Changes to our working lives brought about by the pandemic have also driven changes in demands for commercial real estate in the UAE. But as we return to our offices in whole or part, that doesn’t mean we want to return to the same workspaces we inhabited pre-pandemic

The impact of the pandemic on our workplaces is not going to be temporary. As we all return to offices – whether that’s full-time or just for a couple of days each week – we want different things from our working environments than we did back in 2019.

Virtual and hybrid working in some form is here to stay, and it’s high time we embraced the change and considered spaces that meet the new needs of our working lives.

Most of us are spending less time in the office, so it’s important to make the most of the hours we do spend with colleagues. It’s less about having a private office, and more about working collectively.

For us at One Business Centre, this trend translates into an uptick in demand for shared spaces that support collaboration, conversation and creativity – with opportunities for teams to work together in comfortable and relaxed environments. This is coupled with an increased demand for small, private areas for calls, as we continue to connect virtually on Zoom and Teams with clients, colleagues and customers.

As we witness a return to growth – with the UAE’s non-oil GDP set to increase at 4 percent this year and in 2022 and Dubai’s consumer confidence hitting a ten-year high – we’re seeing hiring sprees from businesses of all shapes and sizes. Companies need spaces for their new team members to bond and develop the dynamics demanded by successful hybrid models.

While most people expect serviced offices and co-working spaces to be the preferred environments for start-ups, you might be surprised to learn that more than half of our inventory is taken by multinationals. This may seem counter intuitive, but the option of scalable, low-commitment spaces gives big companies the flexibility and agility to expand and contract, without the fixed overheads or long-term agreements of more traditional commercial real estate deals.

According to recent data from Core, commercial space in the UAE has rebounded year-on-year, but there is limited movement on larger office spaces over 15,000sqft. While many big businesses are in full recovery mode, they are still cautious with budgets and are taking a wait-and-see approach to real estate investments.

With hybrid working set to continue, it makes sense to continue to monitor how and when people are using office space before setting long-term workplace strategies in stone.

Companies need spaces for their new team members to bond and develop the dynamics demanded by successful hybrid models.


But what about the other 50 percent, the small businesses that are the backbone of the UAE’s economy? A recent Zbooni survey showed that 89.5 percent of the UAE’s small businesses had grown in the last 12 months despite the impact of the pandemic (or perhaps even because of it – there is always an opportunity in adversity). Even more SMEs, 91 percent, are expected to grow in the coming year.

That growth requires people, and those people need space – with co-working environments topping the wish list of our start-ups and small businesses.

A mix of comfy shared seating areas, serviced board and meeting rooms, and quiet desk space (plus pool and fussball tables) is at a premium, and we’ve seen our highest ever demands for co-working space in the nine years we’ve been in business in Dubai – despite the huge increase in commercial inventory over that period.

And as anyone working in real estate knows, it’s not just the type of space that matters, it’s the location. Another post-pandemic trend is a firm pushback against the commute. We don’t want to waste time in traffic anymore. Working from home showed us just how much productivity can be lost travelling to and from the office. It’s led to an appetite for what’s termed the 15-minute city – which is what more and more of us are looking for in urban locations. It’s somewhere we can access home, work and leisure activities within the radius of a 15-minute walk, cycle ride or scooter trip. And it’s places like JLT, Media City or Downtown Dubai that are making this desire a reality for many in Dubai.

So, what does the future hold for commercial real estate? Workplaces that actually work for our new working lives. Flexible, adaptable, collaborative and scalable. Spaces designed to meet these needs should be high on the list of priorities of every organisation that values their people, and their future.