HOW WE LIVE

Jo Adams and Maysoon El-Ahmad, April 2020

WHAT’S GOING ON

Many of us have become intimate with our living spaces in ways we never dreamt of or experienced before. This has highlighted what we, as humans, need of our living spaces as we embrace new ways of living in a new era of lockdowns measures.

The Blurred Home

  • Working from home has highlighted deficiencies and changing needs in the home environment, in particular:
    • How space is utilised – the need for at least a functional desk and monitor, ideally not ‘the dining room table’, became evident as some Officeworks employees described ‘Computer monitors’ as their ‘toilet paper’ while online retailer Harris Technology saw home office setups more than double compared to the same time last year.
    • The need for multiple and separate spaces – for families or situations with more than one WFH adult, a desire for a workspace that is cordoned off from others, that is designated and private and quiet, the reverse of open plan living.
    • Study nooks don’t cut it, architects are predicting a rise in ‘the spare room being re-purposed’ or multi-story dwellings/lofts which will allow for this
    • Mandatory high-speed Internet, an obvious one but expectations for ‘always fast, always-on’ to rise. In Japan, slow home Internet speeds have been a major impediment to employees’ ability to work from home. There has also been significant press coverage devoted to ‘Australia’s poor Internet speeds relative to the rest of the world’.

Connection to ‘the outside’

  • Being confined has reminded people that access to fresh air, outside space and green space is necessary to not only physical health, but mental wellbeing
    • Prior to the pandemic balconies were seen as nice to have while the Australian backyard was put to its deathbed.
    • The pandemic is already bringing these back to the conversation as many of us have been confined to small spaces, particularly with the recent growth in apartment living.
    • Gardening and our appreciation for suburban parks and greenery have already started to have an impact as we look to escape from cabin fever. This is already starting to spark conversations about the future of urban planning particularly if our central business districts (CBDs) start to take on a new meaning as remote work becomes a fixed feature of our lives.

Longing for the ‘third space’

  • There has been a lot of commentary that as a society we are becoming more individualistic and less community-minded
    • Whilst this trend might prevail, counter-intuitively the pandemic has reaffirmed we all have a universal need for connection with others however that is expressed i.e. our need to socialise, with others, in public spaces is not non-essential or discretionary – it is true and real
    • Post-lockdown the so-called ‘third space’ of cafes, restaurants and bars will see a resurgence, even if the experience will be different, dictated by the need to ‘social distance’
      • In a recent study, 44% of Australians indicated they would go to restaurants and cafes as their first discretionary spend.

GROWTH MANTRA’S PREDICTION

We believe that while some things will revert t, there is no doubt the pandemic will see changes in habits, values, beliefs and behaviours that will endure.

Just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks saw profound impacts on security and heightened our sense of vulnerability, we expect COVID-19 to create its own set of footprints.

One of the biggest will be a reverse trend from the global to the local as we look to support our local economy. We are already starting to have conversations about the need for self-sufficiency and the risks of global dependence. We believe the mantra for this new world will be building ‘self-sufficiency and resilience across the personal (growing our own herbs), community (e.g. community hubs, parks, and green space) and the nation (trade and production). This will likely be the catalyst to spark the next round of large-scale change.

Elements of the ‘Blurred Home’ will endure, which is likely to see the rise in innovations in new products and services as well as new ways to engage with customers.

With borders likely to be closed in the short-medium term, international and business travel will take a backseat only to be taken over by a renewed interest in local tourism. Once borders open up, the ‘Sustainable tourism’ trend we discussed in our July edition will have accelerated as social distancing measures force governments around the world to limit the number of visitors that enter their countries. With recent images of clear skies, wild animals taking over empty cities (i.e. peacocks roaming the streets of Dubai and herds of mountain goats taking the streets of Wales), this may turn many of us into more ‘responsible’ tourists causing us to rethink how and where we travel.

Some changes to the way we live will be immediate, others, such as re-imagining building design and community living, will unfold in the medium-longer term.

Whatever the change is, we expect to see the next round of start-ups beyond the Uber’s and Airbnb’s emerge as they look to capitalize on these trends through new business model innovations.

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