By Nick Holt, Director of Holt Commercial
Returning to the office has become a hot topic in recent weeks as both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have had their say on staff getting back to a central base rather than continuing to work from home.
The guidance, as this stage, is for individuals to continue to work from home where they can, but it’s clear that this advice is going to change in the coming months. Then, the question will no longer be around whether people are allowed to go back to the office but whether businesses, organisations and individuals will want to.
Some may ask: Is there even a future for the office? The short answer to that is YES…
However, we won’t know the true picture for many months, possibly even years, because while habits may have changed over the past year as we’ve dealt with the pandemic, the fall-out for the way people work in the future will depend on a variety of factors.
As somebody who operates in the world of commercial property, I’ve seen some benefits of working from home in the past year but, equally, it’s easy to spot the shortfalls.
Bringing through the next generation of staff, bouncing around ideas and the spontaneity of an office environment cannot be replaced by working remotely. All of these factors, and more, have been highlighted to me on a daily basis by colleagues and business contacts – as well as the Chancellor!
The talk is of hybrid working, with staff spending some days in the office and some working from home – and that could well be driven by the demands of individuals who have grown used to the current circumstances and employers keen not to lose their best people.
That said, this cannot be pitched as employers versus employees because working from home has not suited everyone – either professionally or socially. Looking at it now, you’d suggest there will have to be some kind of balance.
Despite the uncertainty, we are seeing enquiries pick up for office space in the West Midlands region. Some companies are looking to downsize while others are on the look out for more space. That’s not necessarily because they’ve grown in numbers but because they want to be able to give people more space when they return and incorporate break out and social areas. For the same reason, many businesses are refurbishing their offices as the onus will now be on them to offer a pleasant working environment – a home from home?
In many ways, the office was evolving before the crisis hit and Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of some of those changes just as it has towards internet shopping and convenience stores in the retail market.
Like so many aspects of our lives, nobody truly knows what the new normal will look like but if the evidence from my colleagues and contacts is anything to go by, the office still very much has a future.