With workers choosing to go back to the office as lockdown restrictions are lifted flexibility is now more important than ever according to the results of a comprehensive study of UK office workers and business leaders commissioned by Orega, a provider of flexible workspace under management agreements.
It had been predicted that working from home (WFH) would become the new norm with businesses like Spotify and Twitter saying staff didn’t need to return to the office and HSBC proposing to cut its office space by 40 per cent.
However, a UK study of the future of work and the office, from 2,000 office workers and 500 business leaders, polled by Survation revealed workers want to return to the office but on their own terms.
Office life is returning
- Just 26 per cent of businesses plan to move to a smaller offer with 56 per cent predicting they’ll retain the office they have.
- 53 per cent of office workers plan to do a mixture of working in the office and from home. Before the pandemic, only 20 per cent did this hybrid work mode. 48 per cent of business leaders say their firms are working hybrid.
- This move to hybrid has led to the emergence of TWTs – people choosing to be in the office Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
- However office workers still want their own desk – they are not enthusiastic about hot desking.
- Only 17 per cent of office workers will work from home every day. 18 per cent of business leaders would prefer their employees WFH.
- And 37 per cent of office workers want self-serve barista-style coffee.
The effect of working from home did have an effect on a third of firms according to the study, with 31 per cent experiencing a negative impact on productivity.
Reasons for getting back to the office
- 67 per cent said it was an important place to collaborate and communicate
- 55 per cent said it was a social hub and they needed it to access technology and files
- 54 per cent it provided focus and improved productivity
- 48 per cent said it was important for career development and training, though this rose to 57 per cent for 18–34-year-olds but only 34 per cent for 55-64s.
- And 65 per cent wanted to have their own office desk even if they work two or three days there with only 29 per cent happy to hotdesk.
What employees most want in their office
- Quiet spaces to escape interruptions and get work done (58 per cent)
- More privacy in the office (53 per cent)
- Better provision of fresh air (52 per cent)
- Self-serve barista-style coffee (37 per cent)
Effects of working from home during lockdown
- 31 per cent said their mental health had declined
- One in four (24 per cent) saw their personal finances worsen
The future of the office
Looking to the future of the office:
- 78 per cent of businesses and 81 per cent of employees want to keep working in an office
- 58 per cent of businesses currently don’t want to downsize office space.
- When the office lease ends, a total of 62 per cent either want to retain the office space as it is or look to increase.
- 49 per cent are considering changing their leasing model and 53 per cent are interested in serviced offices.
- 67 per cent of businesses said the office was important for career development and training.
- And 80 per cent said it was vital for the company to collaborate and communicate.
Zach Douglas, CEO and founder of Orega, who commissioned the survey, said: “It appears reports of the office’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Brits have chosen to go back to the office but on their own terms and businesses are accepting it. It seems the hybrid model working mostly in the office and then remotely from home is here to stay.
“They’ve clearly seen the benefits of working remotely but have craved the social hub and the place to focus and develop their career that the office provides. Interestingly what we’re seeing in this new hybrid world is the rise of the TWTs.
“If 2020 was about WFH, 2021 is seeing the emergence of the TWTs – people choosing to be in the office Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“After working from home for a year, they want the best of both worlds. That’s why they’d like more space and privacy at work to focus and concentrate and don’t want to hotdesk.”
Douglas also has advice for landlords of office buildings and investors who are concerned about the future of the office.
He said: “My message to landlords and investors is simple. There are great opportunities if you acknowledge the changing landscape.
“Firstly, we’ve found landlords and investors are increasingly considering management agreements with flexible workspace providers over a traditional lease.
“Management agreements are a partnership not a one-off real estate transaction like leaseholds. So landlords and investors have a greater say over how their assets are used and the return is more stable and profitable over the long term. You also don’t lose control of the flex space provision within your asset as you would under a leasehold.
“Secondly, in a competitive office space market, greater hospitality is key. Our research shows office workers want more desk space, more quiet areas to work and a level of service that’s more like a hospitality, hotel style concierge services rather than a traditional serviced office.
“Greater hospitality not only keeps clients happy it increases workspace retention and expansion. Help them be happy and productive and they’ll grow.
“Thirdly, the hybrid model is here to stay but the office is back. The office will still be the hub for businesses, and we all need to be responsive to the new work patterns, with many choosing to come to the office three days a week and work remotely the rest of the time.
“So that means best in class meeting spaces and Enterprise grade internet provision to enable staff to work remotely and feel engaged with the office.”
The survey will be launched at Property Week’s Property Finance and Investment Forum taking place today (3 June).