The Big Office Return

As we mark the first anniversary of the UK’s lockdowns, thoughts turn to us regaining a sense of normality. The Government’s roadmap will shape the speed at which professionals return to their offices, with the ‘work from home where you can’ ruling staying in place until the 17th May 2021.

From this date, official guidelines state ‘most businesses in all but the highest risk sectors will be able to reopen’ and indoor hospitality will return in an outdoor capacity, giving workers a familiar rhythm again in the shape of business lunches and after-work drinks.

Workers will return to an office environment

Canary Wharf’s head of strategy, Howard Dawber, was one of the first business leaders to predict when offices would be full of chatter and ‘phones ringing once again. He forecasts an increase in professionals at desks from 29th March 2021, with a further uptake in June when bars and restaurants can reopen fully. 

Yet despite his professional position, Dawber may be behind the ‘return to work’ curve, with figures released by the Office for National Statistics in mid-March showing 53% of people travelled to work at least once during the week to 14th March, while people working exclusively from home decreased from the previous week to 30%.

And it won’t just be existing occupiers that flock back to town and cities, as analysis shows a healthy demand for office space among international companies – despite our EU exit. To substantiate, a Freedom of Information request by financial consultancy Bovill found approximately 1,500 money managers, payment firms and insurers applied for permission to continue operating in the UK after Brexit, with a thousand of those opening offices in the UK for the first time.

While Dawber feels 100% office occupancy will return at some point, he does admit that some workers will retain a degree of flexibility regarding working-from-home – but not at the expense of a desk in a central office. 

Office working provides human connections people need

Although many professionals have had a taste of working from home and companies have discovered that remote operations do not impact productivity or efficiency, there are repressive aspects to remote working. A survey of 50,000 workers by Cushman & Wakefield found 75% of respondents said they could effectively focus on finishing their tasks while working from home, whilst a separate study by Dropbox found people hankered after the human connection.

The cloud storage provider questioned 4,000 people from the US, Canada, Australia, France, UK, Japan, and Singapore and found many workers missed the in-person collaborative atmosphere provided by a central office – and the social interaction that accompanies it. One participant hit the home-working nail on the head, commenting that ‘everyone had become more distant and the effort needed to make a connection was overwhelming’. 

Flexible working can be beneficial to employees and employers

The message is clear: don’t write off returning to your central desk just yet. Instead, start preparing for the ‘hybrid’ way of working. Google has already prepared the groundwork. It has replaced G Suite and Google Hangouts with the new ‘Workplace’ facility, which blends Google’s office productivity suite with cloud-based storage, video conferencing, collaboration tools, and endpoint security and management controls.

Household names and some of the world’s biggest employers are on board with the idea. KPMG UK, JP Morgan, NatWest Group and HSBC are just a few of the businesses that openly support the hybrid way of working, confirming its employees will be able to split their desk hours between their home and a corporate office.

The hybrid way of working is placing greater emphasis on the homes in which professionals inhabit. Not only do they need to be an easy commute from their place of work, but they also need to function as a work hub too. If you are relocating professionals who will switch between a home and a corporate desk, get in touch with Klippa for the most suitable rental property options. 

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