That is the overwhelming message from a survey of dozens of companies in Guernsey and Jersey.
D2 Real Estate, which undertook the research in December 2020 and January 2021, posed a series of questions.
The first asked whether occupiers would like to return to the office, and the response was ‘unequivocal’.
Some 78% were seeking to return to full capacity within six months, and of those, 32% were at full capacity – although the research noted this would likely have changed since ‘working from home’ directives came into effect first in Jersey and then Guernsey in December and January.
‘The sentiment is however clear, occupiers are intending to return. At the other end of the scale, 10% of respondents were not intending to return to full capacity, and of those, 83% of this sample are expecting to operate at 70% occupancy,’ stated the research.
Companies were asked how relevant having an office was to their business post-Covid, as a key indicator of assessing the long-term future of offices in the Channel Islands.
‘Respondents had the option of scoring between one and five, with one being not at all relevant and five being essential. It is telling that the average score was 4.3 out of five.
‘The results at the lower end of the scale were few and far between and didn’t show any particular trend, albeit one was a major employer in the islands.’
On whether their occupational requirement would change, 46% of respondents expected it to stay the same while 25% expected it to rise – higher than expected.
‘Only 12% expected this to fall. These tended to be the larger employers, which could have an impact on other sectors, such as town centre retail and food and beverage.
‘Not surprisingly, some occupational strategic reviews are still under way.’
When it came to office versus remote working, issues raised were maintaining staff wellbeing and training. Productivity was highlighted, although many respondents were likely to use timesheets – so this was likely less to be an issue for the surveyed group.
Once systems were in place, IT security was not an issue for most.
While cost was still near the top when it came to choosing an office, a high proportion of residents ranked office environment higher.
Lease flexibility was neutral, indicating occupiers were still prepared to enter into long-term lease commitments locally.
Covid resilience was not a major consideration for the majority of firms.
The findings demonstrated local market resilience, concluded the research, with the high score against relevance of the office not replicated in other jurisdictions – particularly in the UK.
‘It is also telling that across our managed portfolio (£450m+), rent collection over the past 12 months currently stands at 100%, well ahead of the UK. This bodes well for the investment market, as one of the key attractions of the local investment market is the opportunity to buy buildings let on long leases to strong covenants,’ added the report.
‘Although a more flexible working culture is inevitable and welcomed, the need for the office to enable effective training and mentoring, as well as being the physical embodiment of the brand and culture, remain high priorities.
‘Crucially, this survey has confirmed that the majority of the respondents strongly believe that in order to retain and attract the best staff the office environment is critical and certain key areas, such as staff wellbeing, are extremely challenging to maintain in a purely “working from home” environment.
‘There will inevitably be a period of consolidation, where some businesses contract and others expand, but in essence, the office is still highly relevant. There is no doubt in our mind that offices in the Channel Islands will continue to have a major role to play as part of our working culture, where people want to go to work and as a place to encourage and drive business.’