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New approach to utilization expected for office spaces, with larger emphasis on collaboration and employee well-being: JLL

With work-from-home in full swing due to the current global pandemic, the UAE’s office sector will be driven by greater emphasis on improving collaboration, productivity and employee wellbeing, according to JLL’s Q1 2020 UAE Real Estate Market Performance report released today.

According to the report, the office market in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai is in the late downturn stage of the cycle, as leasing activity remained sluggish in the first quarter of the year. However, in line with trends witnessed up until the end of 2019, corporate demand is expected to be active for fitted spaces with leases that offer tenants maximum flexibility.

Dana Salbak Head of Research scaled

Photo: Dana Salbak. Head of Research MENA at JLL

“As expected, corporates in this current environment are focused on implementing business continuity measures and developing long-term operational resilience,” said Dana Salbak, Head of Research MENA at JLL.

“Most companies will look to modify the design and layout of office spaces to address mid-term company strategies and employee needs. In the long-term, we expect demand to centre on office spaces that offer more of a collaborative and social experience rather than just a place to work. There will also likely be widespread adoption of Health & Wellness Standards to ensure employee wellbeing.

“That said, in the coming months, market performance will heavily depend on the extent to which normal activity is resumed, as well as the government initiatives undertaken to promote the country’s property market,” she added.

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Performance of the residential market remained soft in the first quarter of the year, despite resilience in demand. This comes on the back of a large supply pipeline, with almost 12,400 units delivered in the first quarter; the largest number of deliveries in any quarter. In Dubai, the Central Bank’s initiative to ease restrictions on loan-to-value (LTV) ratios for first time home buyers is a sign the government remains committed to the sector, however we are also likely to continue seeing private developers launch favourable payment plans to entice demand further. In Abu Dhabi, the market remained relatively stable over the first quarter, on the back of limited quality supply of residential units.

The retail sector remained challenged by the growth of e-commerce, change in consumer preferences and a significant supply pipeline, particularly in Dubai. This continues to place downward pressure on rental rates across retail centres in the UAE. The drop in domestic and international consumer spending, on the back of temporary mall closures and travel restrictions, is expected to have a strong impact on both tourist and household spending. With the growth in online shopping, the short-to-mid term is likely to see more retailers adopt omnichannel retailing as a tool to mitigate costs. This is expected to boost demand and the overall performance of the logistics and warehousing sector, as requirements for these expand.

Meanwhile, Q1 2020 represented a ‘Tale of Two Halves’ for the hotel sector in the UAE. While year to YT February 2020 occupancy rates registered 81% and 77% in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, respectively, the impact of event cancellations and travel suspension was felt immediately after. Looking ahead, demand in the second half of the year will likely be driven by domestic tourists seeking ‘stay-cations’ as opposed to being internationally driven.