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The Super Commuters and the New Offices

A new breed of "super commuters" is emerging in some countries.

Allied to "great resignation" and the new way many approach offices. They spend the week in the cities and return to the suburbs on weekends.

Is it also a trend that we have, or will we have, in our country?

In countries like the US, many workers start new habits or keep the ones that arrived with the pandemic.

During the pandemic, many families began a movement to move to the suburbs in search of safer places and where there was more space for teleworking.

It was something that was observed during the most acute periods of the pandemic where confinements were the norm and lasted for several months.

Spaces in cities were not prepared for a new way of life.

This change was cemented by the increase in companies that extended teleworking, making it, in few cases, the norm.

The new inhabitants gained a taste for spaces away from urban centers where they gathered conditions for a high quality of life and good conditions for working with the use of technologies.

The gains in terms of time in daily commuting provided much additional time for quality of life and time spent on leisure or family activities. Time considered quality.

What resulted in a flow to these spaces and an exchange, on the part of those who had this capacity, for more peripheral areas in relation to large urban spaces.

But much of the pandemic was, fortunately, under control, and a reverse movement of many companies back to the offices began to emerge.

Many of these workers did not wish to return and wished to maintain this lifestyle.

And these behavior movements...

Here, several components and changes in behavior are identified, with regard to the way of life and real estate activity and work dynamics:

  • A movement to the periphery and a change in terms of the choice of spaces in terms of real estate;

  • A complete adoption of technology for the majority of activities developed in terms of work (initially forced), created an increase in globalization and in the potential of nomadism;

  • If there was a desire, and the practice by few, of what is known as "digital nomadism", this forced change gave this way of life of remote work greater visibility and new supporters. More now have the possibility to work from any part of the globe. But more importantly, they experienced something that under non-pandemic conditions would not have been possible;

  • The forced adaptation of living spaces for the two functions: housing and workplace. And yet a space shared by the whole family, 24 hours a day, requires other conditions and larger areas;

  • There has been a greater investment in housing spaces. Something that was not even limited by restrictions on circulation, but increased by technology (and where the "last mile" resources (logistics for delivery and collection of products) gained a new dimension and investment needs.

  • The reversal of this movement, with the control of the pandemic, was not well accepted by everyone, particularly if we frame it in this context of improving living conditions (namely for some segments of families).

  • In addition to other factors, such as some of those already mentioned, a movement of resistance to the return to the conventional office begins (in fact not for everyone, but for the segments that were able to make a big change in their way of life);

  • This movement, which still makes its pressure felt in many companies, has been called "the great resignation" (the dismissal of many company staff, particularly those related to the technological area);

  • This movement ended up generating the development of many individual activities (free-lancers) and start-ups by those who chose to embrace new housing spaces and their activity with a high technological integration.

  • Mas e os que conseguiram uma solução híbrida?

  • Aqueles que, também numa lógica de bem estar mental e de manutenção do contacto com os seus pares, escolheram o "melhor dos dois mundos"?

The new "trends"

According to what trends tell us, they found a compromise solution. Smaller housing for weekdays when they travel to the "city" (urban areas) where they meet with other employees and colleagues, returning to their refuges in the suburbs (or further afield) on weekends.

Naturally, some of these trips to companies take place for 2 or 3 days a week (or for a similar time), staying with longer periods in their weekend "refuges".

A direct effect, in most cases (or collateral), of changing the way we see and formulate offices after this event of worldwide impact.

These spaces, the offices, end up adapting by changing the way in which their offer of space is organized, in order to have a flexible structure. But not for everyone.

In many cases, according to the news that are circulating, spaces such as CoWorking have been used, and similar solutions to serve for the meeting of teams that remained in a remote and hybrid format.

Even hotels, which have suffered considerably from confinement and travel restrictions, have started to offer and integrate services of this type.

Will it be a solution for Portugal?

But despite this movement, and the trends in various markets, is it a reality that will mark the situation for the Portuguese market?

It doesn't seem to be the case. At least in a volume that can be considered a trend.

Movements to the periphery were residual (in terms of the acquisition of new housing spaces. Those who already owned them limited themselves to increasing their use).

Companies have not given up on their spaces entirely, although there may be some adaptations and some cases of functions that have become hybrids.

In fact, investments in structures of this type continue, as well as the development of business and innovation centers, either by corporations or by research units of various types of businesses.

Recent news even indicate a growth in the number of foreign companies investing, for example, in the Porto region (despite the fact that the hiring of specialized labor for some areas, such as technology), where the standard of living is considered good and a good place to live. Let there be housing for all.

Although much remains as in pre-pandemic periods (not least because there have always been those who have not adapted to remote or hybrid models), there will always be a change in our perception of workspaces (at least for those who have this possibility).

Perhaps a generational "thing"?

With the growing integration of technology in all our activities, there will be, particularly by the new generations, a greater tendency to adopt it and to have a greater willingness and opportunity/interest to travel and gain from these experiences.

And experiences have been particularly valued by millennials more than owning a home or a car.

So working outside and a physical space turns out to be very attractive, particularly when the relationship with technology and electronic communication is no longer a problem.

Although our country is part of this behavior does not have the expression of other markets, with the transversality of technology and information sharing across most of the globe, the populations of the younger age groups will also end up integrating these behaviors. Particularly when they become "routine".

Another impossibility for this type of behavior, as far as our country is concerned, is the absence of a real estate product that responds to the needs that many aspire to, especially with characteristics and ease of being inhabited immediately.

This is combined with the ability to borrow and access properties in a timely manner in relation to bureaucracy (and what were the confinements).

In addition to this, we have a weak infrastructure in terms of transport, which boils down to the need to use own transport. And fuels are what they are these days.

We will still have the difficulties of accessing credit and the problem of rising interest rates that will begin to transform installments into a significant expense for the family budget.

And how will it be? Does the investment continue?

Although we may see some changes in habits, they may still be possible for a large part of the Portuguese who could enjoy this lifestyle.

Foreign investors and buyers of some properties, the impact will be smaller, but they are also having some constraints, despite investments in high-end properties that continue to appear across the country.

Thus, the trends of some countries do not seem to have the same opportunities to be reflected in the national space.

The evaluation of an investment, with increasingly volatile variables, ends up having greater relevance, as well as the knowledge of market constraints and their nuances.

New offices will continue to appear, but it seems that the trends of two dwellings, or sharing lifestyles seem to be getting further away, particularly given the contextual circumstances.

We will have new ways of working, new approaches to this market, but with a high dependence on costs that seem to remain beyond the reach of average Portuguese (even medium high).

And once again we will follow the trends of other nationalities with some delay.

If we ever get there.

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