• Laura Maidment

Are areas of APAC reverting back to pre-pandemic workplace norms?

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

And, is this a major lost opportunity for the region?

During a recent OCCUPEERS discussion between WPP, GSK, Netflix, Twitter, and American Express, an interesting concern was raised; there is the risk that areas of APAC will revert back to pre-pandemic workplace norms, moving away from current agile models. Perhaps there hasn't been enough time to embed permanent mindset shifts?

James Woodburn, Head of Real Estate at WPP, believes this would be a real missed opportunity for the region. WPP has welcomed the accelerated move towards a more agile way of working. He says that their strategy was already to bring people together in campuses, to be more agile, sharing, and community based. If anything, he says, the current situation has been a gift to the corporate real estate world, proving that this approach does work.

However, not all locations have responded to agile working in the same way. Every country has its own nuances.

More mature economies like Australia and Japan are embracing agile and pushing it to greater limits, while emerging markets, including China, Korea, and Taiwan, are almost back to normal.

“In some regards, in Asia, I see it as a risk of a lost opportunity if we haven’t embedded the changes in behaviour to work remotely and more agilely,” Woodburn adds. “We might find that some of our markets revert to old practices and miss the opportunity to embed this positive change."

We might find that some of our markets revert to old practices and miss the opportunity to embed this positive change

A culture of presenteeism could threaten the future of agile working in some regions of APAC.

Joanne Cheung, Head of APAC Worldwide Real Estate & Facilities at GSK notes that while customer surveys indicate that people want to work from home for at least two to three days a week, the turnout rates contradict this. She wonders whether this change needs to come from management, due to the deep-seated culture of presenteeism in the country.

Woodburn agrees, noting that this is true for many Asian countries.

He points out that Korea has returned very quickly, and people are back in the office, whereas Japan – perhaps surprisingly – is showing one of the most progressive approaches in the region, linked with their need to heavily manage Covid responses.

He believes that this is likely due to Japan being forced through necessity into a more flexible approach to workspaces and then seeing that it actually works, whereas other markets have not had that time to embed the new habit.

Click here to watch or read the full conversation, discussing post-covid workplace strategy, which took place at SPACE APAC with WPP, GSK, Netflix, Twitter, and American Express.

For more occupier focused insights, and to join our global peer group of progressive real estate occupiers, check out our OCCUPEERS.

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