We recently surveyed 100 UK businesses about their current office usage and their future plans in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic.
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1. Businesses are currently overwhelmingly working from home
Firstly, we asked businesses how much of their workforce is currently based at home. Unsurprisingly, the majority (56%) are currently operating wholly or mostly at home: of these, 28% responded that their entire workforce was home-based, with a further 28% responding that three quarters of their employees were currently working remotely. Only 16% of those surveyed had a full complement of office-based staff.
2. Downsizing, expanding or status quo?
Just over half the businesses (52%) surveyed are intending to retain the same amount of office space over the next 12 months. That may well reflect a reluctance to make any weighty decisions whilst we remain in a national lockdown and the future is still uncertain.
26% plan to increase the size of their office within the next year. This could be traditional business expansion, but it could also reflect an expectation that social distancing will necessitate more space, even if the same number of office-based personnel are retained.
22% of businesses expect to reduce the amount of space. Again, this could reflect a number of factors: it could be typical downsizing in a far more challenging economy. On the other hand it could be an expectation of more employees working from home full time on a long-term basis. Even more likely, it might reveal an intention to rotate personnel, with staff taking it in turns to be office-based for a few days a week, working from home for the remainder.
3. Working from home or office-based in the long term?
Lastly, we asked where businesses foresaw their employees being based once the pandemic is over. Only 13% believed their employees would work exclusively in the office. 22% predict that their employees will continue working from home, even when it’s declared safe to return to the office.
However, overwhelmingly, 62% of respondents expected a flexible mix of office and home-based working. This very much chimes with our thinking about the future of London office space. The office remains vital for most businesses. Collaborative, creative tasks are not typically suited to remote working. Training and skills development for junior employees – particularly passive learning – almost always requires an office-based working environment.
However, the lockdown has taught us that other tasks can also be carried out just as effectively – if not more so – from home.
Flexibility is key to the future of office space
We predict that whilst the office will continue to be a fixture for most businesses, the way it’s used will evolve – quite dramatically for some. Workspace will – by necessity – become more fluid, as modern, dynamic businesses and their employees demand more flexibility. Of course, such flexibility is already key to the serviced office philosophy, but we expect that landlords of conventionally leased office space will also have to demonstrate adaptability in order to navigate the changed business environment.