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Lessons Learned From Construction Markets First Hit by Coronavirus

Nothing since the Great Recession has shaken the global economy quite like COVID-19. Yet amid the gloom, there are signs of hope, writes HOK’s Gordon Wright.

There are lessons to be learned from regions of the world first impacted by the coronavirus that can help us prepare and respond to the crisis. Reports from our team in Asian markets are giving us insight into what the coming weeks and months might look like.

  • Though people in China are still very cautious, the government there has been encouraging businesses to reopen and resume operations after seeing the number of confirmed case drop significantly since early March.
  • Office leasing has slowed down as tenants are focusing on immediate needs and are being extremely leery. That will equate to a slowdown in design services in the next quarter, with construction activity impacted down the line.
  • On a positive note, many projects that were stalled in China due to coronavirus are ramping up again. Most are trying to make up the lost time and maintain the original move-in dates to soften the financial impact of the shutdown.
  • Some companies have laid off staff due to the slowdown. Yet considering that many industries were experiencing workforce shortages pre-COVID-19, many are trying to hold onto staff by asking them to use PTO or looking at temporary furloughs in lieu of layoffs. Other markets, including grocery, warehouse and fulfillment services, are rapidly hiring.

Even now, as continents outside Asia bear the brunt of the coronavirus, opportunities are opening up in some markets hardest hit by the pandemic.

  • Entertainment venues that typically are rarely vacant are seeing an opportunity to expedite maintenance or renovation initiatives.
  • Idle and unfinished hospitality properties are finding new uses as healthcare and triage facilities.
  • Online retail is booming, and many are hiring staff and looking to expand facilities.
  • Many industries are expediting projects and taking advantage of the vacancies, specifically for renovate-in-place projects.

While it may be difficult to envision at this time, COVID-19 will subside and we’ll resume our lives. In the meantime, let’s not squander what we can learn from—and prepare for—based on the experiences of the people and markets first impacted by the pandemic.

About this series: HOK workplace design leaders are sharing their thoughts and client insights about the state of today’s work environment and how it will adapt to the new coronavirus realities.

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