above and when considering them, there are two potential outcomes. The total net effect of the change in demand accompanied by the economic conditions will either result in growth or decline in aggregated demand. Depending on the outcome, the consequences will vary between different submarkets, but in general it will affect vacancies, market rents, prices, office supply and the production of offices. The impact assessment derived from the potential outcomes, results in both a general and a specific preventive proposal for the real estate companies. The general advice is to continuously carry out analyses on the submarkets and the overall economy in order to constantly have fresh information when making important decisions. The more specific advice consists of suggestions on how the real estate companies could act strategically in order to respond to the change in demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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