“The knee-jerk reaction to selling off real estate and reducing your footprint is crazy,” said Sara Campbell, APAC senior workplace leader at LinkedIn.
“The office environment is going to change drastically over the next 12 months,” Campbell added. “What we've actually found when we're looking at design and build and what those areas are going to look like, you're actually going to need more space.”
Campbell voiced her opinion in response to an audience member’s question during the IWFM’s World FM Day 2021 webinar, entitled ‘Standing tall: strategic FM leading beyond the pandemic’, which was hosted by Steve Gladwin, chair of the IWFM International Special Interest Group.
Gladwin noted that large organisations such as BP have publicly said they intend to reduce their real estate footprint.
Social distancing demands mean that many workplaces are having to implement physical space between people of around 1-1.5m. Plus, many organisations are in discussions about how they will reimagine the workplace, including not just desks, but also collaboration spaces and focus areas.
Even with the consensus shaping up towards a hybrid model of people spending some of the time at work and the rest of the week at home, sufficient and suitable space is going to be necessary.
“You're actually going to need more space to have the same amount of people in, or the same amount of space with less people in it,” Campbell argued. She added that she’d be very “cautious” of a “knee-jerk response” and went so far as to say that her company is looking to expand its real estate footprint to accommodate the likely changes to working in the next two to three years.
“That's one of the really exciting parts of FM; we're at the forefront; we're leading from the front. We've got a seat at the table, you know, we're collaborating with design, IT, HR – we're sending these surveys out, we're getting information back and we're actually being able to build something new that you haven't really seen before, which is really exciting.”
Sean Gibbons, head of global real estate and facility management at Roche Diagnostics, is opting for a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach. “We don't know how long this pandemic will continue, and what the longer-lasting impacts are on how we use our space.
“So we're not making decisions at the moment but what we are doing is looking at the innovation that is coming from the market – which is service offerings of shorter leases, more flexible leases, third-party spaces, more flex offices – as an opportunity to complement what we have already, and perhaps moving away from establishing either buying or leasing in all markets to perhaps having a blend of solutions from working from home on one side through to the corporate office through to third party through to third spaces.”
Not being hasty affords the opportunity to develop an “appropriate solution”, which Gibbons said would depend on a number of factors such as “the maturity of the local market to the appetite from staff for working in a different way, and to the attitude of management”.
Indeed, Gibbons concluded, whether a management style favours presenteeism over a more “liberated” approach to work in different ways, then “that will have an impact on the real estate solutions that we provide”.