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What Does Remote Working Mean for Commercial Office Spaces?

Commercial property wfh

As we begin to look towards returning to more normality in our lives, one of the next biggest obstacles to overcome is the return to the office. 

Many are looking forward to getting back into the office, but after the success for some over the past few months there is now a much stronger case for businesses to offer remote working flexibility. So, what would this mean for the future of commercial property? 

London is one of the most expensive locations for prime office space with an average of £140 per square foot per year, significantly more than New York (£120), Shanghai (£91) and Singapore (£89). CBRE 

Securing and managing a suitable office is one of the largest financial outlays for a business and already we have seen the tech sector lead the way in reducing this expense with many of the big players including Shopify, Twitter and Facebook all announcing that they are moving to a more long term and permanent arrangement with remote working. 

As more contracts come up for renewal, it is likely that there will be a significant increase in office space becoming available in central London.

What will happen with these spaces?

  • One of the first steps commercial property managers can make is splitting up the workspaces that have been previously reserved for large companies into smaller spaces as a more flexible way of working evolves across these teams. This would then open office space for companies who would have been priced out before and mean that more smaller businesses or start-ups can afford to be based in these prime locations.
  • The office has transitioned into a much more open planned space over the years and therefore there is now a larger density of persons per square foot. However, with many companies aiming to work at a 50% capacity moving forward there could be a bigger demand for coworking and office space as a service as this will provide business with the flexibility when scaling their return to work.
  • More long term, commercial space could be changed into residential. However, with less people committing to a 5-day working week in the office brings the question if there will be a demand for city centre housing? If Covid-19 has shown anything is the importance of outdoor space or an extra office room within your house, something that might become even more valuable to people over a shorter commute to work. 
  • Another option for commercial property managers is to strategically open on a more task-based basis to accommodate the demand for meeting room spaces. By using specialised booking systems to advertise meeting rooms on a PAYG basis, they can cater for those who are seeing the full return to the office as a much more uncertain reality.

Why work from the office?

Although there are many cases for working from home, the office has always provided a social environment for employees which is hard to replicate online. According to Jones Lange LaSalle, some of the top things people miss about the office are human interaction and socialising with colleagues and a clear distinction between personal and professional lives. 

During the first few months, returning teams into the workplace on a part time basis will be a good indication of what the optimum balance of flexible working might be. Lynda Gratton, professor at London Business School mentions that offices will be places for socializing, creating serendipitous encounters and general flânerie while home will be a place for more intensive, focused work.” 

It is apparent that managing properties going forward will go through a period of change, make sure you find the best property management system for you and your team.

Find out how commercial managing agents are using Propman to power their portfolios.

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