Photo by: IDIA Ehab Mokhtar Designs

The coronavirus effect on the real estate sector is still questionable especially with the ongoing work on urban projects, and the state’s desire to keep the balance between work and the safety of all employees. Thus Invest-Gate displays the impact of the pandemic on those working in real estate, mainly construction and architecture. Here is what is going on in some firms amid the outbreak and the worldwide precautionary measures.

The Coronavirus took its toll on workers within this sector. First off, architects are amongst those, who suffer due to the current circumstance. Berry Ali, a 24-year-old architect, who specializes in designing commercial and residential buildings. As expected many real estate companies have put their projects on halt causing architects to completely stop. 

Ali says, “Architects are badly affected. Many projects are canceled due to clients pausing their developments.”  Investing in real estate has stopped as Ali explains. “Only small personal projects are in motion; but when it comes to big investments, no one wants to invest in construction,” she explains. 

As is the case with start-ups in any field, start-up architectural firms are the ones suffering the most. For them, work is ongoing with projects they signed up for prior to the outbreak. But once the job is done, there is nothing further coming in, leading to cutting salaries or even laying off their people. “If such firms don’t have construction now to execute, some architectural firms will have to cut off salaries. As matters worse, they shut down the firm completely,” Ali states, without disclosing names of firms or where she works for confidentiality reasons. “In fact an early notice has been sent to us in April as they expect to shut down beginning of May,” she confirms.

The silver-lining is to those working on massive infrastructural projects for the longevity of such investments. “To me now I will focus on freelancing as it is the most income generating for the time-being,” Ali believes.

At Redcon Company for Construction, Planning Team Leader Mohamed Abdel Gawad shares the same beliefs as Ali. Redcon has also decided to reduce its workforce to half its size. “The result was less productivity not to mention the mental stress the virus has caused among employees,” Abdel Gawad says. “Most of them are worried… besides the delivery delays of the material we need on construction because of the curfew,” he explains.

In terms of employment, Gawad says “new employment is suspended by 90% across all companies at the moment. The layoff of employees or salary reduction is the current trend and I expect it to continue for a while,” he shares. 

Then comes the issue of on-site workers, those who are considered unorganized labor. As Abdel Gawad sees, “They are the ones to suffer the most.” With halting projects and laying off people, those on call professions are to lose their source of income and will resort to other professions for survival whether legal or not!

A few weeks ago, employees in SIAC Construction Company started sharing their conditions and their mistreatment on social media and that led Invest-Gate to talk to complainers to report their cases. Youmna Elgohary, a civil engineer at SIAC, confirms, “The company has laid off more than 100 workers in a week and I am one of them.”  This came despite the recommendations of President Abdelfattah El-SISI and the ongoing work in this sector. “A lot of those laid-off have been working for the company for over 10 years,” she adds.

The story went viral, leading the company to reply in a way that was deemed unsatisfactory. For re-structural reasons, and “according to the type of business required to be implemented in the next stage, many of our manpower have been re-housed in other jobs and it is the usual procedure, while we were unable to find job opportunities for others due to the needs and quality of work during the current and future stage,” the official statement reads. 

Some other firms stepped up to combat the current economic pressure due to the outbreak effect, while protecting its employees’ status and their safety. Mohammed Alaa, marketing specialist at Mona Hussein Design House, elaborates how his company tried to combat the virus saying, “Most people consider interior design a luxury service. As usual, luxury services are greatly influenced by the local economy. Of course, this causes countless suffering in the marketing and sales departments but it is not permissible in any way that we stop advertising campaigns to save costs.”

Additionally, “We do not stop marketing activities to save costs. We have to invest more in marketing at present, especially digital marketing. The most beneficiary who will be ready when the crisis ends,” Alaa confirms.

On his part, Founder and Managing Director of IDIA Design Ehab Mokhtar confirms, “Our employees are our asset.” He  explains, “We have been working to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees and workers through issuing the work-from-home policy for our office employees while minimizing the number of workers on-site through distributing them over different rotational shifts to avoid crowdedness.”

IDIA ensures maintaining jobs for its company family members, while arranging “our project work timeline strategically to guarantee a smooth workflow towards delivering our services with the highest quality we promised our clients,” Mokhtar explains. 

The economic impact of COVID-19 is inevitable and it is only those firms that can strategically rise to the occasion not now but when this is all over. Invest-Gate will continue to monitor the situation and report the latest in the real estate industry and all its branches.