Date: 03/11/2020

Human resources and office space: an ongoing transformation

Panel discussion organised jointly by AmCham HR Forum and Real Estate Committee answers key questions about new corporate needs for office space

Visiting panellists Boško Tomašević of CBRE and Bojan Jevremović of Confluence Property Management shared their observations about current trends in the property market, in particular for office space, whilst Natalija Pešić of VIP Mobile contributed her views from the perspective of human resources and employee needs.

The hard lockdown imposed during the pandemic on the one hand greatly curtailed the property market, and, on the other, radically changed the way people think about work and approach it. According to estimates, about one-half of all employees still work from home, with the other half going into offices.

Employee surveys indicate working from home has a limited lifespan. With that in mind, companies must plan in good time and adjust to the new conditions. All office buildings have already been adapted so as to prioritise employee health and safety. New requirements are emerging that have to do not only with the size of offices but also with the quality of air, spatial arrangements, and personal hygiene. The panel concluded that the property industry is facing a bright future. Even though standard requirements may be evolving, no decline is to be expected in the upcoming period.

Key challenges from the human resources perspective include safeguarding employee flexibility, motivating staff, and conveying a clear message that the office is a healthy environment where they can return if they wish. A possible direction for development is adapting fixed workstations rather than necessarily reducing personal workspace.
Different spatial arrangements do not spell the end of the open-space office, but demand for traditional open-plan properties has declined dramatically. Although it may be too early to fully comprehend the impact of the pandemic, the open-space approach is more likely to evolve and undergo modifications than disappear completely. One new development in the property market, regardless of the current public health concerns, is the rising need for soundproof areas and smaller offices within larger spaces. Many firms are also opting to use co-working facilities for meetings rather than conference rooms, as these take up huge amounts of space but are rarely used.

The panellists also shared best practices for choosing new office space and moving. Preparation is key here, and should start as early as 12 months ahead. If the company starts planning well in advance, it will have time to run analyses and make any adjustments. Equally important is to consider future expansion and whether the new space is compatible with the company’s strategic goals. In this context, firms ought to choose spaces where they will be able to remain for extended periods. The meeting also highlighted the importance of hiring a qualified project manager to help companies adjust to the new standards of working.

The event was co-moderated by Nikola Milosavljević of Adecco, Chair of AmCham’s HR Forum, and Bojan Kaličanin of Delta Real Estate, Chair of AmCham’s Real Estate Committee.