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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Office space dead weight in post-lockdown Britain

Large offices may become a relic of the past in post-lockdown Britain.

Last week, a survey of nearly 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors (IoD) showed 74% plan on maintaining the increase in home working, while more than 50% plan on reducing their long-term usage of workplaces.

This shift in policy isn’t solely based on government Covid guidelines though; during the pandemic it just wasn’t feasible to accommodate people whilst maintaining social distancing measures, but now companies are looking to cut costs after navigating one of the worst recessions since the Second World War.

In many ways remote working is a boon both to employer and employee. Employees save time and money whilst the employer saves a fortune in rent costs.

Time and money

Commuting is an activity that few people can honestly say they enjoy so freeing employees from this could lead to an upswing in mental and physical wellbeing.

According to the Royal Society for Public Health 55% of commuters suffer from increased stress. The average length of a commute in the UK is 56 minutes, so remote working can give you almost a whole hour back every day.

Image for post
An all too familiar sight for many of us. Source.

Less travel is also massive in terms of freeing up income, in a recent analysis the BBC estimated that the average employee spends one fifth of take home salary on an annual rail season ticket.

So in addition to saving money employers may get happier, less stressed and more productive workers. The freed income could also increase job satisfaction decreasing staff turnover rates.

It is worth saying that this is not an ideal situation for everyone. An unsuitable work space, noisy neighbours, kids or poor internet are just some of the 1st world problems remote workers face.

One factor easily overlooked however, is that that many people do miss the office buzz and social scene, especially the younger generation. According to the ONS, 29% of office workers said they missed the people the most about office life whilst 66% considered their colleagues as close as family.

The Knock-on Effect

Of course this gain in time is a huge loss for the transport and hospitality sectors that serve office workers and commuters. TfL’s income from fares fell by 90% during lockdown and the company will take on £505m in additional debt.

Pret a Manger saw sales plummet by 60% and is looking to cut nearly 3000 jobs in a drastic bid to recoup its losses.

Pano Christou, Pret’s chief executive, said: “I’m gutted that we’ve had to lose so many colleagues. Although we’re now starting to see a steady but slow recovery, the pandemic has taken away almost a decade of growth at Pret.”

Perhaps one area that stands to gain from office ghost towns and remote working is the housing sector.

Freedom from commuter lines means there is now far more choice in where people can live, and as a result the housing market has begun to change.

No longer do you need to be in the catchment area for a London business. Rightmove recorded a 9% increase in searches by Londoners considering moving away from the city compared to 2019.

So whilst post-lockdown the office environment has certainly been shaken up, it’s not all doom and gloom.

With the decentralisation of London a possibility, pollution and over population may decrease, helping London become a healthier and more pleasant place to live.

Sources:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54461218

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53901310

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52467965

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