NextGen Diaries: James Chester

28 Apr 2020

My lockdown experience started in what feels like a lifetime ago on 9 March. Following a ski trip to Italy and the immediate self-isolation that followed, my start to the ‘New Normal’ had begun! This was probably the most difficult part as I watched life continue as normal whilst I was self-contained to my flat. Since then I’ve moved out of London back to my family home in the Midlands. It’s been a great opportunity to spend extended time with the family and make the most of the peace and quiet outside of the City. Days have been busy and time has flown by with May unbelievably just around the corner, it’s amazing how in all this madness a sense of normality can quickly take hold.

CO-RE has adapted really well to the change, with all of the team being set up to work remotely. There has been a real collective effort to ensure everyone’s wellbeing and more importantly, sanity. This has thrown up a great opportunity to introduce frequent catch ups, virtual drinks and like many others, a pub quiz! Strangely this has meant that we now know more about what’s going on with each other’s projects and as such offer advice where needed. I think it is so important that in this time of crisis the focus has shifted away from projects and deadlines and towards people and wellbeing. I hope this sentiment carries through into whatever the world looks like post COVID-19.

My work focus has largely stayed the same with sentiment in the market mostly resilient as occupiers and investors alike take a long-term view on London. Key projects are fortunately in the feasibility stages of design and as such business is as usual as we look to work towards planning. The key challenge, as for most in the property industry, has been the ongoing situation regarding construction sites. Working with contractors and clients alike, has been critical to assess the wider nature of the pandemic, properly adhere to government advice and safely manage our sites to ensure the wellbeing of all who may work there.

Taking the assumption that normality in some guise occurs over the course of 2020 I don’t believe this will lead to any fundamental shift in how corporate occupiers will view their long-term office requirements and the subsequent quantum of space sought. Whilst short term social distancing measures may be required, long term business needs will largely follow the same trends. In my view this will only quicken the process of flexible working being adopted by a larger number of occupiers and as such, the key shift may occur within the serviced office sector as occupiers look to rationalise ‘flex space’ in a play to rationalise real estate overheads.

Whilst COVID-19 is the immediate challenge for society to overcome, it is still imperative that the foot is kept firmly on the gas regarding the longer-term issues that will still remain pertinent post pandemic. 2020 was to be the year of collaboratively tackling the climate emergency and addressing diversity in the workplace. I still firmly feel that this should still be the case. In this time a voice is required and I think the City is best placed to lead by example and tackle these challenges head on.

James Chester

Development Manager at CO-RE