We are now in 2023. How did that happen? My fortieth year on this planet and how so much has changed. It is quite eye opening to have children. To see how they live their lives compared to how I did. All homework set on Microsoft teams, accessible by multiple devices and submitted online. The ability to use technology from such a young age. The way of working has evolved so much as well – since my early days as an accountant back in 2005, the way the role is performed has evolved so much. Largely driven by technology but over the last five years a change in culture and the way work is performed. Real estate and the way we work will continue to evolve in 2023.
The cost impact
Real estate costs can be a significant outgoing for a company. If that space is not being utilised then it’s a wasted cost for the business. Now, I am a fan of the office and believe it still serves a purpose but whether remote-first or a number of days a week, the fact remains that less space will be needed by companies. You don’t need a workspace for every employee everyday BUT offices need more collaboration and amenity space.
Cost is not always just financial. Less office space, less commuting will mean less pollution. ESG is (rightly) high on every agenda and this will be a way for organisations demonstrating doing the right thing. Just like turning off lights when a building is not being used is. Still baffles me being in London seeing the illuminated office blocks.
The lifestyle impact
If we are in the city office less, then more people will move out of the city. This does not mean cities are dead. In fact the opposite, they will continue to thrive as communities are built within cities. It does mean though that certain demographics will move out of the city – they will have one or two days a week with a longer commute but the quality of life they are looking for will be made available in smaller towns and villages. Without stereotyping it is likely families will look to a more rural life. Though BTR aimed at families seems to be popping up in most cities. New spaces will open locally catering for workers who have the ability to work remotely.
A remedy for this is providing more localised working options. The rise of co-working spaces means that people can work closer to home but not at home. Nothing against working from home but it’s nice to have other social interactions and create a boundary. There are many spaces that could become micro working spaces. They can be in every town providing the right furniture, drinking facilities and even fitness equipment to create a true experience.
More time near home means the local community they reside in will thrive as people look to socialising via hobbies and activities – Penistone now has a Board Game cafe for example, allowing people to build more meaningful relationships.
The culture impact
Who works 9-5 these days? Putting aside those roles which are shift based and focusing on the “office” worker who works 9-5? It is a pre-dated notion – just like mandating people to work in an office. In 2023 you have a laptop. You have the ability to connect to the internet. You therefore have no need to be in the office everyday. You may choose that but you don’t have to. Life is all about choice. Companies that have pre-dated notions of what days and time you work are likely to not have the culture that is, well, productive. An ability to work-from-anywhere gives the ability to work globally. Find the culture that fits you best – it may be in Doncaster, it may be in Doha!
The way we work is also evolving. We don’t need to head to the office to join video calls from people at home (well unless we choose to do that!). Asynchronous work allows people to work productively because they work when suits them and then connecting on ad-hoc project and/or status calls to keep things moving and on track. No one needs to join a call where they don’t contribute. Challenge the status quo if someone asks you to join a call where you do not contribute.
So whatever 2023 brings us it will certainly be changed from 2022 and for you, hopefully more choice. The choice to work where you are your most productive on the day. The choice to work in an environment that culturally fits best with you. The choice to make decisions that impact how you work on a day to day basis. And well if you don’t have the choice, the world really now is your ocean.