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This week marked the first anniversary of the Covid–19 lockdown. A year in which the world has been turned upside down has given many of us space to reconsider our priorities. If you are a business owner making important decisions about your office space – both during the pandemic and beyond – will be quite high up that list.

For most of the past year, the government has told us to work from home, unless it’s impossible to do so. As an inevitable consequence, vast swathes of office space across London and rest of the UK have been rendered unusable. A year ago, unusable office space instantly became a massive cost-burden for businesses, just when their income streams were dramatically curtailed.

Planning ahead with an uncertain future

One year on, the light at the end of the tunnel is now clearly visible. We are very aware that businesses are now trying their level best to plan ahead. Understandably, many have put off key decisions whilst the future remained shrouded. However, as lockdown eases and we start to return to normality, what is the best course of action? Even as the vaccination programme progresses, and the government are about to lift stay-at-home orders, the future is anything but clear. So planning ahead with confidence remains very, very challenging.

Even now, the future is anything but clear. So planning ahead with confidence remains very, very challenging.

Flexible working is the sensible choice for most businesses

From our recently publicised survey of UK businesses, the general consensus is that most people will split their working hours between the home and the office. Some companies have said that they do not expect their people to come to the office at all in the future. On the other hand, others want want all their employees back in an office environment as soon as it is possible. The last year has demonstrated that technology makes remote work for some jobs possible (and even preferable). However, it’s also clear that some companies simply cannot operate effectively – let alone flourish – unless their people can interact under one roof.

The general view remains that most companies will flexibly mix office-based with working from home. 5 days a week working at the office as the norm now seems to be a thing of the past.

Most companies will flexibly mix office and home-based. 5 days a week in the office as the norm now seems to be a thing of the past.

Ditching your office lease or hanging in there?

Despite the vaccine rollout , there are still great unknowns that hamper our planning. How long will social distancing be with us, for example? Even with fewer people in the office at any one time, will we still require the same amount of space to allow everyone to be safely spaced out?

Even with fewer people in the office, will we still require the same amount of space to allow everyone to be safely spaced out?

A number of businesses have approached us seeking our advice. Understandably, many businesses have let their office leases expire over the past 12 months and no longer have an office to go back to! It’s far cheaper to move office furniture and equipment into storage than it is to continue to pay for unusable space. On the other hand, some have instead concluded that the best course of action is to “hang on in there” until the picture is clearer. These businesses have negotiated with their landlord to continue with reduced costs on an agreed basis. A few have even taken the risk on a new lease hoping that all will be well soon enough.

Short term, flexible space has the advantage

Flexible, serviced offices on a short-term licence are an evermore popular option for those who still require space, but are unwilling to risk a long conventional lease whilst the picture remains so unclear. This serves two purposes:

  1. cost control: costs are limited to a pre-defined short period.
  2. flexibility: businesses retain great flexibility to alter their office arrangement once the picture clarifies.

Not that long ago, serviced offices were the modest option, which could make your business look rather low grade. Not so now! The serviced options out there are plentiful, offering a very wide range of styles and types. From super-smart to utilitarian and the costs vary widely.

Serviced Offices in Holborn
Plush serviced offices in Holborn – complete with roof garden!

With so many options available, some find the choice overwhelming. It’s quite a challenge to narrow down the options to a workable short list that matches your company’s specific requirements.

That’s were we come in.

Navigate the uncertainty and decide on your direction of travel

We can offer you advice on how to navigate the uncertainty and help you plan for the immediate and longer term future. Once you’ve made some broad decisions about your direction of travel, we can draw up a list a viable office options. We hold details on every available office. All you need to do is tell us what you want. We will then quickly compile a shortlist of suitable options to match your needs

In the current circumstances, there are a limited number of new businesses looking for and taking office space. So if you know your way around the market (which we do!) there are some great deals for occupiers.

We have recently engaged with a company of approximately 40 people based in the West End of London. They are currently working out their next move. However, they have been struggling to put together a workable plan in these challenging times. Fortunately their existing lease expires soon, which makes the world their oyster! We’ve been able to provide extensive details about their options – fully costed. This has simplified the decision-making process considerably and they are now able to plan ahead with confidence and ease.

Market knowledge and experience are key

Our new client has found our market knowledge and experience invaluable. If you’re in a similar situation, we can also help you with this tricky subject in the strangest of times. And if you do end up taking a serviced office, the service is FREE!

So please make contact when you can, and we’ll do our level best to achieve a sensible resolution.

Decision time: keep the office or ditch the long-term commitment?

About Michael Fraser

Michael Fraser

Michael - founding partner of Find a London Office - started in the London property market in 1970. Michael has developed extensive knowledge of the locations, the owners, the rental values, and - most importantly - has developed very solid contacts with the other agents working in the hub of the conventional office market, giving him a considerable advantage both sourcing office space, and negotiating the best possible terms for the tenant.

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