The (UK) Office

27 May 20

But what does this mean for the future of offices beyond 12 months? With so much empty space between desks and a sparse layout possibly being a feature that’s here to stay, surely there will be an impact on values.

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been re-watching old episodes of ‘The Office’ (whether UK or US version) during lockdown to try to make up for the lack of real office time at the moment. I for one miss the various chit chats, laughs and interactions with colleagues and can’t wait to return!

Whilst many offices remain closed and as lockdown restrictions start to ease, the question surrounding what shape our current and future offices will take is coming to the forefront of many minds and management agendas. Let’s think about this…

With social distancing guidelines set to remain in place for the foreseeable future, there will likely be difficulties in returning offices and employees to their pre-COVID layouts. Subject to the same levels of staff returning, maintaining a 2m distance between employees will no doubt have significant impacts on office capacity. For instance:

Same office floorspace + same number of employees x 2m apart = a need for more office floorspace?!

Establishing revised 2m distance layouts will prove difficult for many yet easy for others. Perhaps it’s time to finally get that application for extensions prepared. Drop me a line if so! Although, do we really even need all of this office space anymore?!

Luckily, the good news is that most people have now got to grips with virtual working and have realised that it can be just as efficient as being in the office. All it takes is good IT infrastructure, strong coffee supplies and the self-drive to keep going, right? Well, I’ll not be the judge of that…

It goes without saying that to stay within social distancing guidelines, there will likely be some office employees working remotely for a little longer than others. This will be welcomed by some but dreaded by others.

The truth is, however, humans thrive on social interaction. The co-working office model was created from this very influence. Therefore, prolonged periods of isolation and quarantine are simply increasing our need for interaction and no doubt will be the reason why many office managers will be struggling with their revised office layouts as employees line up for their 2m distanced return.

But what does this mean for the future of offices beyond 12 months? With so much empty space between desks and a sparse layout possibly being a feature that’s here to stay, surely there will be an impact on values.

Possible increased build costs and less efficient returns could make for a less attractive market. Not to mention a possible decline on CIL income for some Boroughs. Alternatively, companies may simply seek out landlords with ‘ready-made’ social distancing office layouts which could perhaps be the new niche office model. Answer is, it’s quite difficult to predict at the moment.

No matter how the future office looks, I know that on the first day I’m allowed to return, I’ll be excited to leave my house in the morning and commute again, whilst avoiding eye contact or conversation where necessary; as is the London way!

Emma Conwell Senior Planner,Planning