As we come out of lockdown we are moving forward to the New Normal, But how normal will it be?
As Marbella enters the third stage of the de-escalation process of the State of Emergency we are finally beginning to see what the new normal is going to look like. Café’s restaurants and bars have opened their doors and the beaches are waiting to be used. Gymnasiums and entertainment centres are beginning to open and the size of groups that can meet is gradually increasing. Weddings and other family celebrations are now back on the agenda.
The press and internet are full of speculation as to what the impact of the Corona virus will be but, for us as individuals, the most important thing is to get to back to living our lives, enjoying the freedoms that we have become used to, whilst at the same coming to terms with all the things that have changed.
Within our business we have done a review of our practices and are currently putting together the final stages of a long term plan which we believe will enable us to work even better in the future whilst, at the same time, preparing for any future developments which may occur. For us, one of the biggest eye-openers has been that of home working. Traditionally we have always worked from offices and until recently as Estate Agents felt the need for multiple offices in order to cover the area in which we work.
In the time leading up to the lockdown we had recognised that multiple offices were no longer relevant to the marketplace in the 21st century and we had already reduced to one central hub. During the last 18 months our sales teams have already been working from home. As we are “7 day a week” business responsive to Clients needs this has made a lot of sense. They are now able to combine private and working lives to the benefit of both.
As a result of the lockdown we have had to move all our operations out of the office. This has been relatively easy as our data is all stored on the cloud and we can access it from anywhere. Even our land line telephones are on sim cards and can be answered from outside. We are now at a point were our business can be run from anywhere and thanks to the modern means of communication we can meet with collaborators, clients and friends via video meetings and web based telephone conversations.
Now that we are almost at the start of the “New Normal” we are able to carry out viewings and valuations pretty much as before. We are very much aware of the need for safety and have put the protocols in place to ensure the safety of our staff and customers. Masks currently need to be worn for all appointments and we insist on everyone using hand sanitiser and request potential buyers to request from touching things in the properties. It looks as though, In Spain, the regulations regarding masks will be with us for some time to come and it is something we are happy to live with.
At this stage we have decided not to re-open the office. Much of our business is based on the internet and “arms length” communication. Very few clients ever visit the office and our initial contact with is never via the office. We feel therefore, that it is in the interests of our people to work from home. The government guidelines request that people work from home where possible and in our case we feel that it is more than possible.
It is interesting that this has been such an easy decision to make. It is has brought into question the future of “the office” and for what we actually need it. We are reviewing this at the moment and for the future we see it as a place to be able to hold meetings by appointment when needed, but definitely not as a place to go and sit in, on a daily basis. The rules regarding the safety of staff make working in an office very difficult. Where you cannot guarantee social distancing of between 1.5 and 2 metres you are obliged to look at security aids such as plastic screens and obligatory wearing of masks etc. We feel that this is an unpleasant and unnecessary way of working and have no intention of imposing it unnecessarily.
We will always be available to meet with clients, friends and suppliers, either in the office, home or café environment but, the “New Normal” is pushing us to make changes in the way this happens.
As Spain is once again open for business and we can be optimistic about the way forward we feel that it is important that we become comfortable with the way in which we will be working in order to give our customers the best possible service.
From the beginning of July we are hoping / anticipating that the borders will be open and that International visitors will be back to enjoy the climate and hospitality of the Costa del Sol. We ask that our visitors respect the standards that have been put in place for their safety and get back to enjoying all that we have to offer.
From a business point of view it is encouraging that, following an initial dip, over the last 2/3 months the enquiry levels have been increasing and there seems to a pent up demand from people making lifestyle decisions. We are particularly noticing a trend towards city dwellers looking to move out to locations which are less densely populated with more outdoor space.
So, the New Normal, we are just beginning to understand what it means, but from our perspective, it’s not too bad!