Life after COVID-19: Does every cloud have a silver lining?

Life after COVID-19: Does every cloud have a silver lining?
Life after COVID-19: Does every cloud have a silver lining?

OPINION:

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have caused profound economic and social distress, significantly impacting our way of life. However, the extended pause is likely to have some positive effects on how we live, work and play which will influence the design of developments moving forward.

Some of the positive impacts we’ve seen so far

After seeing fish swimming in clear Venice waterways, less traffic and more birdsong, cleaner air with lower air pollution levels in many cities, empty skies with no aeroplane noise, dense smog disappearing in heavily polluted cities – we’re already seeing some positive impacts once the world pauses for a moment. Many global cities are now exploring ways to permanently reduce pollution levels, including replacing roads with pedestrian areas and extending cycle networks. To make a lasting impact, cities require greater public transport infrastructure and an increase in renewable energy sources. 

Reimagining our master-planned communities

Another positive that has come from the period of time spent in our local neighbourhoods, has been the renewed sense of community. This could include talking to neighbours across the street or checking if your elderly neighbours are okay. This sense of community and connection with neighbours in future residential developments will be more important than ever.

A greater appreciation for the outdoor areas in our neighbourhoods

Over the past few months, people have enjoyed spending more time exploring their neighbourhoods, either going for bike rides, exploring local walking tracks, visiting parks and taking their dogs for more walks than usual. Post COVID-19 homebuyers will undoubtedly place a greater value on well-curated outdoor zones with an increase in demand for living close to public parks, walking tracks and outdoor amenities.

Rediscovering how we use the spaces within our homes

The collective experience of being confined to our homes has meant they have become our sanctuaries. To enable working from home, we have discovered a new need to have dedicated study areas, media nooks or flexible multipurpose spaces with movable internal walls and plenty of storage space. Instead of homes designed as blank and minimalist, people may discover they want more homely or adaptable spaces, with the flexibility to regularly restyle their homes as they please. Homebuyers will undoubtedly be much more discerning with these factors going forward.

Potential for a change to our work-life balance

Is working in an office to a set 9 am – 5 pm timetable, 5 days a week normal in the first place? These set times result in peak hour travel times, so perhaps modified staggered work times might alleviate this. In this digital world we shouldn’t be travelling hours locally, interstate or abroad for non-critical meetings. Also travelling an hour each way to work equates to an entire working day per week, however, the daily commute from the kitchen takes just seconds! If companies embrace ‘new normal’ working practices this will have a knock-on effect on peak-time travel and perhaps the government won’t need to build all of the earmarked new roads and instead provide a better transport network to create a connected city and reduce commuter travel times. 

How we use technology has changed

Technology brings us closer together (when we aren’t stuck on mute) and video conferencing gives people the ability to have meetings anytime, anywhere. I still believe we still need face to face meetings for initiating new business, building rapport and creative brainstorming, however, Zoom is a great tool in instances when you can’t meet clients or colleagues in person. The office will remain a hub for connection, sharing ideas and for social interaction with colleagues and clients. 

As WFH becomes more widely accepted corporate companies might shrink their office footprints to take into account the staff working 1 or 2 days at home. Others will use existing office space differently with some spaces being reconfigured to enhance employee experience, comfort, productivity and wellness. It’s clearly not a one size fits all approach but the future will be a combination of WFH and office-based work. 

Final thoughts

Australia is an isolated island away from the rest of the world, which could end up being our saviour with international property buyers viewing the ‘lucky country’ as a relatively safe haven providing a much-needed boost to immigration levels. If this ‘corona cloud’ has a silver lining, then it’s turning this challenge into an opportunity for change to create better homes, communities and cities. It would be disappointing if the property industry wasted this opportunity, although it shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to implement these innovative changes.

James Swete

James Swete

James Swete is the Sales & Marketing Director of Starryland. He has been involved in residential development in Sydney for over 18 years across high profile luxury residential project marketing, sales, site acquisition and development consultancy.

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