Portfolio organised the ‘CEE Property Forum’, which has been the number one real estate event in the region since 2013, in Vienna not long ago. One of the most anticipated discussions of the conference was about the current and future trends of the office market. Our group of companies was represented by Libor Holik, CEO of B+N Czech Republic and Slovakia.
During the discussion titled “Flex Is the Keyword – Workplace Strategies Post-COVID-19”, the most important real estate experts of the region talked about how flexible the office market is, what has changed during the pandemic and, what are the things expected to stay with us – even in the long run.
According to Libor Holik, one can experience great changes in facility management, compared to the pre-COVID period. Many of the larger companies are still waiting to see which way the cat jumps and have not yet made any clear decisions about the future in this field. This transitional period may last a while. “I am convinced that hybrid work models are not going to disappear, however, at the moment it is impossible to say anything about the work-life balance from a ‘geographical’ perspective. Naturally, this significantly depends on the economic sector a given company is engaged in.”
The CEO of B+N Czech Republic and Slovakia explained: we are all witnesses to a drastic change in the office market; focus is on safety everywhere. Currently, this is the most important trend for companies and employees alike. Cleanliness and disinfection are key aspects, in addition to ‘simple’ cleaning, also in the field of heating and air-conditioning.
“Nobody is trying to save on this now; everybody, without exception, is considering the health of their employees”.
In parallel with this, many companies are launching new services, following the practice pursued by hotels: flowers in the office, concert ticket arrangements, offering healthy food. Companies try to ‘attract’ their employees back to the physical workplace with such convenience services. Such a powerful change is unprecedented.
Office buildings will become more and more automated in the near future. This is another radical change, and not only in capital cities. In Hungary, for example, everything has ‘happened’ in Budapest so far, however, we see 11 country towns experiencing the same process. Multinational companies force FM service providers to follow this trend.
The participants of the panel discussion agreed that, following Western European examples, flexible work is going to be natural in our region as well. In Hungary, there are already a lot of people working for their companies in Budapest from their weekend house around Lake Balaton – and not only in summer. This is even more typical in the villages around bigger cities in each of the countries in the region. There are lots of benefits associated with this trend: significant cost reduction, time-saving resulting in lower workloads and more free time, employees are free of the health-damaging effects of waiting in traffic jams day after day. The ’15-minute travel rule’ (i.e. you shouldn’t travel more than that to and from your workplace) has ‘found its way’ to the countries of the region.
However, one shouldn’t forget that employees still prefer downtown offices due to social life, the multitude of human interactions and convenience. This is the place where they can find shops and the kindergarten, school and the afternoon sports classes their children attend are also located here. And the office also serves as a place where they can talk, have a coffee or lunch together with others. This is going to stay with us in future as well.