‘There’s no doubt that the office is going to change’
THE office is not going to disappear – but it will change.
The question of whether a mass switch to home working amid the pandemic could spell the end of the office has been a hot topic of discussion since lockdown. But property expert Tony Rowbotham, a director at Savills in Guernsey, said that it was more about the office environment evolving.
‘The office is going to change, I think there’s no doubt about that. But ultimately, is it going to disappear? No, it’s not. There’s no chance of that,’ said Mr Rowbotham. ‘What makes the office environment important is, to our mind, there’s this need that companies have for human capital. We are social animals and people generally want to come to the offices to see friends and colleagues.
Recent research by Savills in the UK found that 89% of respondents believed physical office space will remain a necessity for companies to operate successfully. Continued demand for offices was also driven by the need to attract and retain talent, it said.
It also highlighted how generational differences, included living circumstances, will impact office usage. The younger generation had two main challenges, noted Mr Rowbotham, in terms of being noticed and climbing up the career ladder – and learning how to do their role from on-the-job training.
But a preference towards a degree of home working could potentially result in up to a 10% reduction in office desk space in the future, according to the research. But while desk space densities may decrease, space will still be required to reconfigure the office to create a place that employees want, rather than need, to be. Meanwhile, employees are more environmentally aware and keen to reduce unnecessary business travel.
Mr Rowbotham added: ‘What people will look for in the future is an office environment that is safe because that’s extending the wellness into safety. But an office environment that creates flexibility to allow people to work from home when they want, but also to come to work when they want. That’s going to be the challenge for companies – how do they make the office environment inviting?
‘It’s been going on a bit over the last few years of companies creating breakout spaces, more-sociable working environments. That’s just going to have to be extended. Part of that work was that companies were crushing desks together, but then creating breakout areas. But what we sense is that people are going to want more personal space around them and they’re going to want the breakout areas.
‘We don’t actually think the amount of floor space taken by companies is going to decrease. But we think the density of people at any one time working in that office will decrease. So there’ll be more people working from home at any one time. But the people within the office will actually expect more working space around them.’
Another key takeaway from the research was that a hybrid of both the home and office was required and that organisations may find they need to invest in employees’ home working environments to best meet a range of needs for employees.