Is The Office Dead?

2020 was the year we all became experts at zoom meetings.

Who could forget Jackie Weaver and the parish council meeting?

Homes became our ‘offices’, under the stairs, kitchen tables, children’s playrooms and for those fortunate enough to have one, a designated room for an office. (complete with camera shot background of books).

Of course, this was totally and utterly unforeseen due to the virus pandemic.

As we emerge from post lockdown gloom we are now faced with ‘getting back to normal’ whatever that means.

But what of the traditional office?

Is it still needed?

Is the office (as we knew it) dead as a dodo?

Will People Decide If The Office Is A Thing Of The Past?

Did you love working from home?

Was there an inexplicable joy at facing office colleagues on zoom, reasonably attired up top but with your favourite comfy pyjamas underneath your desk?

Or did juggling kids, homeschooling, work, and meetings become a never-ending nightmare?

In a recent study, Working from Home (WFH) 2021 found that:

  • 65% of workers said they would be more productive in a home office than a normal office.
  • 75% of workers say they will be more productive due to reduced distractions.
  • 83% of employees feel they do not need an office to be productive.

However, not everyone feels like this!

Another survey by Claromentis found that ‘after lockdown ends and the threat of the pandemic subsides, almost three quarters (73%) of UK knowledge workers want a hybrid arrangement, splitting their time between home and the office.’

It seems people are divided!

Some miss the social aspect of the work environment, the conversation and the banter of colleagues. Others loved the flexibility working from home gave them.

For most of us the truth probably lies between the two……………

Enter the idea of hybrid working – part office – part home.

Where are you most productive? Where is the logic in 9 am to 5 pm being the nailed on best time slot for working productively?

What if you asked to work from home 2 years ago? What were employers so frightened of?

Perhaps we are not facing the death of the office but the office repurposed?

How Might This Happen? What needs to change?

Perversely, the virus means we actually need more space per worker than previously.

Offices will need to be safe places to work and more to the point will need to make this evidenced and visible.

Find out about how to make your office safe here 

Offices will need to up their game in the future.

Here are some things that offices will need to consider to do this:

  • invest in well being & health
  • be safe & secure
  • become more welcoming spaces with better aesthetics
  • Invest in better technology – better services & communications
  • have better air quality- live plants- better ventilation – better temperature controls – better lighting for workstations.
  • covid secure workspaces – cleaning regimes – handling of equipment etc
  • become more sustainable – this can include
    • cycle to work schemes- secure storage
    • showers on site
    • electric vehicle charging points
    • offices to generate their own power
    • store their own power

Click Here to read about how one company took their first steps to investing for the future to be more sustainable AND reduced operating costs at the same time!

So the death of the office?

Probably not, but definitely a re-evaluation in terms of their purpose, function and quality.

What about your company office?

This is a tricky one to call.

Workplace trends will mean there is undoubtedly more demand for co-working spaces that have been upgraded in the ways described above.

For larger employers and those situated in city centres, there will be a demand for a better ‘office experience.’

It is difficult to predict the effect all this will have on commercial property values, particularly rental values.

Overall, more office space will become available on the market.

This will be different due to office location, transport links and the market sector of the economy.

Nevertheless, financial directors of SMEs will be mindful of the following:

  • The cost of their current office space and its ‘value’
  • Do they buy office space or do they rent office space?
  • What are our working practices? Will this change?
  • Will more staff work from home?
  • Is this an opportunity to downsize and save on operating costs and invest in technology or automation?

What does it mean for the construction industry & building trades?

More empty office space is a given.

City centres will need to be re-evaluated in light of this.

For the building and construction industry, this means the renovation of commercial property or conversion of property.

This could mean commercial offices to residential flats or to multiple use and occupancy.

Or it could mean demolition and rebuild?

More emphasis will be given to sustainable construction in design and build and how the building will operate in its life cycle.

The Future Office

The pandemic will accelerate two outcomes.

Firstly, older buildings, those that are energy inefficient and have had no investment save for reactive maintenance will suffer the most.