At a roundtable discussion held during APACLive, a virtual conference focusing on corporate real estate in Asia-Pacific hosted this week by CoreNet Global, corporate real estate leaders said that the changes in work patterns in response to the outbreak will last longer than the outbreak itself.

The panel on enterprise resilience was moderated by Erwin Chong, Head, Corporate Real Estate Strategy and Administration (Singapore), DBS Bank. Speakers included David Chang, Global Head of Strategy, Corporate Real Estate (Hong Kong), HSBC; Gina Toh, CEO, Singapore and Malaysia (Singapore), ISS Facility Services Pvt Ltd and Hui Xu, MCR, Managing Director, Greater China Geographic Services Lead (Beijing), Accenture.

One lasting impact, Chang said, is that employees will have heightened expectations of a company’s hygiene practices and employers and landlords will need to demonstrate the cleanliness of the work environment.

“It will move up as a factor of importance,” Chang said.

Additionally, Chang said that activity-based working at remote locations will become more widely accepted.

“There have been some concerns about it (prior to the outbreak), Chang said. “It’s been a great experiment; what does it mean after the virus? Can someone still manage a team (remotely)? Is there a balance? I think the acceptance will likely go up as a result of what we’ve gone through. It will affect our strategy for real estate moving forward.”

Toh said the focus on hygiene will lead to greater use of new technologies to clean, such as electrostatic disinfectants that cover wider areas and last longer.

And Xu said that moving forward, preparedness will be critical.

“I would be uncomfortable if someone did not have a mask on,” he said. “The psychological impact will last a long time. It will have an impact on how people interact with each other for a long period of time.”

One lesson learned, Xu said, is that employees can be depended upon to make appropriate decisions with accurate information. He said, for example, that instituting complex levels for approval of business travel proved unnecessary.

The panel all agreed that the COVID-19 outbreak has been different than other disease outbreaks such as SARS and Ebola, and therefore will be a continuous learning experience. They also agree that the balance between informing and not inciting panic is critically important.