Belfast Telegraph

The impact of Covid-19 on office spaces

As the pandemic continues, the impact of the COVID-19 virus remains far from clear. But the impact on our daily working lives is evident as, for many, the shift to long-term home working continues.

Home working is expected to continue well after the pandemic subsides. There has been much discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of working from home. What has been largely overlooked so far is that, as the demand for space reduces, businesses will be looking to reduce their property portfolio to cut costs and suit new working models.

Over the coming months, we expect the secondary sub-letting market to become flooded as businesses start looking for opportunities to sub-let their current office space. While a lot is said of the ‘death of the office’, in reality this is unlikely to be the case. Rather there will be a focus on substantial space reduction, although this won’t happen overnight, as significant workplace change take time.

Businesses will need to wait for breaks or expiries in their leases to release space without risk. So, for a company looking to reduce its property portfolio by 25% to 40%, it could take almost three to five years for them to get there. There are a number of steps that organisations can take now to start planning, including agreeing a new workplace strategy which will identify those sites to close or downsize, designing and costing the new workplace and bringing employees on board with proposed changes.

The planning process will take time and those businesses that start this change early will have a clear advantage over their peers, even if their first lease expiry is a significant time away.

While an evaluation of office space is needed, it is clear that we do still need a corporate space. Teams still need to meet, both with each other and with clients. What is likely to change, though, is the time spent in the office. For most employees, the day at the office will become an occasional planned event rather than the norm.

In the old office model, it was normal for every department to have its own dedicated space and other dedicated spaces such as a canteen and a client area. In the new office model, collaboration will be the main emphasis, both internally and with clients. Employee desk space will likely be reduced and will need to be booked in advance. Space will be retained for team or project collaboration and for important client meetings.

As the shift to long-term home working continues, it is vital that businesses are planning their move towards the new corporate and home working model.

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