Working from home in “perpetuity is neither sustainable for people or businesses”, according to a serviced office company.
Giles Fuchs, CEO of Office Space in Town, was speaking after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said workers would flock back to the office in a discussion with 250 business leaders at 10 Downing Street this week.
Fuchs said: "The prime minister is right to put his faith in a widespread return to the office. Lockdown remote working continues to have a serious detrimental impact on people’s wellbeing and health, with 29 per cent of respondents to a recent survey by OSiT reporting that loneliness was the main disadvantage of remote working, a quarter of people reporting an increase in feelings of anxiety and 37 per cent struggling to unplug from work – raising serious concerns of worker burnout during the weeks of lockdown ahead.
“Frankly, working from home in perpetuity is neither sustainable for people or businesses, which saw productivity plummet last year at the fastest rate on record.
"However, it is unlikely that businesses will return to the office as they left it – now favouring flexible workspace which can offer more responsive lease terms and shorter, more flexible commitment."
Robin Davies, business development director at workplace technology company Freespace, said while employees and firms have established a 'new normal' in working from home it has also exposed “long-standing inequalities at home for those working in cramped, noisy spaces without respite from the stresses and strains of family living".
Davies said: “Some employers are unable to embrace trust in new ways of working, citing loss of productivity with others concerned about the death of employee collaboration and the dilution of values and culture. The effects on employee’s mental health and wellbeing are also a concern with workers replacing 50-plus minutes of their daily commute with ‘additional work at home’."
As a result, Davies said organisations have "a real dilemma on their hands" because "workplaces are empty and they have too much office space for the new normal and yet at the same time social distancing rules will mean office occupancy levels will be 30 per cent to 50 per cent less than what went before".
Davies added: “Employers will need to remain proactive and nimble given the highly unpredictable situation and the constant possibility that additional outbreaks will occur. A data-led approach will support this and ensure longevity when it comes to business continuity and workplace safety and compliance. This insight, gleaned from workplace technology, can support business leaders as they challenge plans to dramatically downsize property portfolios. It won’t be enough to publish social distancing guidelines for employees and to tell people to simply ‘get back to work’. Employers should listen to their workforce and take action to ensure their fears are allayed in relation to sanitation and virus transmission.”
Richard Morris, director at technology firm Technologywithin, said: "Confidence should not be cause for complacency within the CRE sector, as the office – and operators – will have to adapt in order to endure."
He added: “Operators should take note of what workers want, and what they do not want, from their workspaces in a post-Covid era. We will continue to see businesses decentralising their office space, as employees assert their preference for close-to-home workspace which cuts down on commuting. Operators should also be prepared to flex up their tenancy agreements, with many firms now seeking a more agile approach."