Virus spurs big office rethink
Half of UK businesses expect to reduce their office space, with a third looking to cut it down by 30 per cent.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) surveyed 258 C-Suite executives and other senior employees of the UK’s largest companies. Their proposed cuts signify a reduction of around nine million square feet of space.
The pandemic appears to have fuelled a desire in many British companies for hybrid work models where employees mix remote and in-office shifts. Around 71 per cent of the survey’s respondents plan to increase investment in technology to enable more agile working over the next two years.
Only 10 per cent of those surveyed believe office space will match pre-pandemic levels, even with the swift and extensive vaccination programme. The consensus from the survey among the senior executives was that employees will continue working remotely for two or three days a week.
Angus Johnson, the UK real estate leader for PwC UK, said: “The figures couldn’t be clearer, the shift to hybrid working, with part of your time at home and part in the office, is pretty much embedded into the working culture of many organisations.
“However, it’s clear that the role of the office is not going to disappear. We may see an increased demand for flexible space as many businesses’ operating models may well need that option if holding dead space is to be avoided. It’s also clear that the nature and purpose of office space is going to change.”
Many respondents said they were implementing subleasing models and exploring partnerships for shared office space with other companies. Half of those surveyed said they will reduce office space by the end of 2025. Indeed, a further one in seven have already downsized since the start of the pandemic.
Gary Jowett, from Computer & Network Consultants (CNC) in Brighton, said: “The permanent move to a more hybrid model for many companies presents fresh challenges for the way that technology is used and kept secure. That is why companies need a carefully thought-out strategy and operating model to ensure the right resources and employees are deployed in the right locations. Some teams may need to maintain more of an office presence than others, so it is not wise to allow people to work from home simply because they want to. Conversely, attendance at an office should not be regarded as a measurement of productivity. In fact, one great advantage to be had by allowing people to work more flexibly is that it helps to show who manages their teams most effectively and which employees are self-starters who produce more for your organisation.”