The future of Offices- a Personal view

David Cuthbert, South East Office Agency recently offered a view of office market going forward to Costar News.

We have had numerous conversations with clients, tenants and other agents about what is likely to happen and of course it’s all speculation.

These are some of the possibilities:

1) Everyone will work from home- Not very likely
2) Some people will work from home some of the time-possibly and probably for a few more senior roles
3) Everyone goes back to the office- likely

Some general thoughts, but there will be a mixture of approaches.

I think most people on a personal level want to go to the office to work. Human nature is to interact with others and that will not change. If you are in a small flat without a proper work space, external area, kids at home etc it must be very difficult to work at home.

It is possible to use remote tools (Zoom, Teams etc) but it is not the same as face to face meetings.
As a manager how do you motivate, train and quality control if everyone is at home? It is not going to make creativity better by sitting at home.

Casual meetings and chats are the life blood of most businesses. Again not possible at home.

I do think there will be changes in how people operate and here are a few thoughts:

Will people want to be crammed into small spaces? I think they will want bigger desks and more space between colleagues. What about hot desking? I don’t think people will fancy sharing work space especially with strangers. I think people will want to get out of serviced offices. Most would rather have their own space with their own front door and be able to control who is in the office. Landlords doing CAT A Plus space will steal a march on unfitted and serviced offices.

Will people want to travel on public transport? I think in the short term people will prefer to commute by foot, bike, car if they can. Could make people want offices closer to home or with more parking. Buildings on business parks offer the latter and older buildings in town centres with better parking ratios could benefit. The desire for showers, changing facilities etc will continue.
Will people who live outside cities prefer to reduce their commute and take offices on the edge of town? Look at London. If you live in the Home Counties you may prefer an office out of town. Could be good for locations with good communications outside central London or other big cities.

What about costs? Lots of businesses will be looking at costs. Offices are likely to be one of the largest fixed overheads. Businesses will want to keep more cash to cover similar shut down situations and be looking to reduce long term costs. This may result in people looking at cheaper locations (again may benefit locations outside London).

It may mean reducing the total amount of space and letting some people work from home on certain days.
What about flexi working? I certainly think people will want to stagger the working day. It is going to be more common to see people working early and leaving early or working later and leaving later. Maybe the end of the 9-5.
Will there be as many external meetings? Probably not. I think people will use video conference calls more often and meet in person less frequently but it certainly won’t replace face to face.

Which buildings will attract tenants? There will still be a dash to quality. The best buildings which offer flexibility of space and terms will succeed. CAT A plus will become more and more common. Shorter leases, fixed dilapidations etc are all likely to feature.

My personal view is that office occupation will change but both individuals and businesses for many of the reasons above will want to work together and the office will be the place to do it. Maybe having spent 2 or 3 months at home people will be even more keen to go back to an office!!


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