Dicky Lewis, director at White Red Architects, shares his thoughts on why the office property market needs to cater for a three-location approach to workspace
In understanding the likely continuation of the ‘work from home’ trend, there have been some surprising insights recently which suggest it may remain a reality for a long time. A recent survey by the Institute of Directors of over 1000 businesses concluded that more than half of the businesses intended to reduce their long-term use of workspaces.
Grant Thornton, one of Britain’s largest accounting firms, announced last week that 9 out of 10 of its staff stated they wish to work predominantly from home in the near future. Whilst this may indicate that more companies will follow in kind, it should be considered that this assessment was mid-lockdown, and the importance of competitive office environments with beneficial face to face interactions between colleagues will be a powerful force in the coming months.
Read more: Is it really the end of the office?
One thing for sure is that there are many companies and providers that are betting big on the return to normal. AXA IM announced they are investing 800 million Euros in the redevelopment and refurbishment of commercial assets in Europe.
As a practice, we certainly haven’t seen a slowdown in the amount of workplace design projects, instead we have seen astute developers, landlords or asset managers looking at their current assets and using this time to freshen the space and maintain a competitive offering, ready for when workplaces do resume.
In one of our recent projects – the fit out of a Covent Garden office space for Royal London – we converted the reception lobby into an entrance lounge and shared workspace along with a communally bookable ground floor meeting room.
This ensures that tenants occupying the floors above can have the extra functionality of a ground floor informal meeting with an informal catchup host space, which includes the increasingly important wireless phone charging points.
Read more: Why do we need to go back to the office?
The impact of these changes on the office market will mostly be in the subdivision of spaces required. If working from home does truly remain the new normal, then the office property market needs to cater for a three-location approach to workspace:
Work From Home – provision of suitable equipment and support employees to efficiently work from home
A centralised or HQ location – this will be more aligned to the traditional office but will rely on the employer ensuring the workspace is suitable for the flexibility required for when employees do require to work from the office
Satellite locations – a satellite office is likely to be needed in support of centralised or urban HQ locations to enable the employees to minimise commuting time
This requirement for the subdivision of spaces is in contrary to the traditional model of companies taking whole floors and buildings. There will always be larger corporations with headquarter buildings but these will need to accommodate for the work from home sentiment.
Prior to the pandemic we completed a fit-out for a ‘well known search engine’ company. It is surprising to look back and reflect on how forward-thinking they were; the brief was to design a space which made people working from home feel as part of the team as much as the regular office occupants.
One thing we can say for certain is that we cannot predict the future. As such, we should ensure that office space can accommodate the flexibility required for the unknowns of post pandemic work life. Ultimately, if people now have flexibility to work anywhere, the office has to be somewhere worth choosing.
For more information visit whitered.co.uk
Images courtesy of White Red Architects