A new beginning for the office sector?
The pandemic has changed most people’s working lives with many now having worked from home for almost a year. It will therefore be difficult for some to remember their office environment, the place that you would rush to in the mornings, grabbing a coffee en route and perhaps after a lengthy commute; so why would you ever want to go back after the revelation of working from home?
There have been many articles saying that Covid-19 signalled the end for offices, but this is to ignore the fundamental benefits it brings to both employers and employees. There is socioeconomic inequality and some disparity for those working from home, whilst some have the benefit of a fully kitted out home office, others are working from the kitchen table. Intermittent or insufficient internet connections along with a lack of face-to-face interaction can also create issues.
A company’s greatest asset is its people and the focus on employee wellbeing is highly important. In addition to this, offering supervision, training and mentoring younger or less experienced employees still remain crucial factors when looking at staff retention. Going forward, you can expect companies to embrace agile working, offering greater flexibility over whether people work from home or go into an office but a company’s office gives business owners and leaders a space in which to create and instil its culture and values to employees and provide social interaction. The experience of working together within a team brings a sense of camaraderie and encourages collaboration and creativity and, realistically, is that ‘bouncing around of ideas’ something which can be recreated adequately on Teams or Zoom?
So, will there be a mass downsizing by office occupiers who realise they can function equally well with a large proportion of their workforce at home? In the short term, Covid-19 means many employees will continue homeworking for now, however we expect the majority will want to return to the office, albeit in newly created spaces or with social distancing or staggered working arrangements in place.
Going forward, how we configure the office space we occupy will change to meet more flexible working patterns of the workforce. Offices will have to become more attractive and healthier environments and the wellbeing of employees will need to be carefully considered. “Let ready” options may also become more popular with Landlords offering flexible all-inclusive packages to secure tenants.
Large city-based companies may well change their office requirements and consider diversifying to a ‘hub and club’ model with regional hubs to minimise commuting and a club space in the city centre for meetings and collaboration. This could well help increase demand for offices within our region but will have to wait and see.
The vital role that offices play in creating and reinforcing a company’s culture and community is now more essential than ever. Employee health and wellbeing will be in the spotlight and improved sustainability are all on CEO’s to do lists. Employers will need to provide spaces where employees feel safe and happy to work to enable their companies to flourish and collaboration between owners and occupiers will be fundamental in reimagining offices for the future.
The Covid-19 crisis has therefore not spelled out the end of the office but a new beginning.