2020: In the world of work

Reflecting on the year 2020, how Johnson Corner responded, our plan to thrive, and insights for enterprise workplace and property procurement strategies.


Johnson Corner 50 Devon Street West in New Plymouth City 

Let’s talk about the year 2020, how it disrupted the work culture and kickstarted a structural change in the corporate property sector.  

We just lived through an incredibly testing period in history—a time when the most resilient has been stretched and bent under the uncertainty of our world. 2020 has been a year of lockdowns, pandemic, fires, floods, and racial inequality. 

The great lockdown became the new normal worldwide, challenging business leaders to rethink their workplace strategies; maintaining productivity by mobilising work from home policies, optimising operations, capitalising on new opportunities, and keeping employees engaged. 

Since 2008, business leaders have been exploring how they can introduce more flexibility, optionality, and cost efficiency for properties they procure that improve work culture. The Pandemic has accelerated this at speed. 

Here, I explore the structural shifts that have begun to occur in how we work, how business leaders can rebuild their corporate property portfolios, and how Johnson Corner has responded as a leader in the industry. 

A year of volatile changes for businesses

A time where businesses are being pushed to transform into new realities at a rapid pace, for us here at JOHNSON CORNER, we have met 2020 (and its challenges) head-on with intention. 

As a property management company built to enhance the way people and organisations work, we have been uniquely positioned to support business leaders through a turbulent and transformative period. We have risen to the challenge of adopting creative ways of surviving and rethinking how we might thrive in the future.  

For many businesses, 2020 has been a year of adjustments. At JOHNSON CORNER, we had just come out of our first full year of business and had found our stride, built a high-value ecosystem reach, launched our first location, and had assembled a talented team. Then COVID-19 hit, and the world changed overnight. Employers and employees faced many challenges; 

Employer challenges:

  • Projecting revenue and expenses during a high-volatile period 

  • Addressing operational and logistical challenges 

  • Optimising for efficiency and new opportunities

  • Rethinking workplace strategies and reevaluating real estate portfolios

  • Designing a return to the office strategy 

  • Maintaining company culture 

Employee challenges; 

  • Staying productive at home. Some employees are productive at home, some in the office, and some prefer a combination of the two

  • Employees that are responsible for innovation struggled to maintain innovation productivity as creativity thrives with physical collaboration

  • Staying connected to the company mission 

  • Replacing commuting to work with wellbeing and more time with family, ensuring wellbeing is integrated with performance  

For us, the Pandemic changed many things on a day-to-day level, but it also allowed us to lean into what makes our approach special – our hunger to define new, better ways of working, thinking and connecting. 

It pushed us through survival mode: 

  • reducing all controllable costs, 

  • cancelling large capital expenditures to preserve cash, 

  • working in collaboration with our real estate partners to recover the business to pre-Covid performance

  • and, building new relationships with lenders and investors to raise more capital and secure our balance sheet

But we are doing more than just surviving – we are establishing our thrive mode:

  • Pivot into a property management company for serviced offices, in partnership with commercial property developers

  • Optimise our customer success, sales, and marketing approaches

  • Continue to develop innovative workspace solutions  

  • Capitalise on opportunities by expanding our products ad services nationwide and in the overseas markets. I look forward to presenting our vision for the future of the workplace at Expo 2020 Dubai 

Rebuilding your property portfolio to address business challenges

With New Zealanders confined to their homes for lockdown, we experienced a swift adoption to working from home. It allowed many Kiwis to prove the model, and we saw an increasing number of businesses adopt working from home policies as we moved down alert levels. 

When it came to returning to work – the needs of an office had changed drastically. Translating returning to the office strategies to physical spaces, desks and people was impossible to do in-house for many companies running dedicated office space.

The above challenges were quickly addressed with two solutions; bringing employees back to the office or mobilising the workforce to work from home. The challenge with these two options is that they come with compromises. 

For instance; bringing employees back to the office does not align with driving corporate real estate cost savings such as procuring, designing, building and operating office space. Switching to permanent work from home may solve short-term problems, but early trends suggest that employees prefer returning to the office, at least part-time. 

With ever-changing business and people needs, business leaders will increasingly adopt a mixture of four solutions; 

  • Offices with long-term lease commitment: This solution works best for companies with stable headcounts that already have significant capital investments in their real estate portfolio 

  • Working-from-home part-time: As employees return to the office, there will be a permanent allowance for employees to work from home part-time. 

  • Offices with short-term lease commitment: This solution will be adopted for employees who do not need to be physically present at the headquarters and for employees who can’t work at home. (Johnson Corner is positioned well to develop its flexible office solutions nationwide and overseas)

  • Offices utilised when needed with no lease commitment: This solution allows employees to work from any office worldwide by utilising flexible offices as and when needed. 

For so long, the property portfolio of a company has been static. Now is the time to design a property portfolio that addresses unique organisational challenges and satisfying employee needs. A portfolio that is powered by flexibility.

At JOHNSON CORNER, we prioritised the creation of new solutions to help our clients with adopting a mixed office portfolio balancing office density, health and safety, and improving employee happiness: 

  • Launched a suite of services for enterprises, helping them with the de-densification of offices, decentralising their teams across satellite offices, and enhancing working from home policies by introducing working near home solutions. 

  • Introduced open and private workspace solutions and started building new relationships with property developers to procure more spaces nationwide for our enterprise clients.


2021: The year of optimisation

As we enter the new year, business leaders have a deep understanding of all business challenges and the new solutions they must procure. Now is also the time to plan for changes to ensure our employees are happy, engaged, connected to company culture and mission, and are productive. 

I recommend business leaders make decisions that optimise the amount, usage, and locations of office space on an ongoing basis, and prioritising safety, flexible work arrangements, facilitating distancing, and keeping employees happy. 

At JOHNSON CORNER, as we look to 2021, we’re energised by the opportunity in front of us to support more enterprises in their workplace strategy conversations. At the heart of everything we do, we strive to improve our workspace solutions to serve our customers in ways that truly meet the needs of businesses and people in this new world of work. 

Our mission of creating environments where businesses and people are inspired to build the world of tomorrow continues to drive our people, partners, friends, and customers. Thank you for all your support this year.  

You can explore our workspace solutions here or uncover the possibilities for enterprises.

Adnan Belushi is the Co-founder and Chief Executive at JOHNSON CORNER