The appearance and spread of COVID-19 transformed the world of work as we knew it. The days of working full-time in a large central office became a distant memory as more people than ever began remotely working from home. Attitudes to the office changed for good, as corporations and organisations around the world had to reimagine what work looked like.
Working from home
According to McKinsey research, 80% of people surveyed said they enjoy working from home and 41% said they are more productive. Meanwhile, a survey by Slack revealed that 72% of people would prefer a mix of remote and office work, post-pandemic.
Computer-based office work, which accounts for around one-third of employment in advanced economies, has the highest potential for remote work. In such industries, ongoing rotation and flexible working arrangements will most likely become the norm, with the majority of people coming into the office for two or three days a week.
While working from home has its challenges — including the lack of structured contact with other employees and the loss of networking opportunities — there are many positives too.
Most employees enjoy an improved work-life balance, with more leisure time thanks to the lack of commute. And, for companies, there are fewer location constraints when it comes to recruiting new talent and reduced real estate costs.
Having seen preferences shift towards remote working, many companies are questioning the expenses of maintaining a large office space. They are considering downsizing, decentralising their office space, or even closing their offices completely.
The amount of office space for sublease in the UK increased by 21% by September 2020 and three-quarters of mid-sized businesses have started, or are considering, reducing the volume of their office space, according to accountancy firm RSM.
That said, offices still play a key role in generating a sense of work culture and community. Face-to-face engagement will always be important and it’s likely that, in post-pandemic corporate life, there will be a renewed emphasis on offices as hubs for social interaction and networking.
Additionally, physical distancing guidelines may mean that companies actually need to expand their office footprint, offering more space per employee.
Therefore, we are unlikely to see a demise of office spaces entirely. Instead, what we’ll experience is a more flexible approach to business premises. Hybrid models will emerge, combining in-person offices with remote digital solutions.
Workplaces will become more diffuse, distributed across people’s homes, the office, and ‘virtual offices.’ And businesses may invest in less central locations that don’t require employees to travel on public transport.
Indeed, Workthere’s latest Flexmark report found that, in the UK, there’s expected to be a growth in flexible office spaces in suburban hubs as more employers and employees work near home for part of the week. Sharing spaces between different companies might also become popular.
As a result, landlords may be forced to grant business tenants short-term or rolling contracts and greater flexibility when it comes to leases.
Every company is different and your approach to post-pandemic office life will depend on your unique organisation. The need for business premises and offices may vary from month to month. At Principled, we offer companies greater flexibility with our void rates mitigation service. Find out more here.