Post Covid could we see offices disappear completely?
The pandemic has been a time of massive change for many companies. Some leaders speculate that it may also be the cause for the largest adjustment in working culture since the creation of the five-day working week. But apart from a newfound corporate focus on the wellbeing of staff, how has the pandemic actually changed the working world?
Previously Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that to stem the flow of COVID-19, the UK would need to transition into a strict lockdown. The public was asked to stop leaving the home unless it was for a 1 walk a day or to collect essential supplies. Workers were asked, to remain at home and conduct their duties in whatever way they could – or, opt into the Government’s furlough scheme
Embracing the new normal
Over time the increasing threat of coronavirus began to subside, the Government steadily advised workers to return to some sense of normality and to return to the office, but an unexpected change had already occurred. Surprise surprise workers liked working from home, businesses discovered remote teams were cost-effective and were experiencing an increase in productivity and employee wellbeing.
Many companies have embraced the concept of fully remote working, but. where exactly does this leave the office? Workplaces have actually been shrinking within the last few decades anyway. Companies once permitted as much as 250 square feet per employee, but over time and with the rise of co-working spaces, we’ve witnessed offices limit themselves to 55 square feet per employee as firms have made efforts to improve collaboration whilst reducing overheads.
With the rise of co-working spaces like WeWork and an increased emphasis on sourcing the right talent, regardless of their actual location, those who were actively ready to embrace a shift in their working habits had already accepted that the view of the all-encompassing office may no longer be a viable option moving forward.
Dealing with the aftermath
COVID 19 has sped up the process of redundancies in the UK much faster than anyone could have predicted. Data published by The Telegraph earlier this month had found that businesses were set to abandon up to a fifth of their office spaces with the view of a permanent shift towards working from home.
Banks were some of the first firms to seriously evaluate their need for floor space; according to Bloomberg, Barclays may ditch many of its investment bank’s headquarters in the capital, Credit Suisse Group AG are also offloading up to nine floors of office space and Morgan Stanley are reportedly reviewing their entire London footprint.
But the question remains, do smaller businesses need to follow suit? Rogier Quirijns, Head of European Real Estate at Cohen & Steers believes they should. He told Bloomberg: “For all businesses, there are threats of recession and also a no-deal Brexit to deal with. COVID 19 will most likely accelerate those risks. So it would make sense to make cut major costs wherever possible.”