COVID-19 has put pressure and doubt into everyone’s lives, what the future will hold is still unclear. Throughout the world, companies from all sectors have had to take action to ensure the safety of their employees. WFH has become one of the biggest experiments we have seen in our generation and the generations to come. Has it worked?
Before masks, social distancing and curfews, companies would compete for the biggest, tallest and most prime real estate for their head office space. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has and will change the way we live for ‘the foreseeable’ - the most used word in 2020 I might add. The high percentage of people working from home across the globe who have adopted tech to conduct meetings, track KPIs, evaluate appraisals and essentially run businesses will have an effect on how companies use office space.
Co-working and flexible office space will become a big part of the way we all work. However big or small the company, reducing operational costs is always front of mind and a key element of profitability – especially given that as of 2019 office space in London cost a whopping £650-1,500 per person, making it the most expensive city in the world. These vast sums per square metre in the capital have in most cases been tumbling into a black hole/landlord’s pockets as companies suffer this hard cost, while getting no use out of their assets. And on top of that it is said that empty desks are most costly in the real estate sector – the equivalent of £210M in GDP each month.
Subsequently, new technology has given companies the ability to (in most cases) function effectively and perhaps more efficiently with the vast majority of their workforce at home. Flexibility on working hours and also office attendance will become a core element of human resource offerings and companies will be judged on how well they provide for parents, those that live out of London and no longer want to commute, people that work better in their own space and other employee demands.
One interesting phenomenon is that the progressive downsizing of office space and the ‘hot-desking’ way of working may now see a sharp reverse. Companies will need to make the most of their office spaces and redesigning layouts will be crucial. Ensuring distance is created between each desk space; use of public areas is up to government guidance and more thorough cleaning is undertaken more often, will all become a major factor in choosing where and which office will suit their needs. Furthermore, UK office space will see demand for modern, resilient buildings increase as corporations look to benefit from added building services and unique selling points for their workforce. Landlords and Companies alike will need to think about how to distinguish themselves and make their offices the one that people want to travel to. This shift is best summed up by a quote from Magnus Meyer, Managing Director WSP Nordics & Continental Europe - “You might call it ‘high-end’, not from a luxury perspective but from a content perspective – you won’t just lease a ‘stupid’ space, you need to fill it with services to help the tenant be more productive, whether that is sustainability or wellness solutions or digital technology.”
In many cases it is now getting to the point where both employers and employees are edging towards wanting to get back to the office, to their team for solidarity and have actual ‘face-time’ but this will be done periodically instead of consistently due to the readily available tech that we have all come to rely on… ‘you’re on mute’.
Onboarding new talent, developing and growing teams to maintain an upwards curve for when the ‘new normal’ does present itself will be at the top of everyone’s list. Now is the time for companies to be planning for the future, waiting for normal life to return could have catastrophic effects on sustainability and futures for some. Teaching, guiding and coaching new talent is the base and structure of all great companies. Whether learning about isosceles triangles or inputting data into the CRM learning face to face has always and will always be preferable to a video call. Again, flexibility of office space to give people consistent support will be of great importance moving forwards to allow people to reach full potential more quickly and to better affect.
Returning to the office whether it’s 2, 3 or 5 days a week will be a blessing for most. Solidarity and cohesion are the biggest parts of any company, feeling part of a team or group is part of who we are as human beings. Therefore, getting back to the office is of paramount importance for many and hopefully with the vaccines and the months of lockdown is just round the corner.