Siberia, Sweat and Stargazing

By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy

New starts and backstops  Michel Barnier has claimed a decisive step in the Brexit negotiations, having agreed terms with David Davis for a transition period. What does this mean? Firstly, by essentially delaying Brexit until the end of 2020, it might mean that the pressure is relieved from occupiers who thought that they needed to implement a decision prior to April 2019. However, the transition terms will disappear if new terms are not agreed (quite possible), so it would be foolhardy to take that approach. Secondly, the deal contains a ‘backstop option’ on Northern Ireland that would keep the province within the customs union. As we all know, fall back options when put in writing have a habit of becoming solutions. Were that to be the case, it would either mean that the UK would stay in the customs union (already dismissed), or that a border would be created in the Irish Sea. What the deal does mean is that we can now crack on with agreeing the terms of a new relationship with the EU, and during that time negotiate new trade deals with other countries. That might be the real win that Davis wanted. FX traders agreed, however, many of Davis’ colleagues will take some convincing.

Toil and sweat  Over half of corporate employees are getting less than 6 hours sleep due to pressures of modern work, finds a new study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. With the rise of a ‘do-more-with-less’ approach to business, an ‘always on’ culture and increasingly long commutes, there is no reason to suppose that our situation is any better in the UK. One solution is the introduction of sleep pods into the office. However, better solutions are surely new ways to allow employees to fit more healthy activity into the workday. The best stress-buster and sleep enabler is moderate exercise, and there is no reason to think that exercise should be mutually exclusive with work. In fact, I’m typing this on my iPhone on an exercise bike at my gym. Activity based working is pushing new boundaries in office use, but as yet I’ve not seen a ‘spin-and-work’ room on an office floor, allowing employees to do both activities simultaneously. Who’s with me in proposing this? I’d be interested to hear from innovative occupiers leading the charge in similar ways.

Looking up at the stars  With the passing of Stephen Hawking, we lose one of the greatest minds of the past century. A visionary in the field of theoretical physics, Hawking’s advice ‘to look up at the stars and not down at your feet’ has universal application. In his later years Hawking became increasingly concerned about what he termed, ‘the most dangerous time for our planet’. Partly, this was informed by what he saw as the increasing possibility of an extinction level event, calling for the permanent colonisation of another planet. Moreso he was a strong advocate of safeguards against artificial intelligence, the development of which he believed ‘could spell the end for the human race’. This extreme outcome still feels a long way off. However, the impact on our society of a much more benign version will still be felt insidiously over the decades to come in the form of major workforce shifts and quite possibly the permanent financial dependency of a significant section of society. The buildings that we develop today will live through these dramatic changes, and hence the calculation investors must make is whether or not such changes will be impactful within their investment horizon.

The secret to happiness  At C&W it’s International Day of Happiness every day of the year. However, for everyone else it was yesterday, and you probably missed it. Sadly, the majority of us in the UK feel that happiness might lie elsewhere, with recent research showing that for most people that place is apparently Australia. Our miserable weather is topped only by ‘rudeness’ as a reason for unhappiness. Studies by Wharton suggest that it is time and not money that brings the most happiness. Furthermore, for young people excitement and events bring happiness, whereas from our 40s onwards happiness is derived from feeling calm and secure. I’m also reminded of the saying, ‘Happy wife, happy life.’ For Mrs P. (an Australian) the discomfort of the British weather and distance from her family could be alleviated by us moving to join them in Aus. However, in the words of US comedian George Burns, ‘Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family. In another city’. I wish you a happy Wednesday!


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