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The Working from Home U-Turn – The Commercial Office Letting Sector Responds

The Working from Home U-Turn – The Commercial Office Letting Sector Responds
24 September 2020
 

Following the government’s change in working from home guidance, how has the commercial office letting industry responded?

COVID-19 restrictions have been tightened in England due to a rising number of virus cases, with new measures expected to last up to six months. The government is once again calling on people to work from home where possible and pausing plans for sporting events and conferences.

Considered by some a fairly dramatic U-turn given the previous month’s positive messaging regarding getting back to the office, how do those who specialise in flexible office letting and workplace management feel this will affect their clients and their business in the long term?

ThisWeekinFM spoke to professionals working in the commercial property sector, specifically office letting, to get their thoughts on the latest changes.

 

“This country can’t afford for productivity to slip further. UK productivity fell by almost a fifth in Q2 of this year, with output per hour down 2.5 per cent compared to the Q1. The economy is already forecast to need several years of recovery and it’s vital we get back to the office sooner rather than later.”

–Giles Fuchs

Co-Founder, Office Space in Town

 

 

“The Silent Impact of Working From Home is Becoming a Serious Concern”

 

Giles Fuchs from serviced office company Office Space in Town, argues that the U-turn is misguided, putting UK productivity and the economy at risk, without major benefits to public safety:

“The government’s sudden U-turn around guidance on working from the office will likely be detrimental to employee confidence, but it need not be, as COVID-19 compliant offices are some of the safest spaces for workers.

“This country can’t afford for productivity to slip further. UK productivity fell by almost a fifth in Q2 of this year, with output per hour down 2.5 per cent compared to the Q1. The economy is already forecast to need several years of recovery and it’s vital we get back to the office sooner rather than later.”

 

Mayfair OSIT

Office Space in Town's Mayfair Office

 

Fuchs also feels that there will be a huge impact on employee wellbeing:

 “The silent impact of working from home is becoming a serious concern. Now prolonged, employees will be in need of more support than ever before. With a survey by OSiT finding that almost a third of people cited loneliness as the main disadvantage to remote working, 25 per cent of workers reported feelings of anxiety and a further 37 per cent of people reported being unable to unplug from work, feelings of burnout and isolation will hinder happiness and productivity in the longer term.”  

“For as long as the government allows, we are committed to our offices remaining open. While we have already seen some of our clients and many of our staff return to the offices, we have also seen some friends of OSiT making use of our safe working environment, forming the “lonely workers club” – a blend of workers from different industries who have been craving the social environment that an office can provide.”

 

“We are Seeing a Large Increase in Decentralising”

 

For employers who are now confused about how best to manage the working patterns and locations of their workforce, Khalid Aziz, Marketing Director at BizSpace, a regional flexible workspace provider, suggests that decentralising office space will continue to gain popularity:

“It’s clearly a challenge for businesses to manage new working preferences, with some workers wishing to remain at home or work more flexibly in the long-term and others favouring a more permanent return to the office. 

 

Khalid Aziz

Picture: A photograph of Khalid Aziz

“This is where decentralising office space and adopting a hub and spoke model can provide businesses with a solution - moving away from costly, large city-centre HQs and instead opening smaller regional offices for a happy medium between home and office work. 

“Unsurprisingly, we are seeing this trend accelerate, with a large increase in the number of decentralising customers, at BizSpace especially, post-pandemic.

 

“72 Minutes of the Working day can be Lost as a Result of Insufficient Internet Access and Outdated Technology”

 

We asked Richard Morris of technologywithin, a workplace experience technology specialist, what he predicts are going to be the main drivers in inspiring confidence for employees to feel comfortable in the office:

“Technology has a crucial part to play in helping people to feel confident in returning to the office. For instance, contactless technology, movement tracking apps and workplace management systems can all help to minimise contact and best maintain social distancing, reassuring people that their safety is a priority. 

“With a number of contactless technologies available to operators and landlords – including door access systems, temperature and lighting management and security systems – these systems will become increasingly important for inspiring confidence, as well as the use of online desk and room booking platforms.

 

RichardMorris

Picture: a photograph of Richard Morris

 

"But addressing employees concerns about what the new guidelines mean for them professionally is also important – again technology can help. People in the office are reliant on strong connectivity and need to be able to integrate effectively with remotely based colleagues who will be continuing to rely on video conferencing and instant messaging. I expect we will see significant investment in upgrading meeting room capabilities and providing the technology infrastructure that employees are rightly looking for in the wake of this new guidance.

“Research has shown that as many as 72 minutes of the working day can be lost as a result of insufficient Internet access and outdated technology. With the new guidance encouraging working from home set to stay in place potentially into next year, and businesses already limited by social distancing in terms of how many people can return to the office, investing in the right technology to power your teams is vital.”

Picture: Office Space in Town's Blackfriars building reception area

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 24 September 2020

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