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When Will Offices Reopen in 2021?

When Will Offices Reopen in 2021?
26 January 2021

It’s been almost a whole year of working from home for many of us, and some are predicting when offices will reopen.

54 per cent of us are apparently happy to continue working from home for as long as necessary.  One of the UK’s biggest companies, Unilever, has boldly announced that their staff will never return to a five-day a week working pattern. 

However, the mental strain of a radically changed working life can’t be underestimated. Our working social lives are all but reliant on online get-togethers, creative and collaborative work faces additional barriers and our work-life balance is suffering

This uncertainty is leading many to predict when exactly will we return to our offices, if at all. Let’s look at some recent predictions, and what the big companies are implementing.


Cornwall G7 Summit 2021 – A Potential Indication?


In early January 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted a call with almost 250 business leaders alongside the Chancellor, Business Secretary and Trade Secretary. During this call, the PM expressed optimism and said employees are craving a return to the office.

However, in a series of televised coronavirus updates, the government has repeatedly called for office workers to stay at home, only venturing out to work if there is no alternative. As a result, most offices have stayed firmly closed, in light of the new virus variant, which is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible.

When it comes to predicting the reopening of our workplaces, politicians continue to state that lockdown measures are under constant review, and that they will look towards certain targets before this can be considered. These are things such as a falling R rate, lowered death rates, NHS capacity and the success of the vaccination rollout.

One rumour that suggests a mid-summer easing of restrictions is the UK-hosted G7 Summit on 11 June 2021. Leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA and the EU will gather in Carbis Bay, Cornwall for three days. Some predict that a repeat of the rule of six, alongside the reopening of hospitality venues, may lead to greater workplace occupancy in the runup.


Google Offices Closed Until “At Least June 2021”


Others indicating a potential summer reopening is technology giant Google, who confirmed that working from home will continue until at least June 2021.

Speaking in late September 2020, CEO Sundar Pichai suggested that he will continue with a hybrid working model, with a flexible working week. According to Forbes, it’s likely that many corporations will echo what Google does and follow their lead.

This doesn’t mean that Google is looking to necessarily reduce its property portfolio, however. ThisWeekinFM reported in October 2020 that the tech giant Google was rumoured to be in talks to buy a London office complex in Central Saint Giles worth £750m.


Working from Home Permanently “Not Sustainable”


Giles Fuchs, CEO of Office Space in Town predicts that flexible workspace which can offer more responsive lease terms and shorter, more flexible commitment will be the key to allowing a safe return: 

“Managed properly, the office can be one of the safest places during this pandemic and will be crucial in supporting businesses not only to recover from COVID-19, but to thrive in the months ahead.”

“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.”

Picture: a photograph of two office workers wearing face masks and "bumping elbows" rather than shaking hands

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 26 January 2021


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