Working from home or back to work?

The debate around the future of the office continues to rage. It was reported today that the government is likely to set about on a campaign to get people back to the office.

If the economy is going to bounce back quickly, cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham buzzing with office workers will certainly help.

But is there an appetite among employees and even employers to get back to the office, though?

One hopes that as and when Covid-19 is brought under control, companies and their workforce will flood back to the office. However, not everyone is of the same opinion.

Several large multinational companies have announced their working practices have changed forever. This could mean a larger proportion of the workforce working from home more of the time, or in some cases working from home permanently.

The main case for it is that it takes the cost out of their real estate footprint. There has been several ‘solutions’ being banded around including the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model whereby companies will have a smaller HQ presence in the city and spoke offices on the suburbs, where rents are significantly cheaper.

London office developers like British Land, Land Securities, Great Portland Estates, Derwent London and Helical look most vulnerable to any shift in working practices and culture. They have huge portfolios of offices in central London as well as controlling dozens of acres of development sites.

Here’s a thought. Could it be that the working from home phenomenon will be just that, a phenomenon? A short-term solution to a (hopefully) short term problem?

Let us not forget another buzz word in the office sector not that long ago – the ‘war for talent’. Companies competing to offer the best working environment to lure the best talent. It’s what has driven the office market over the last decade and seen companies like Facebook and Apple sign long-term deals for ‘office campuses’ in London. The office design changed, and new trendy locations emerged.

Will that best-in-class working environment now include working from home? It may well do, but my feeling is that the young talent that companies are fighting over are actually itching to get back to the office.

The enforced working from home period has been all well and good for those that have a home office and their family around them. But most young people have been working from kitchens or bedside tables, in cramped house shares.

They see going to the office as an opportunity to learn from mentors, interact and collaborate with colleagues, and just to socialise.

Another consideration that has not been talked about much is train fares. The flexibility in season ticket pricing just does not exist. You pay your monthly fare and that’s it, whether you use it everyday or not. People will be less willing to work from home when they’ve forked out £6,000 a year on a season ticket that they aren’t using half of the time.

The debate around the office is raging because no-one actually knows what is going to happen. There are too many hypotheticals at the moment and no real action being taken by companies. If action is ultimately taken to reduce HQ space, the effects are not going to be felt for at least two to five years’ time due to the current leases in place.

QuotedData will certainly be keeping you abreast of developments.

2 thoughts on “Working from home or back to work?”

  1. End of the office like retail from a bygone past, things have moved on in the digital age. Why waste money on offices, commuting time, and co2 for no good reason?

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