What is happening to real estate after the pandemic? The expert from SCB Gloria Mamwa talks about the biggest changes in the industry including the workplace culture, and how it’s affected by hybrid work.
Our global real estate expert
Gloria Mamwa is the Regional Head of Property at Standard Chartered Bank (SCB). Gloria has been in the real estate industry for over 20 years, with a background in architecture, interior design, and project management. She now resides in Dubai, overseeing the African and Middle Eastern regions for SCB.
SCB’s real estate investment portfolio spans 60 countries and is generally known as an emerging markets bank. It is headquartered in London with nearly 13 million square feet of real estate globally. Gloria and her team work to balance strategic workplace design with cultural differences across many countries. Being able to drive consistent global real estate strategies in different markets while sticking to budget is at the core of her work. Listen to the following few clips to understand what Gloria prioritizes when it comes to making decisions for a corporate real estate strategy.
Why workplace culture matters
“One of the things that we don’t ignore is that we’re in 60 countries. And there are local nuances that we do have to adapt to, regardless of whether we’re looking at an office strategy or a retail strategy in terms of what we drive.” – Gloria Mamwa
In this clip, Gloria suggests there is a common workplace configuration within the workplace strategy that they’re building at SCB. However, they cannot ignore the fact that different countries, workplace cultures, and cities all have different ways of working. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution, so what’s the best way to adapt?
Corporate real estate after the pandemic
On top of this obstacle, there is now the pandemic to reflect on. Employees are used to working from home, and therefore CRE strategies must include this as a competitor to the office. Gloria is focusing on creating an environment that can allow this new flexibility. Moreover, SCB has started a trial to allow their employees to work in whichever way suits them best. This can be from home, in the office, or hybrid work. The data following this experiment will help form solutions for real estate after the pandemic in the future.
Adapting to hybrid work
“When it comes to the design of the office, in terms of what it is that it will look like, it is going to be dependent on how much you want to compete with the home setting ” – Gloria Mamwa
This is a hot topic within CRE. If companies want their employees to return to the office, they have to offer something that competes with the comfort of one’s home. Gloria suggests that it’s important to understand what people will want to do as they return to the office. As most CRE managers are predicting, Gloria believes the office of the future will be a collaborative space. Companies must figure out how to properly support these types of activities considering the hybrid work trend. Team and individual needs must be met from both a design and operational perspective.
She clarifies that the conversation is starting to change: “Whether you’re in financial services, whether you’re in manufacturing, it’s the same conversation. I think covid has been quite a leveler in terms of trying to understand how do we support the human being in the workspace? That becomes the priority.”
Will employees return to the office?
“There is an optimal time range for a commute because it allows you to have a clear cut between working life and private life, and debrief and calm down.” – Sabine Ehm
Having a proper work-life balance can be difficult to obtain when working from home. Before the pandemic, most perceived the commute as a tedious task, as opposed to a formal structure in place to section your time. Gloria purposely moved far from the office. This gave her a 25-30 minute commute to debrief at the end of each workday. Now, Gloria consciously chooses to switch up her location while working from home.
“Sometimes I’ll take my laptop and move to a place outside rather than on my desk. Just so I can refresh and change the position. I think the things we had in the office like walking into a meeting room, going to the canteen, allowed us to rebrief through the day. It allows us to change certain settings for ourselves that allowed us to think differently,” she explains.
Building a corporate real estate portfolio
“We don’t want to leap-frog into the future without making sure that we understand: what are your needs in terms of a space?” – Gloria Mamwa
Standard Chartered Bank is a huge, international company. Gloria and her team oversee a massive area, including all African and middle eastern countries. The nuances of each SCB location are understandably different. With each global real estate project, Gloria ensures to engage with every level of management affected. What are they doing every day? How can we serve them better? How can we adapt our workplace strategy to fit here? “What is a particular operations team managing on a day-to-day basis? If I don’t talk to them to understand [their] day-to-day, I won’t solve their needs.” SCB also performs Leesman Index surveys to further gather knowledge.
Conclusion for corporate real estate strategy after the pandemic.
We are still seeing changes in real estate after the pandemic. For Gloria and her team, it’s imperative to take into account the nuances of each region they are developing in. However, they must also understand how employees wish to work in the future, be it from home or in-office. Gathering data on all these factors will help immensely in developing a corporate real estate strategy.
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