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Cautious businesses holding back on transforming their work spaces

Whilst businesses across the UK are rethinking the role of the workplace thanks to increased remote working, employees demanding more flexibility and the evolution of smart building features, research from building transformation experts, LMG, has revealed that many are cautious about making transformational changes.

LMG’s The Way Forward, report, which is based on a series of interviews with senior industry leaders to explore attitudes around real estate strategy and the evolving role of the workspace revealed almost two thirds (60 per cent) of interviewees said that factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic and employees’ need for flexible working options have led them to re-assess their real estate strategies. However, just over a tenth (14 per cent) said that they would actively be making such changes within the next two years.

Strikingly, none of the respondents interviewed said they were planning to either buy new real estate or get rid of existing spaces. Instead, a fifth (20 per cent) of respondents said they were planning to enhance existing spaces with new technology. A further 12 per cent said they were considering implementing features in their buildings to improve employee safety and experience.

Almost a third (30 per cent) of interviewees said that by making changes to their real estate, they hoped to achieve a combination of benefits around improving connectivity, facilitating collaboration and flexible working and increasing productivity.

These considerations outweighed other, perhaps more ‘fundamental’ benefits such as saving money (3 per cent) or reducing time and resources spent on facilities management (3 per cent).

Health and wellbeing 

This issue of employee wellbeing is one which dominates the research findings, Covid-19 has clearly dominated all business decisions throughout 2020 with almost two thirds (61 per cent) of interviewees claiming the pandemic and the issue of employee health and safety have driven them to reassess the strategic value of the workspace.

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) say that health and wellbeing has moved up their agenda and almost a third (32 per cent) of those said they hope to increase employee wellbeing and future-proof their workspaces against future health emergencies by making changes to their real estate.

Staying connected

Although businesses may be uneasy or non-committal about investing in health and wellbeing features currently, they do seem to be placing significant value on measures and tools aimed at increasing and improving connectivity and unified communications.

Based on average scores out of 10, the following systems all scored 8: mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity, unified communications and access control systems. Features such as videoconferencing are cited by respondents as being a particular priority, as well as space and occupancy control measures such as company apps and desk booking systems.

Overcoming uncertainty

The research shows that 45 per cent of businesses having made little or no progress in their transformation journey even if they do want to make a change. A further 36 per cent say they have no need to take further action regarding their real estate, claiming to have completed all the changes they think are necessary and planning no more for the foreseeable future.

For almost a fifth (19 per cent) of respondents, government or legislative issues are the cause of their hesitation, and a further 19 per cent said uncertainty and the unknown was causing their business to wait before making any related decisions. Only 4 per cent said cost was a prohibiting factor in moving ahead with such plans.

Mike Hook, executive director at LMG, said: “Apart from the small number who have already made great strides in upgrading their workspaces, this research shows that the huge majority of business leaders are not taking the opportunity to transform their workspaces presented to them by the pandemic.

“With employee attitudes and priorities changing, and technologies emerging to both facilitate and accelerate these shifts, it’s time to say goodbye to the ‘desk farm’ offices of the past and embrace new, connected spaces that encourage collaboration, reinforce working culture and inspire creativity. It’s now up to the industry to come together and break down the barriers stopping people from taking up the opportunity that lies in front of them.”

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