My World: June 2021…
This is part of a series of articles where our contributors describe how they think things will look a year from now.
I feel terrible for writing this, when front line workers are risking their lives to save others twenty-four hours a day, but my quality of life has, so far, been greatly improved by the lock down. My family has moved to the country and I have set up my office there. The new office is wonderful. I leave the door open and listen to the birds while I draw. There are no planes and no road noise. The air is clean. My children and family (and 84- year-old mother in law) have all quarantined and are at home. I lunch with them every day – just a stroll across the lawn. I do not need to commute into London. All my files are accessed through VPN. I can reach clients by Zoom. Planning applications are all downloaded online anyway. All site drawings (not that there is much happening on site at present) can be checked by BIM. I see more of my children than before, especially now that they are being schooled remotely at home. It is all a bit surreal at present with reality only penetrating when I read the news.
I expect that, when we get back to ‘normal’, things will be different. Admittedly, I have only a small office, but I used to walk around the office and talk to people (management by walking around). Now most of the work will be done at home. There will not be any ‘face time’ or lost time to chit chat. Productivity will improve because policing will not be about checking clocking in times but about checking whether tasks have been achieved. Social occasions will be more structured. I always bought drinks for my employees after work on Fridays. This will now only happen on special occasions.
There will be less time wasted commuting and people will be more productive without those two hours a day travelling back and forth to the office. Driving or even cycling can be stressful and that time will be taken up by personal pursuits such as cooking or exercise. There will be more emphasis on quality of life.
My office, which works in the high-end residential market in London, had already been hit hard by the triple whammy of higher stamp duty, removal of the law that allowed investors to deduct interest payments before tax and removal of reduced VAT for works to listed buildings. Shoots of recovery appeared just before Corona virus happened but very few transactions are occurring at present. The market will recover but it will take time. There will be less need for inner city office space but the young will still want to be in the city to socialize and meet. I expect to see increased applications for change of use from office to residential. Residential rents in the countryside (with good broadband) will increase but I expect to see the high street recover less quickly. People will still want the experience of shopping but will have got used to having products delivered to their door even more than before.