A world of hybrid working

There is so much talk about “The Office” but is the conversation not more broader than this – is it not about how to attract the team and create an environment that allows them to achieve their best – whether office, home or somewhere in between.

In April 2018 I moved from our Sheffield to our Leeds office. Many know that I live in Sheffield and although this isn’t the significant commute some people make it did allow for a reflection on how I work – ensuring it fitted my clients, my teams but also my family. As such I became a hybrid worker – spending my time blended across client sites, the Leeds (or other) offices and working from home. Technology allows this relatively easily – well provided connectivity remains. 

From discussions with individuals to seeing for myself there has always been a big challenge with office work – people have a perception of presentism. The whole “oh you’re working from home!” in a sarcastic way. Well yes actually I am and I’m down right more productive. The last seven months have really allowed businesses (and individuals) to think about what works and what doesn’t – and part of that includes how much office space do we actually need and where do we need it. I really doubt the answer to those questions is a large corporate office in the City. 

What have we seen? There is Microsoft makes remote work option permanent and Schroders permanently embraces flexible working as just two examples of how large corporations are changing. Most employers are talking about employees spending less time in the office and therefore a “new model” needs reflecting. Solely home and solely office just don’t feel right anymore. A hybrid model allowing an evolution of space usage – blending the corporate head office with home working, and other locations (which could be flexible office space in suburban locations or even the local coffee house with good connectivity). 

There can be no one size fits all. We live and work in a highly diverse environment and with that come differing requirements. A number of factors will always be considered by people – their living conditions, their family commitments and becoming ever important how strong the wi-fi connectivity is. 

Firstly think about the “location” – each type of working environment has certain characteristics. The corporate head office will undoubtedly house all the services and certainly require good access. Location is key here with strong transport connectivity. However, a larger work force likely has a more geographical split and therefore satellite offices, offering a selection of services. You then have home working – employees need the technology and tools and off they go. Now in between these are the individuals who don’t need to travel to the “City” where an office is but maybe need another location – this is where co-working space comes in. This could be a branded product or simply a local coffee shop that offers connectivity. 

How often do you use each though? Well that is down to personal preference. Some people like being in the office everyday – that is fine. Some don’t want to ever be in the office again – I’m less convinced with “never” but maybe infrequently is right. It’s your personal circumstances. As I have been since April 2018 I will blend my week a combination of home, office, client site and co-working spaces. The availability of the latter in my neck of the woods is limited but space like Kommune (which provides exceptional food and drink options too) hits the mark and my local coffee shop provides a real friendly personalised approach. 

The people behind the space need to acknowledge these changes and adapt. This adaption will vary but as a landlord you need to look at how the space you offer is used. Think broader though – lease renewals can’t be taken for granted if the space you offer is sub-quality to what others offer. There IS a need for quality office space. As a landlord you need to think broader in what you offer – don’t see the office as four walls. Think community. Think experience. Think about your CUSTOMERS. 

Those who invest in the property industry – well they’ll need to adapt their investments – accept that income streams will be different than they were before. Potentially exchanging long term leases (that are effectively over now) with a blend of medium term corporate lets with flexible space – either internally managed or outsourced under a management agreement. 

We all need to think differently. We need to reimagine the space many became use to and create working spaces that promote collaboration and productivity. The office is not dead but the office of the future will need to be adapted. 

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