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The rise, fall, and rise again of offices

Francine M. Marquez

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Workplaces and offices have been reopening their doors again with more ease in mobility gained under the metro’s general community quarantine (GCQ) condition. Though with priority still placed on the health and safety of employees and customers alike, companies are realizing that there are both the good and not so good side to the work from home set-up.

For one, there’s connectivity that not all households are well-equipped with or can afford at the very least. And the fact that spaces in one’s place of residence may not have a defined area for working on a daily basis. Some individuals who work remotely also claim distractions especially since one is in the comfort of home but with demands of family members and chores to deal with on hand.

Sheila Lobien, CEO and founder of Lobien Realty Group (LRG), observes that there has been some rise in the leasing of office spaces especially with the demand for more flexible working areas.

LRG is a full-service real estate consultancy and property investments strategy firm involved in commercial and office space leasing, capital investments optimization and property acquisition and sales. In less than a decade of its existence, the company has achieved leasing out more than a million square meters of office and commercial space around key areas in the metro already.

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But with social distancing and regular disinfection as vital components of working spaces under the new normal, Lobien shares that there has been a shift from the big open-plan offices that can accommodate a team composed of a thousand employers — such as those in the BPO business — to more downsized ones that can accommodate smaller groups.

“Offices are here to stay because they serve as the headquarters and anchor of a company or organization. But co-working spaces are coming back as well because of such companies that are now assigning their teams in these spaces. So instead of a spacious floor that has, say 800 people, now many are branching out to satellite offices with 100 to 300 people at a time, for instance, and depending on where their team members reside,” Lobien observes, “This way, should there be another emergency, it will be easier to regroup or get the work together.”

Work Studios, located at the Infinity Tower of Bonifacio Global City and managed by LRG, is one such space where companies may have their staff work in either a private studio or hot desks.
Here, social distancing measures have been considered as the modern venue has well spaced out seating arrangements created in its work stations.

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In keeping with the times, LRG has also shown its agility and adaptability to the transforming business landscape and the surge of e-commerce globally. Village Connect is LRG’s response to the rising demand for logistics.

Lobien adds, “We’re now seeing how logistics is turning out to be an important driver in business and the economy. Logistics has also become an indicator of how companies are competent in terms of answering their customers’ needs and as businessmen or manufacturers try to ramp up their products in the value chain.”

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On its website (www.lobiengroup.com), an LRG study reveals that the Philippine logistics market is indeed a flourishing industry with the following forecast: 8.2 percent to 8.8 percent growth rate for the period 2018 to 2024 and projected to be a P970 Billion to P1 Trillion market.

With these insights, LRG has successfully traversed and found the growing opportunities in the logistics and warehousing industry in Metro Manila and in nearby areas like Cavite and Pampanga. “Most of the warehouses in Metro Manila are fully leased, and if there are vacancies now, they are very few,” Lobien said. “The core of the business has not really shifted it’s just that right now, with the rise of e-commerce and with people buying things online, and goods are being delivered left and right, more of these warehouses are being utilized today.”

Still, the company’s core remains in providing excellent quality office and residential spaces in the ever busy urban areas. The company’s premium has always been its collaboration with the big developers in the property sector as well as with boutique landlords.

“In a down and out market, you just have to see the opportunities, you need to have a positive mindset,” Lobien expressed, “Our tagline has always been building lasting partnerships. From the start, we established this business because we’ve had clients supporting us and I feel that it’s still very apt because we are able to survive through this pandemic because of our partners. And I know that when the pandemic is up, we shall continue to move up because there’s no other direction after this downturn but to be stronger and to go forward.”

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