We still need offices but the right office for the right team

There is a changing world all around us. It is changing how we approach work. The pandemic accelerated an evolution that had already started. There are two key parts to this – a cultural and a physical change. A reluctance to accept these changes and focus more on “presenteeism” will undoubtedly not end well. The days of reliance on spreadsheets and outdated office buildings are conceded to the sands of time. The overarching point is that there is no simple answer for all. But there are some things to think about:

The office building

Is there a need for new large office blocks? Most cities have an abundance of real estate space and a growing number of corporations who are downsizing their space needs. Therefore surely all this extra space means we won’t need to build any new buildings in the near future. We can make better use of the buildings we have. Well yes, out of the pandemic comes a need to repurpose and refurbish existing buildings (where possible). This is not only more cost efficient but more importantly better for the environment. 

However there is a counter argument that existing space is not fit for purpose and therefore opportunity exists for new fit-for-purpose buildings. An example is 2 Aldermanbury Square ( GPE secures a substantial pre-letting and commits to 2 Aldermanbury Square, EC2 development ) which will be a new building and has secured a significant letting. A tenant downsizing but wanting higher quality space. 

The move to reimagine our cities will see more communities being created such that they become more attractive and better able to deliver experiences for those who live and visit them. We have become focused on staying local, looking after our personal health with a focus on well-being and looking for opportunities to reuse and recycle our resources. So applying this to our buildings makes sense. 

The places we work

Now communities could be enhanced in smaller towns and villages by providing suitable workspaces – you know like a hub-and-spoke model! Small spaces nearer home with a larger corporate office in the city. I love where I live however I also get frustrated when you hear about all the co-working spaces opening in large cities. It would be nice to have smaller co-working hubs. Most towns and villages have a coffee shop, which can serve a purpose for working, but in some ways they need improving to become really conducive to productive working – for example difficult to have a confidential call and the table heights aren’t necessarily good for prolonged working. Creating new spaces, like enhancing community centres and local libraries to provide workspace will utilise underutilised community assets. 

We don’t want long commutes but we need local spaces to serve the purpose. The first step is ensuring super-fast interactive connectivity and then building from there. And when we do have to commute we need to make it productive (if we plan to work) or do something for ourselves if not working, for example a good book or film. 

The upskilling of all generations 

If we train them up, what if they leave? If we don’t train then , what if they stay? A great quote from Antony Slumbers. The bottom line is we must invest more in upskilling people, especially around technology. Those who have developed technology-related skills are at an advantage in modern work, navigating the ability to work from anywhere. There is a need to move away from the “same-old” training and really focus on broader skills.

There is a lot to explore and a lot to take in at the moment. We are still in the trial period for many experiments in how we world but that is how we learn. We try to see. Those who are not seeking to explore the opportunities available to them will face many challenges. 

So to go back to the start, the overarching point is that there is no simple answer for all.

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