Demand for office space to remain intact in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, CBRE says

Businesses likely to need more office space per person to create safer working environments, according to the firm's regional head

This picture taken on December 18, 2018 shows a view of skyscrapers in King Abdullah financial district (KAFD) in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP)

Demand for office space in the Arab world’s two biggest economies – Saudi Arabia and the UAE – will remain intact despite expectations of major changes to the workplace caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is a belief in the market that uncertainty and weak economic conditions will cause businesses to take up less office space as many employees opt to continue working from home.

However, with changes in how office and commercial space will be used to come up with safer work environments, the space requirements each employee requires could increase, Simon Townsend, senior director at CBRE and head of the advisory business in the Middle East North Africa and Turkey, told a webinar on Tuesday.

“What this could mean is that inverse is actually true,” he said.

“You may need more space, rather than less, as we move forward.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has infected close to 11.8 million people worldwide and killed more than 544,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the outbreak.

The rapid spread of the virus pushed governments across the world to close borders, shut all but essential businesses and restrict the movement of people, forcing millions of people to work from home.

Although most economies are now reopening, businesses are embracing the work-from-home culture to protect their workforce.

The trend has posed questions on the growth prospects of the commercial and office property sector.

Mr Townsend said that while the market is in a slightly “weaker place” than it was at the beginning of the year, demand for office space is expected grow or maintain the same trend going forward.

He said the UAE and Saudi Arabi enjoyed the geographical advantage of being the commercial and financial hubs for Asia, Africa and Europe.

“I think a lot of the global corporates will create and consolidate their hubs here and we will continue to see a strong office environment,” he said.

“There will always be demand for office space … I don’t see the end as yet.”