Blog


Ben Green, Barker Storey Matthews’ Cambridge head of agency, considers what effect our recent en masse shared experience of working from home might have on office occupation.

In common with many office-based workers, I’ve been ‘WFH’ (working from home) for almost two months now. After a professional lifetime of commuting and conventional full time office life, it’s been something of a novelty but, by now, it’s beginning to lose its shine.

For somebody whose bread and butter business revolves around fulfilling office requirements to the satisfaction of landlords, tenants, property owners and developers with interests in Cambridge, it’s a relief to be feeling like this.

With the right adjustments - and government guidelines permitting - the return to the office looms on the horizon.

However, WFH has been instructive. It's given me the space and time to think about how I might, in future, regularly combine some WFH days with ‘in the office’ days to reconcile better productivity with the pursuit of a better work/life balance.

It will be interesting to see if the nation’s office workforce’s shared WFH experience will have a long term effect on office occupation levels. Doubtless there will be some employees for whom WFH has been a welcome revelation. Whereas, for others, the office will be a welcome sanctuary.

Employers are being asked to consider the possibility of a phased return to office life for their workforce as the lockdown is eased. While it’s difficult to envisage office life repeating the shift work patterns of other areas of commerce and industry, phasing the return may give further impetus to the movement towards more flexible working hours in the longer term.

In office buildings, where many tenant costs are fixed and now with a workforce whose ‘flexibility’ has, paradoxically, been enforced by circumstances during the past two months, there are considerable benefits to be gained from occupying office space more creatively than the conventional 9 to 5, 5 days a week model.

In the short to medium term, employers’ obligations and employees’ considerations of social distancing requirements will definitely see office layouts alter. For this period of time too, the phenomenon of ‘hot desking’ will need to be addressed through, perhaps, a combination of WFH rotas and strict cleaning and hygiene regimes centred around shared office equipment, facilities and spaces.

These past months have sharpened our ‘Zooming’ and teleconferencing skills and these technologies will, undoubtedly, replace face-to-face meetings for a while and, it’s anticipated, some meetings forever.

We are, in the main, sociable creatures. Human interaction, encounter and collaboration are key factors in successful business dealings and transactions.

So, in time, we will need - and want - to meet again in boardrooms, conference rooms and break out spaces. I am confident office stock offering such ‘communal’ accommodation will remain in demand.

In Cambridge, as a centre of scientific excellence, the research and development sector adds another layer when it comes to office and laboratory requirements. Key occupiers here and in other centres of research across the UK and beyond have certainly - and thankfully - not been part of the last two months’ WFH experience.

 

For more information about office availability and occupier requirements in Cambridge, contact Ben Green, 01223 467155, bg@bsm.uk.com.