2021 and the return to the office.
As the changes in lockdown restrictions approach and the guidance for a gradual return for office based employees begins, our Office & Industrial team share their views.
Our team views
Smart companies will go through a period of change post COVID to ascertain what working practices are best. The only real way to engage with your staff is to instigate a period of trial and error. This is inevitably going to comprise hybrid working models with conditions.
The office should be a good experience both to retain and recruit the best talent. People will come in to genuinely do functions they are unable to do from home. The office will be a place for collaboration and a reflection of your brand.
Those who said the future of the office is dead are wrong, but we will see an ever-increasing flight to quality.
”The only real way to engage with your staff is to instigate a period of trial and error. ”
The workplace of tomorrow is one that is likely to have employees at the heart. Flexibility will be key to a dynamic environment. COVID has shown that a physical office is no longer the one of the key requisites to a successful business, therefore the onus will be on employers to make it a place where employees want to come and work.
This is not to say that the office is dead, far from it. I think we are now entering a transitional period for the office market whereby the majority of employees will be seeking some form of hybrid model of working practice going forward. Employees will want the amenities they are afforded at home to incentivise them to the office, whether it be break out space, a relaxed dress code or even flexibility around the hours they work.
COVID has opened a new method of working and those companies, and landlords, that can adapt the quickest to these needs are likely to see the benefits in both the long and short term. The office is about to get a new lease of life.
HYDE – Clarendon Road, Watford is great example of a fully refurbished 75,000 Sq.ft office building. The available accommodation has been refurbished to a high standard and the specification includes 4 pipe fan coil air-conditioning, full access raised floors and suspended ceilings with LG7 lighting.
Acting on behalf of ReAssure we let the entire 3rd floor and part of the second floor totalling approximately 20,000 sq.ft with a rent of £37 per sq.ft on a new 10 year lease subject to a tenant only break at the fifth year, Brasier Freeth acted jointly with BNP Paribas Real Estate.
The pandemic has certainly caused what can be fairly described as seismic changes to the way we have lived and worked over the last 12 months, although from the media’s perspective this has largely focussed on its effects on the retail and hospitality industries, being most obviously “visible”. Changes in office practices have perhaps been less newsworthy, but have nonetheless significant. In the early days, working from home was something of a novelty, but as time has marched on perceptions are changing.
Much comment has been made of the future need for significantly less office space, although anecdotally much of this comment came from business leaders with more than a passing interest in the prospect of potential rent savings. These thoughts perhaps overshadowed the practicalities of how a significant volume of the workforce could actually work from home, when home might be a bed-sit, not a sprawling house in the Home Counties with space for a home office, more typical of the business managers making decisions on working practices.
Working from home also means the possible introduction by stealth of opaque boundaries between work time and personal time, email traffic has begun to spread over a longer day and does the boss now expect an answer to an email sent at 8:00pm? should it even have been sent ? could the emails received out of hours have been sent by someone who took a couple of hours off during the day to take the dog for a walk and is now catching up? Working from home can also be lonely, with a feeling of isolation, and for many a physical boundary between the two aspects of their working day is welcomed, indeed for some actually trying to get into a work frame of mind from home surroundings is quite a challenge.
”The office is about to get a new lease of life.”
The office market has seen a year-long battle of stalled activity and lack of movement from occupiers of all shapes and sizes, enquiry patterns have shifted with precedence on locational & strict financial restrictions taking lead. I suspect we will see a shift towards offering office accommodation as a space to integrate and communicate, rather than a 5-day 9-5 requirement, in return allowing operators to lower their overall space requirements. We hope to see enquiry levels rise and a shift in movement patterns as occupiers start discussing their long term decisions regarding operational work hours / days and requirements on staff.
The service office sector certainly offered a notable pre-Covid early glimpse into what we may now expect the overall market to morph into pressing forward, with offerings of relaxed break out areas and compartmentalised rooms to allow teams to come together in characterful space rather than the traditional four walled board room and banks of desks.
I suspect those who have operated under the WFH banner the past 12 months are relishing the return to the office on a flexi basis but may not be ready for full submergence just yet!
”Cross fertilisation of ideas, mutual encouragement, sharing of knowledge and ideas, learning and dare I say it – fun, all benefit hugely from regular personal contact.”
Not for everybody but for many. and in particular people working in a team environment having an office base is good for business.
The return to the office should be encouraged. Having the flexibility to work from home is nice but I wonder what this will do for productivity in the longer term.
The genie, who I think are mostly the more mature variety with spare rooms and nice gardens, is out of the bottle and I doubt it can be persuaded to go wholly back in.
Working from home over the last year has adversely affected the younger generation. My millennial son who spends virtually the whole day looking at a screen while working from his bedroom in Stoke Newington is desperate to get back to the office, so much so he is actively looking to move jobs. I am sure he is not alone.
Employers should encourage the return to the office by making it a better environment, with excellent facilities but ideally also with a critical mass of people to facilitate social interaction and promoting perhaps some out of office activities again so people can develop the friendships and contacts that can last a lifetime.
It might also mean they want to stay in a job rather than move on and have to be replaced.
I think the future of the office is positive as I do believe the attraction for working from home on your own has worn off for a lot of people. Having a dedicated work space with no distractions at home is difficult, as is training staff.
Moving forward I think there will be a balance of office and home working. Some companies have already announced what they are proposing and I am sure others will follow as it will become a factor in recruitment of staff. Quality I feel will be a key point for the future and a pint after work with colleagues when working from home is not easy! It’s not the same on a Team’s call. I think dress code will be a little more relaxed, and I think the tie is now probably dead for most business environments.