Hong Kong occupiers bruised but unbowed in challenging times


New survey highlights clear challenges for Hong Kong office occupiers, while finding optimism for recovery and potential new opportunities in a changed market

 

  • Cost savings
    are now a primary focus, with more than 85% of respondents experiencing negative
    business impacts from COVID-19
  • Many
    firms are now anticipating reduced space needs over the next three years
  • Around
    70% of respondents believe business will return to pre-COVID-19 levels within
    the next 12 months  
  • Firms
    are clearly embracing remote working, with 65% of respondents expecting to
    adopt some degree of working from home on a long-term basis  

 

HONG KONG, CHINA   – Media
OutReach
– 24 September 2020 – Cushman & Wakefield has
released their Occupier Survey 2020:
Hong Kong ”
report, a first
study from the firm into how office tenants in Hong Kong are meeting the
challenges of COVID-19, how it has resulted in changes to their office leasing
plans, and the degree to which pandemic-response measures have become a
permanent fixture of their strategies. The report also offers recommendations
for occupiers to help optimize their space strategies ahead.

 

“Many firms in Hong Kong began this year hopeful for a more stable
business environment following a difficult 2019, with U.S.-China trade tensions
and social unrest both having contributed to growing uncertainties. The
months-long pandemic, however, has dealt many firms a third blow and led to an
even more uncertain business outlook amongst office occupiers. Beyond that,
COVID-19 has also forced many to adopt new ways of working and given way to new
priorities that may outlive the pandemic,” said Reed Hatcher, Head of
Research, Hong Kong and the lead author of the report
.       

 

“The survey responses clearly reflect current challenges, while pointing
to optimism for a recovery and a potentially new, more multifaceted office
market,” added Hatcher.

 

“Our recommendation to occupiers is to leverage the
current uncertainty and weaker market conditions now, in anticipation of a
possible rebound in 2021. Such action can include restructuring leases to
expire in 2022/2023, at which point 5.2 million sq ft of new Grade A office
space is scheduled to enter the Hong Kong market. Many of the new buildings
will offer high specs, which may include LEED and WELL certifications, offering
occupiers the opportunity to address health and safety in their portfolios,” shared
Keith Hemshall, Executive Director and Head of Office Services, Hong Kong
.    

 

The survey was conducted from June to July 2020 and engaged key office occupiers
representing a broad cross-section of the city’s office occupier market. The
findings make clear that the recent months have been especially challenging for
Hong Kong occupiers. More than 85% of respondents have seen negative impacts to
their business from COVID-19. As a result, cost cutting has become the priority
for many. The weak sentiment is also reflected in firms’ longer-term lease
strategies, with many now anticipating smaller space needs over the next three
years than at the beginning of the year, while a significant number are taking
a wait-and-see approach.

 

However, many respondents also express optimism in a recovery. Around
70% believe their business will return to pre-COVID-19 levels within the next
12 months.

 

COVID-19 also evidently has long-lasting implications for the workplace
and how occupiers consider their space needs. While many firms have already
invested in technologies to allow more agile working, the pandemic is further
fueling the trend to support working remotely. And although it has not been a
significant trend in the past in Hong Kong, views are now clearly changing on
the subject of remote work, with 65% of respondents expressing interest in
adopting some level of working from home on a long-term basis.

 

Key takeaways from Occupier Survey
2020: Hong Kong
:

 

  • The majority of firms are suffering near-term business
    impacts from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are also optimistic for
    the chances of a recovery in the next 12 months.
  • The pandemic has very clearly had an effect on office
    leasing strategies, with cost savings becoming the immediate focus for a
    majority of firms, while others are freezing leasing plans.
  • Occupiers have revised their office space needs, with
    over a third of surveyed companies now planning to downsize over the next three
    years.
  • There is significant uncertainty in lease renewal or
    relocation planning, with many adopting a wait-and-see approach, while firms in
    core areas with higher rentals are more likely to relocate when their current
    lease expires.
  • Longer-term, in the aftermath of COVID-19, the
    majority of firms favor investment into technology and remote working
    capabilities, and firms are clearly embracing remote working, with 65% of
    respondents expecting to adopt some degree of working from home on a long-term
    basis.
  • Among firms indicating that they plan to continue to
    allow remote working post-pandemic, the majority suggest they will apply
    working-from-home (WFH) practices to between 11% and 30% of their workforce.
  • Staff preferences and risk hedging, rather than cost
    savings, are the main drivers for firms signaling a shift to some degree of
    WFH.
  • The mid-term future for the traditional office appears
    secure, with very few firms stating that it will become obsolete within the
    next 20 years, but many respondents do see office workplaces undergoing a
    significant transformation in functionality in the coming years.

Click HERE to view the full report.

About Cushman & Wakefield

Cushman & Wakefield (NYSE: CWK) is a leading
global real estate services firm that delivers exceptional value for real
estate occupiers and owners. Cushman & Wakefield is among the largest real
estate services firms with approximately 53,000 employees in 400 offices and 60
countries. Across Greater China, 22 offices are servicing the local market. The
company won four of the top awards in the Euromoney Survey 2017, 2018 and 2020
in the categories of Overall, Agency Letting/Sales, Valuation and Research in
China. In 2019, the firm had revenue of $ 8.8 billion across core services of
property, facilities and project management, leasing, capital markets,
valuation and other services. To learn more, visit www.cushmanwakefield.com.hk
or follow us on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/cushman-&-wakefield-greater-china)

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