On Tuesday I took the time to join a really interesting webinar hosted by Forsters, one of our clients here at Passle. The panellists were Glenn Dunn (Head of the corporate occupier practice) Katherine Ekers (Partner in the commercial real estate team) and Victoria Towers (Partner in the commercial real estate team and head of graduate recruitment) with Owen Spencer(Senior Associate in the commercial real estate team) expertly mediating.
The discussion centred around the ever-changing office and the impact that Covid-19 has had on both the short term and long term. What made the discussion even more interesting was the fact that Forsters have, and are, reviewing how they as a firm actually move forwards with their designated working environment. The first question covered was:
Has Covid Created Permanent Change From An Office Perspective?
The Office Is Extinct Viewpoint:
- The workforce (Where they can) are working effectively and efficiently at home
- The tech and work from home solutions are aiding this change considerably
- There are positive points in terms of cost savings for companies (mainly rent), well being, more family time with reductions in commuting time
The Office Will Change Viewpoint:
- There will be a space reduction in offices maybe up to 50%
- A grade office space is still, however, very highly sought after
- There is more emphasis on the retrofitting of existing buildings with sustainability a key consideration
- The secondary office may well die out with a focus on quality and people with the main office being key
- A healthy and nice collaborative working space will see the retention of staff and attract the right talent pool for firms
The attendees firmly believe that the 2025 office will be a process of evolution.
What will the size of the office look like?
- The office of the future will be client and employee-focused with an emphasis on design, collaboration, flexible areas and designated breakout areas.
- Employees will have the power to choose when they go to the office and there will be a real emphasis on maximising efficiency combined with well being. Could the norm be 3 days in the office and 2 days working from home?
- The working from home environment should also be looked at as well as commuting costs
The audience pointed to the fact that the office will be smaller moving forward.
What will we see the end of?
- The cellular office with banks of desks all crammed in
- Big glass boxes on offices
-Maybe the hub and spoke model for many firms
Will there be a greater emphasis on sustainability?
- Ultimately yes and this will apply to offices and buildings internally and externally with a newfound willingness for local authorities to work with companies and be more flexible with green space agreements
-A lot of the existing office stock in Uk's cities is tired and although lower in rent, many companies will choose against taking up a lease
- Cycle to work and green modes of transport combined with green utility providers at home will also come to the fore.
A quick poll of the audience suggested that location was still the primary factor when considering an office building in the future, sustainability did outrank price and spec.
The final observation of the panel gave some food for thought that there may well be a levelling up of the North and South with infrastructure (HS2 for instance) knitting areas together and destination offices meaning that employees may well commute further but fewer times over the working week.
The future of the office doesn't look extinct but it certainly looks like it may well have changed for good.
But is Covid-19 to the office what that first ship on the horizon of Mauritius was to the dodo? Many billions of pounds have been invested in the belief that the office is a permanence, but does it have the survival capabilities of a shark, gliding through 120 million years with minimal biological change? Join us to discuss whether the office really is capable of rising, phoenix-like, from the flames of 2020 and what form it could take in the future.