I have just scribbled an article on #furloughing in the #commercialproperty industry as I’m upset to hear how one or two friends have been treated this past week. (I’m not clever enough to draft it into fewer words for a post)

For those of you who read this, I hope you and your families are keeping well and you are also observing the Government’s campaign to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. We’ve read a lot about furloughing this past week, not a term I had ever heard of previously. In addition to the worry of protecting their loved ones from catching Coronavirus whilst trying to continue with family life, I know of many surveyors who have recently been given this news from their employer and will face a worrying time in the weeks ahead. I feel very sorry for them indeed. I suspect many have not had more than 3 years with their employer. Companies are under no obligation to keep on any employees when they stop receiving furlough payments. The scheme will run until the end of May although the Government has indicated it will be extended beyond that if necessary but many of us in the commercial property industry expect the effects of Coronavirus to have devastating consequences for employment prospects for far longer than the summer period. This comes particularly at a poor time when businesses were desperate to return to some degree of normal trading following the previous 12 months of Brexit and Election hiatus.

I can’t help thinking though that whilst none of us saw this pandemic coming, and anecdotally I hear many firms had in fact been staffing up in preparation and readiness for a market post Brexit recovery, our industry needs to consider a longer-term view in their HR departments. Our industry is not a collection of City broking businesses where the ebb and flow of hiring and firing reacts only to stock pricing and market volatility. Commercial Property has changed considerably over the last decade. For some time now, clients have valued a far more advisory and experienced approach where long term relationships matter. It was noticeable post the financial crash how few surveyors there were left with any real job experience and ability with a skillset to generate new business and therefore increase revenues. I fear the same might happen again if we are in for a longer period of downturn. Profitability aside, whether for shareholders or owning partners, we should not leave loyal and capable employees with experience out on their own or we face many leaving our industry for good. Commercial property is a unique business and market experience forms an important part of an employee’s skill portfolio. Shorter-term vocations will equally only mean clients given advice with a short term level of experience, ultimately to their detriment.

Duncan MacLaren
Linked In | 4th April 2020