Can everybody get off the bench?
by Eduard Schaepman, on 18 Jun 2020
In March it soon became clear that the Provada, the most famous Dutch real estate fair, was being moved to November by the coronavirus. We did expect that, but still, it was a disappointment as it is one of the highlights of the network season. Fortunately, the Provada has found a way to stay in touch with each other, and over the past two days we have been able to talk about real estate using digital means. Long live the webcast, the podcasts and the videocalls!
I was a guest at 'Talk of the Town' on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I talked to Jort Kelder about our Blue Zone Office concept. We had the opportunity to discuss the current situation of real estate, because that’s not a very positive one in my opinion. We're missing a bunch of leaders. Men or women with balls, who dare to stand up and address the government. After all, we all sat back and listened like the best children of the class when our prime minister told us to stay home as much as possible. Well, not all of them. Together with Maarten de Gruyter, Huib Bossevain and Daan van der Vorm, I try to make some noise, but we are far from there yet. We need all those other people who are now on the bench on our mission.
I myself stayed ‘put’ until the 20th of April. Before that time, a lot of ideas had been prepared and worked out, and when it turned out that Mark Rutte's speech once again did not focus on office life and thus the influence on the real estate world, we drew up our own plan. After all, no thought has been given to the impact of working from home, both on the end user and on commercial property.
Most of the people in the Netherlands have an office job. They started their mornings with traffic jams before the corona crisis, opened their laptops, made some phone calls, had some meetings, and enjoyed the caffeine richly. Together with their colleagues, a little joke here, a short story there, and one was good to go. This gives us energy and creativity, because man is a social animal. After they got used to working from home, they started to see the positive aspects: you can concentrate well, there's no one at your desk, you can do laundry, balance... and so on. But it's very easy to say that the office has been written off, because you actually like working from home. Because there's no one at your desk: there's no social contact and the dining room chair isn't ideal after all, well, I've written about it before. The end user wants it both: work at home for one or two days, and the rest at the office.
And when we are allowed to sit in the plane with about 500 men with face masks, but especially because of the unique ventilation, it seems to me that we could very well go back to the office. Especially when we think about ventilation, something I'm already working on myself. But no, the government still hasn't made a firm statement about office life. So, a lot of companies will stay working from home, and that has consequences for the real estate world. If we continue like this, all the small entrepreneurs in our sector will go under, while we anticipate growth in the future. In order to provide 1.5M workplaces, many companies need more space, and in order to accommodate employees (that dining room chair will eventually have real consequences for your constitution), employees will be able to work in a flex-place closer to home. But while just about every sector is screaming for attention, we keep quiet.
Now is the time for our sector to join forces and make a point so that people will to come back to the office. Because it really can: our corona-proof concept for example, the 'Blue Zone Office' offers everything you need to work safely with 1.5M distance and to improve your immune system. But if we sit back, nothing will happen. Maybe time to drive our office chairs to The Hague? Just think that Huib, Maarten, Daan van der Vorm and I don't impress very much when the four of us arrive at 't Binnenhof. We need everyone, so real estate men and women: get off the bench and let's hear from you!