Are UK offices no longer fit for purpose?

Brought to you by Harrison Clark Rickerbys

When Covid-restrictions ease, millions of people will be returning to offices no longer fit for purpose. But is it time to throw out the traditional office blueprint – rows of desks with people glued to their keyboards, email and landlines (picture David Brent’s colleagues in the TV show ‘The Office’)?

What we need from offices is human connectivity – a space for the kind of work we can’t do by ourselves when working remotely.

This event will explore the subject in more detail and Business Leader has teamed up with law firm Harrison Clark Rickerbys to deliver it. The firm recently produced some research which found the below points – all of which will be discussed during the debate.

  • Nine in ten people (91%) say that people like or love working from home and almost three quarters (72%) of them hope to continue working from home more frequently than they used to
  • But close to half (44%) of people said they miss the office atmosphere and the people
  • Employers are also worried about the downsides of remote working – reservations cited by employers include themes around data security, the challenges of working collaboratively, and reduced productivity
  • And when they are in the office, most people want their own desk, but with fewer people in the building every day, employers can reduce overheads with less desk capacity.

Clearly, there’s more to future workspace planning than installing hand sanitiser and perspex screens.

The panel:

Here’s a breakdown of what we covered:

  • Mark Carter: What are you seeing amongst your clients and contacts regarding returning to the office? Are we set to see a mass return to offices? (2:54)
  • Lucy Cohen: Where do you stand on home working as an employer? And has this period made you re-consider the role of the office and home in relation to work and what they should both offer? (6:00)
  • Charmaine Vincent: What role do you see your office space playing going forward? Will how your office change? (10:32)
  • Natalie Rogers: How are you approaching returning to work and how do you see the future role of the office? (13:37)
  • Dominic Ponniah: Regarding the offices you are going into as a cleaning business, what do they need to be beyond desks and Perspex screens now? (16:12)
  • Nick Wright: From a real estate perspective, do you feel we will have less going forward around our urban centres? Or will staff occupancy return to pre-pandemic levels? (20:09)
  • Paul Williams: What is your view on commercial office space and whether will see a shedding or re-purposing of offices? (22:50)
  • Nick Wright, Lucy Cohen, Mark Carter, Dominic Ponniah & Paul Williams: Is it the case that people are happy to come to the office if it is local and we could see recruitment shift (i.e. could we see big city firms relocating their offices)? (27:18)
  • Mark Carter: If home working shifts from major urban centres, do you believe businesses like cafes and restaurants will suffer as a consequence? (36:00)
  • Charmaine Vincent & Natalie Rogers: As business leaders who are organising a return to work schedule, were there any keys requirements that your staff asked for in particular? (37:37)

Questions from the audience

  • Nick Wright, Lucy Cohen, Dominic Ponniah & Paul Williams: What does the future hold for Co-working and Drop-in workspaces and will they become more popular with more people remote working? (40:31)
  • Natalie Rogers, Mark Carter, Dominic Ponniah, Charmaine Vincent & Lucy Cohen: How do we ensure that flexible working doesn’t become everyone in the office Tues, Weds & Thurs, as this will make it difficult to reduce workspace? Could work contracts be revised? (47:58)
  • Final word from Nick Wright (53:06)
  • Final word from Lucy Cohen (53:53)
  • Final word from Paul Williams (54:44)
  • Final word from Natalie Rogers (55:43)
  • Final word from Dominic Ponniah (56:26)
  • Final word from Charmaine Vincent (57:24)
  • Final word from Mark Carter (58:19)

Be sure to subscribe to the Business Leader YouTube channel for more interviews with some of the UK’s leading business figures.

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