Office Market Post COVID-19
Recently we commented on the industrial market. So what will the office market look like once the lockdown restrictions are lifted?
One of the first problems will be social distancing. Many offices, especially in call centres and smaller businesses have people crammed into small spaces close together to maximise the space, often because of the high cost.
Many commentators believe that the lifting of lockdown will be phased, and many staff may also feel uncomfortable working in such close proximity to colleagues, so it is likely that staff may come back to work in phases, with perhaps one shift of staff working from home in week 1 and another shift working from the office, and then vice versa in week 2. Even adjustments such as how many people can use a lift at any one time will have a big impact on the useability of an office.
Serviced office businesses such as WeWork and Regus will have some issues, especially where they have open spaces with desks for hire.
Some occupiers are already signalling that they will be looking at their overall space needs, such as Barclays and WPP earlier this week. The Chief Executive of Barclays stated that they may well use far more of their local branches for investment bankers to work from, with many more staff becoming de-centralised, allowing staff to work closer to home.
Many people believe that flexible working from home may become the norm, with WPP stating that they have Corporate responsibility towards staff when it comes to matters such as commuting in busy trains and buses, and that they may only have a fifth of all staff returning to work in the first phase, and that flexible working will become a much more normal thing.
Clearly this may well have an impact on demand for offices. However, we are still experiencing demand from enquiries wanting to move staff back in to an office to have a team spirit.
Whilst working from home is handy for some staff, many others will still not find it suitable for extended periods of time. This is especially relevant where they have children around the house, and if they do not have a separate work-space where they can shut off the distractions of family life, especially if they have small flats or houses. So home working is not a reality for most of us.
Many staff in the UK are currently furloughed, so actually working from home has not been something that they have had to experience, and the reality of it may be very different to the experience for older staff where children have left home.
Something else to consider is the facilities available during and after work that are of course centred around office areas, such as cafes, restaurants, gyms, snack shops, sandwich bars, office supplies companies etc. While many of these will experience their own issues of re-opening in a social distanced manner, if the customers are not there, especially in the big cities and business parks, this will in turn have an impact on their businesses.
Staff also still like being able to meet up with colleagues after work and to celebrate, and we still expect there to be a desire to actually go back to a central work-place. Until Broadband speeds improve for everyone, the quality of internet ‘Zoom’ style meetings can still be a bit hit and miss, with people dropping out due to connection issues, and the quality of the sound not as good as if you are there, especially when people are trying to talk over each other.
No doubt there will be an impact on the office market but for more advice and information please contact us
If you are interested in further advice regarding your property or your property needs Aitchison Raffety are still open for business so please feel free to contact us.
Ian Archer- Director of Commercial property at Aitchison Raffety on 01442 220800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org