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SHAPING 2021: INNOVATION & DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Thor Bloomfield, Founder and Director of Bloomfield Capital, shares his views on innovation and development in 2021
2020 would have to go on record as one of the craziest years we have seen in our lifetime, especially in the world of business. Building to 2020, we saw the curation of routine and structure, developing an innate understanding of what is required to operate strategically through the development of a place of process. However, if there is one thing the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us, is that, by taking that process and structure that we have come to rely on so much as humans, away, many businesses fall apart. The inability to pivot or re-prioritise to move forward has been the downfall of many SME’s, globally.
As we move into 2021, we are entering a whole new landscape – both in business and lifestyle.
VIRTUAL TEAM WELLBEING & FLEXIBILITY
Remote working has also made us better communicators. I believe businesses will take a more proactive approach in 2021 to maintaining open communication channels between stakeholders, being more strategic with technology, and creating a sense of community and trust across networks. For example, Bloomfield Capital operates as an extremely close-knit team. I talk to my team constantly, and we conduct business through personal relationships with one another. Whilst fortunate to have my wife as both a life and business partner, we have adopted a completely remote working setup for the rest of the team. . I have become more productive because I’m not sitting in the car driving from meeting to meeting, I am less tired and have greater flexibility over my days across week. The use of video conferences, messenger services and increased phone calls has meant we are able to maintain this relationship virtually, although I do miss having them right next door! We make a concerted effort to stay in touch and chat outside of business hours, allowing us to maintain that personal relationship and trust, and remain conscious of one another’s mental wellness. Happy staff equals happy business, so I hope to see the money saved on traditional office space instead spent on engaging teams through events, virtual meetings, activity-based meet ups and office days in more purposefully designed spaces.
DECENTRALISATION OF BUSINESS HUBS
I have seen a big shift in the traditional way of working structure both my clients and own business portfolio. Whilst there were, of course, those businesses who really struggled to go virtual during lockdowns, many have found that remote working is productive, healthy and cost-effective, reducing overheads and allowing teams to better balance their lives through flexibility. Bloomfield will, for the most, continue to operate remotely for the foreseeable future. Why? Because it is a smart move, empowering teams to take control of their workload and motivating them to balance themselves better. My network chatter leads me to believe this will be quite a common norm in 2021. The city no longer represents the influence that it does previously as a place to measure one’s business status or success. In Melbourne alone, Collins, Bourke, William, Queens, Lonsdale and Latrobe Streets all have great names, and having an office space in such hotspots lead one to believe they were dealing with the big boys. But, this year has seen the traditional office set up and super sites housing companies and corporates disperse, decentralising the old business hub and scattering business remotely across regional areas and suburban cities.
CHANGING OFFICE BUILDING USES
Of course, as businesses shift to a modern remote model, the property market will face a new challenge of filling newly lower-capacity office spaces. Whilst most businesses are anticipated to maintain some structure in the sense of set office days, or use of office space for meetings and business transactions, we anticipate many will downsize or shift out of the CBD area, closer to the suburbs. Covid has shown us that working from an office in the city doesn’t have all the benefits that it once did, nor the value proposition for clients to visit them in the city business districts. Furthermore, this shift in office use and need will see a change in traditional leasing terms, with more demand for flexibility and reduced terms. Changes in client expectations will be evident, too, in terms of face to face meetings and transactions. Given the health scare of 2020, we’re seeing request and enquiries for such things as car parking spaces, fewer people in one space, and a better duty of care in terms of health and wellness precautions more often. The focus on health over the last 12 months has really a big highlight, and I think the increase in the duty of care and concern for stakeholder health is here to stay following this year.
RISE OF THE SUBURBS
There is a great development opportunity as we see businesses move away from the traditional CBD location and into the suburbs. I like to call these satellite cities – where remote working meets lifestyle-centric businesses. Demand for locations suited to commercial, retail and industrial needs is increasing in these areas, and there’s a real opportunity to breathe new life into older existing premises to satisfy this. Creating infrastructure to support these satellite cities will aid in making remote working more productive and effective, and better the lifestyles of those employees who work in the suburban areas. At Bloomfield Capital, one of our focuses is to source and develop sites that add value to suburban and regional community areas, identifying opportunities for them to capitalise on the change in our business and living environments. Such as the introduction of business-focused cafes, shared work spaces etc.
This year, my values have certainly shifted. I enjoy waking up early and going for a walk to get my morning coffee from my local café. I appreciate being able choose to either work either from home, or go to the office. I am grateful to choose between dedicating time to my business or my family, and putting our health and wellness first in order to keep our business ticking over. Covid has shown my team and I the importance of finding the value in the opportunities presented to us. We are not focused on maximising the dollar potential of a development opportunity if it reduces the value of the site in the community. Instead, we would rather maintain or increase its value to be worth more to the community, being strategic in our approach to its future proofing.