Homeworkers following lockdown, what will this mean for large office spaces?

Date: 01st Jun 2020

Many of us are wondering if we will ever return to a busy office environment and have settled into home working as best we can. Office-based employees have had had to adapt to new ways of working, so what will the future of the office space look like post-pandemic?

 

Everything at the moment is based around the word ‘phased’ – a phased return to school, a phased approach to companies reopening, phased reopening of business districts. However, it is unlikely that a full return to the office is on the horizon anytime soon.  A number of the larger tech companies say they are ‘open to their staff working from home permanently’, they are realising that remote working is not only possible but, in some cases, preferable. Lockdown has acted as a catalyst in the shift to a new way of working and although home working was already underway for lots of employees, it’s now been forced upon them.

According to a recent poll of 1,000 employers in the UK, (published in the Independent this week), they found that:

“Prior to lockdown just 45 per cent were comfortable with staff working away from the office. But seven in 10 were considering changing previous rules and regulations after being so impressed with how staff had reacted”.

A recent BBC article published the feedback from some experts on city life, all of whom were working from home.

Paul Cheshire, professor of economic geography, London School of Economics:

I do think we'll go back to offices but not in the same way. People are more productive when they are closer together with face-to-face contact. There's 20 years of really good persuasive research demonstrating how important that is. There are lots of things you cannot do except with other people - people are innately social animals.

Les Back, professor of sociology, Goldsmiths:

I do think we are at a tipping point. There's a reorientation, a recalibration of the relationship between place and time and social life that we're on the cusp of. We may see profound changes. Some things may not come back. The hollowing-out of city life has been coming for a long time. It may be that what will happen is that some businesses won't come back to the centre of the city and think it's too risky - or there may be other economic drivers where people will just take the opportunity to ask: "Why are we investing so much of our capital in these large office spaces?"

I think there are possibly huge effects [of more working from home]. There's the pressure on the domestic sphere. There's the pressure on gendered relationships at home, on the blurring and overlaying of parenting and work and the pressures that would cause.

Aude Bicquelet-Lock, deputy head of policy and research, Royal Town Planning Institute:

It's true some companies have said that they could allow their workforce to work from home forever. Twitter said it. Facebook said it. The CEO of Barclays said that putting 7,000 people in the office might be a thing of the past. The experience of going to the office in Aberystwyth isn't the same as going to the office in London. The decline of office space will affect small, medium and large cities in different ways.

Read the full article here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52767773

 

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