Almost half of mid-to-large size UK companies plan to move offices within the next three years as the shift to flexible working outlasts the pandemic, a new survey suggests.
Naturally, this is very good news for employees who have come to enjoy flexible working arrangements and the newly discovered possibilities of enhanced work/life balance. But it signals a seismic shift for the commercial property sector, as
the findings were described as a “watershed” moment for the future of office working. Of nearly 500 senior executives at firms with at least 20,000 sq ft of leased space, 89 percent said they will be in a position to move out in the next 36 months due to lease expiries or break clauses.
In total, 46 percent are “actively looking” to move, searching out better locations, upgraded facilities or more space. A third said they would be downsizing as staff will more frequently work remotely.
London could be a net benefactor from the shift, with more than a third of companies considering moving into the capital, still a “highly prized location.” Lower square-footages will make the rents more affordable for mid-sized firms, particularly in the IT and telecoms sectors, while the City’s reputation will help to attract and retain skilled employees.
In what will give landlords some comfort, the research by law firm Gowling WLG in collaboration with the British Property Federation, found only 3 percent of respondents have decided to move to remote working full-time, while one-in-five say all staff will return as normal once WFH advice is lifted.
Simply having a communal space where colleagues and clients can meet together face-to-face ranked highly, alongside the role an office plays in supporting staff development, mental health and welbeing.
The report’s authors, led by Dan Gwilliam, said: “The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change, literally forcing companies and their employees out of their offices and into their homes during successive lockdowns.”
They said the narrative has shifted from a simple contest of remote working versus offices to a “more nuanced conversation” about how offices can help companies achieve their goals while enabling employees to achieve “that elusive work-life balance”.
Another new report from the U.K. says that if the whole country moved to a shorter workweek - or worked remotely for at least one day each week - it could eliminate as much as 127 million metric tons of emissions, or roughly as much as the pollution from the U.K.’s entire private fleet of cars.