It’s hard to find positives in the midst of a pandemic. But if you look hard enough you can find some plus points. Major events – even the worst ones – have a habit of driving technology forward.
Rapid advances in radar, telecommunications and space exploration came out of the Second World War and there have been huge changes in building security, fire safety and post-explosion detection systems in response to terrorist threats. Any adjustments to the way we live, work and use technology post-pandemic are arguably going to be more mundane – but they could be just as far-reaching.
In the last year, Covid-19 has forced us all to pivot from face-to-face interactions with our colleagues and clients towards tech-enabled solutions and we are unlikely to simply turn away from these new ways of working once the threat to our health is over.
Property managers and letting agents have proved themselves particularly agile, rapidly embracing remote working, video calls and virtual viewings and tours. Residents have been brought on board too and there is no doubt that online AGMs and management portals are here to stay. There is now an app for everything from keyless access to blocks to organising parcel deliveries. And despite the vaccine rollout, social distancing and heightened levels of hygiene won’t go away anytime soon, so smart user interfaces and touchless technology will continue to develop at pace.
The other interesting aspect of our new normal is the impact on our carbon footprint. Replacing face-to-face with virtual activity is good for the planet. Innovations such as our automated lettings platform PlanetRent which allows landlords and tenants to conduct the whole of their rental journey online, could be a game-changer in terms of reducing our environmental impact. Ditto e-signing of legal documents.
Remote working, which many of us say we will be reluctant to give up, means many fewer car and train journeys and, in future, this could also mean fewer heavily-occupied commercial buildings and a lessening of the enormous energy load that goes with them.
Of course the impact of all this on our economy remains to be seen. There is a complex symbiotic relationship between the businesses in our cities and the workers the rely on for their continued existence and we know a serious financial fallout is inevitable. However, if more of us are working and shopping locally, one outcome may be a levelling out of profit centres, with wealth spreading out of urban areas and into our smaller towns and the wider countryside. This may be bad for individual companies but could be a win for the business sector as a whole.
Build to Rent providers are already starting to develop lower density single-family rental properties in suburban areas– and where there are homes there are new opportunities. The key will be for investors and the business community not to dwell on the failures resulting from the pandemic but to build on the possibilities that could result from it.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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