We see exciting new opportunities for innovators and investors to develop novel models and services

Jeremy Wakeham

Jeremy Wakeham is CEO of the Business Division and a commercial real estate partner

Covid-19 has proven to be the catalyst to accelerate profound change in the way we live our lives and use our buildings. This change was already happening, but slowly, and it was difficult to see how it might ultimately change the buildings around us.

The world over, our real estate is wrestling with the challenge of catering for new demands and this presents extraordinary opportunities for the more innovative and agile investors and developers.

As a law firm that represents successful people and innovators around the globe, we have a unique insight into not only commercial offices but also residential property and the hospitality sector, which has led us to question the future of work, home and social. In doing so we have sought the opinions of a wide range of experts, investors, owners and entrepreneurs. We are grateful to them for their time and fascinating insights.

There are many interesting talking points in this report, which potentially reveal a very different world to come. There are some overarching themes that can be traced throughout the work, home and social sections.

The world over, our real estate is wrestling with the challenge of catering for new demands

Executive summary

  • Flexibility will be at the heart of the development of all types of property and a single use district will not be sustainable. This applies to the Central Business District just as much as it does to the suburbs. Both shall need to reinvent themselves.
  • In the workplace, flexibility will come in the form of increased choice. The office is going to become just one option among a range of workplaces, and the hospitality industry may be best placed to fulfil the need for a 'third space' outside of the home and office where people can work but also socialise (and perhaps exercise).
  • During the pandemic our homes have become our offices and our children's schools, as well as our families' places of shelter. This will change the homes we want to live in and build, as well as loosening constraints on where we will choose to live.
  • The variables are dizzying, but we can expect to see our communities transform as some areas benefit from their location and amenities and others face decline, possibly followed by reinvention. A radical change in thinking like this will open up the regions around cities and further afield, and will provide opportunities for developers, particularly those focused on sustainability and the environment, in the creation of new communities.
  • We have examined what the new world of socialising will look like, where and when it will happen and whether the focus of entertaining will switch to the home. Socialising is the second biggest reason for city living and understanding this holds the key to appreciating why this period of change is potentially so fundamental and what the role of the city will be. If the city gives up some of its predominance as the focus for investment and development in these areas, this latent demand may reappear elsewhere and in other forms.

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These trends point to entirely new approaches to the provision of real estate

This report is about the role of individuals and their relationship with buildings and with each other – and that is what makes this a historic turning point in attitudes and practices, because the effects will be felt by individuals across all areas of life. The pandemic has caused untold emotional, physical and economic cost. Outside of the direct impact, there is a moment for society in economic and social recovery to pause for thought and make choices about where to go from here. These trends point to entirely new approaches to the provision of real estate. New types of funding, new attitudes to investment, ownership and the use of technology to bring it together. We expect that passive investment in commercial property may no longer deliver predictable returns, which may put off some investors, but in turn will attract others. We see exciting new opportunities for innovators and investors to develop novel models and services. The creative, independent operators will thrive whereas many traditional industry stalwarts will find it harder to adapt. Getting behind the right targets at the right time will be crucial. We would like to thank everyone from across the industry who has collaborated with us to produce this record of thoughts on the impact and changes that this period has the potential to bring about. This is just the start of an ongoing debate and we welcome your views on the issues it raises for the future of work, life and play.


If you have any questions or comments about this report, please get in touch

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© Withersworldwide - The information and opinions contained in this publication do not constitute professional advice