Many of us in Singapore have been allowed to return to work this week and may be facing a similar dilemma to that of The Clash in their 1981 smash hit.
Should we stay at home and work, as is the Government’s preference at this time, or should we go to the office.
The advice from Government is to go to the office only if it’s essential. However, it is assumed that in the not-too-distant future, the “essential” criteria will be removed.
I had an essential need to return to the office, which reminds me that I need to complete the “Permissions and Manpower Declaration” (https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg) within 2 weeks of resuming operations – so do you if you’ve resumed operations.
Shaking off the cobwebs from 2 months of “Circuit Breaker” (CB) was a challenge.
Waking up early to get ready for work; wearing trousers (that seemed to have shrunk around the waist!); doing the commute by bus (admittedly a more pleasant journey than usual, apart from wearing the mask), was simultaneously exciting and evocative of the tedium of many decades of commuting.
Comparing that to the past 2 months of relatively flexible waking, a less-than clean-shaven look, the official uniform of shorts and t-shirt and the 18 second commute to the “office” and serious thoughts were circulating in my mind about the efficiency of working in an office.
Getting into the office, signing in with Safe Entry (which is almost second nature these days) and sitting in front of my computer, I felt a sense of exhilaration akin to starting a new job. I promised myself in this “new” job I would be super-efficient, more pro-active than ever and increase my productivity 100-fold.
Sadly, I was brought down to earth with a bang when I remembered the promises in vain I made to myself during lockdown to wake up early, exercise every day, eat healthily, write a book and catch up on reading.
Yup, it was pretty much the same as usual, but without so many interruptions, there being only a handful of people in the office.
My CB work life was fraught with interruptions due to family, bored (some of whom became boring) friends, proximity to refrigerator and endless gazing out of the window to where freedom lay.
Coming home from the office was filled with wonder. There was actually something new to talk to family about. Stories of my crusade into the great outdoors were received with awe and bewilderment, conversation flowed with ease. A refreshing change from the past weeks where everyone knew everything than each had done all day, because it was pretty much the same as had been done the previous day.
Reflecting on the pros and cons of my day in the office, I was struck with the thought that many employees and, more relevant, employers will be looking seriously at the need to operate from an office.
The initial thoughts from the employer could well be that they functioned adequately with their employees working from home and the potential cost savings of not having an office could be significant. If too many companies do this, the demand for office space may crash and property prices could fall, maybe significantly.
There is of course a flip-side to this if, for example, home working is abused by too many people, employers may decide to bring everyone back into an office environment. Should this happen, the demand for office space could bounce back with a commensurate potential rise in property prices.
This must be an issue property owners and investors are looking at closely. The timing of whether to sell your property or invest into a property will be crucial because there is likely to be a paradigm shift with office working.
The dilemma the The Clash wailed about almost 40 years ago hangs above property owners and investors today…”If I go there could be trouble, but if I stay it could be double”