When COVID-19 appeared at the beginning of 2020, organisations were forced to adapt to working from home – fast! What was initially a huge learning curve soon turned into the new normal. But with vaccinations rolling out and light at the end of the tunnel, the life we were all once used to is not so far into the future.
So, how is demand for office space changing as a result of COVID-19? Do we need offices? Hasn’t lockdown proved that we can work just as well remotely?
When it comes to the way we work, some businesses will be operating remotely for the foreseeable future while others will be itching to get back to office life.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that a considerable amount of the work that usually takes place in offices can still take place when they are closed. Some have discovered that they can be more productive at home and enjoy the freedom of a more relaxed schedule, while others miss their morning commute, a catch up with colleagues and (to put it bluntly) time away from their kids.
But as COVID-19 has accelerated the trend for home working, it has also revealed its limitations…
For many businesses, their success will still depend on face-to-face interaction, collaboration and teamwork. Even with universal flexible working, the office could become a vital anchor for key management personnel and for those that prefer to work in an office environment. This is especially the case when growing a team and nurturing new talent. New employees will want to feel like they’re part of a company. They’ll want others to help them while they learn the ropes and feel like they’re part of a team, which simply can’t happen when working from home.
For companies that require offices, how much space will they now want?
Inevitably, there will be a reduction in office demand, but it will vary from sector to sector. The worst-affected industries tourism and leisure will need less corporate space, while some professional services may require the same amount as pre-covid but just with altered working practices. And then there are the booming sectors like technology and e-commerce which are already more likely to embrace virtual working long-term but still offer staff flexible office work.
Many companies will see this as an opportunity to downsize to reduce costs and invest more into the business. Many occupiers of large business spaces are now downsizing to smaller manageable spaces which cost a fraction of the large premises they once occupied.
However, what makes COVID-19 a bit of a challenge is that, for the time being at least, businesses will need more space per employee in order to abide by social distancing. Some companies may decide to split operations between several smaller office locations rather than operating from one large location.
So, what kind of office space will companies want?
Companies will now be well aware that they could make do with less office space, but many have also realised they need better, more resilient office space that’s modern, provides additional services and gives companies flexibility in terms of tenancy contracts. Companies that were stuck in expensive offices in the height of lockdown will definitely think long and hard before signing up to new premises – so flexibility in terms of payments and tenancy duration is key.
The office will also have to justify its existence and become a destination with a purpose. First and foremost, it will need to be a safe and hygienic working environment for staff but also somewhere that promotes happiness, productivity and creativity for employees to work effectively.
And when it comes to co-working, these busy, high-density communities might just be a thing of the past, at least for the time being anyway.
Is your business looking for the perfect office space with flexible monthly contracts? Workbench is expanding into another building opposite its current HQ in Cardiff and creating another 32 offices. So if you’re looking for somewhere when lockdown is over just get in touch.