UK offices will no longer be fit for purpose, warn lawyers at Harrison Clark Rickerbys (HCR) unless the commercial property sector responds quickly to changing work patterns brought about by Covid-19.
Research undertaken by HCR during the first lockdown reveals the appetite for office-based collaborative working among employees, as well as potential tensions with employers on hot-desking.
Although almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of those surveyed said that in future they hoped to continue to work from home more frequently than they did pre-lockdown, almost half (44 per cent) admitted that they missed the office atmosphere and the people.
As many as one in three people (35 per cent) went as far as to say that they placed more importance on the physical workspace than on their actual job and employer.
However, if employers are planning to reorganise workspaces with fewer desks for a flexible workforce this could be a bone of contention, with the majority of employees (57 per cent) surveyed saying that having their own desk increased their productivity, says the firm.
Real estate lawyers at HCR suggest that these insights “illustrate the importance of employers devising activity-based workplace strategies, and a reimagining across the sector of how – and where – office space is developed”.
Matthew Hayes, partner and head of the real estate team at HCR, said: “What’s clear from this research is the importance of human connectivity.
“It’s time to discard the traditional office blueprint which conjures up images of TV show The Office and to create spaces for the kind of work we can’t do by ourselves when working remotely.
“We talked to architects, workspace designers, property surveyors and businesses as part of our research, and they told us that future workspaces need to deliver three things; purpose (workspaces designed around key tasks), belonging (that’s not just about desks, but how we communicate and treat people) and place (spaces that reinforce company culture and brand).
“The workspaces of the future require joined-up conversations today. It’s about what we build and where, how we repurpose existing buildings and the implications of homeworking for the way we design our living spaces too.
“The whole sector has a role to play in supporting employers to adapt and get the most out of their buildings and, crucially, their people.”
In separate but related news, the new president of the British Council of Offices (BCO) has said the pandemic represents “the biggest challenge our industry has ever faced” but also “an opportunity to reset, transform and improve” the sector.
Robin Brodie Cooper, equity partner and director at Gleeds, the new president of the BCO, said: “Some months ago, many people predicted the end of the office. They were wrong. Workers across Britain have missed the professional, social and creative benefits of office working. Young people have been particularly hard hit.
“While the pandemic represents the biggest challenge our industry has ever faced, it is also an opportunity to reset, transform and improve. As an industry, we have the talent, ambition and application to do so.”
Mark Kowal, partner at Sheppard Robson, has been appointed as senior vice-president at the BCO, and Despina Katsikakis, executive partner at Cushman & Wakefield, also joins the BCO’s board of management as junior vice-president. The BCO says that under Brodie Cooper’s presidency, it “will champion the importance of the office and highlight how the sector can adapt to new ways of working and provide the best possible environment for those working in offices”.