A return to office working 5 days a week is predicted to become the standard model within two years. This return to office working is being driven by the disruption to creative problem solving, but new working trends may also feature more prominently than we were used to pre-2020.
Half of Workforce Home Working
The Centre for Cities think tank has reported the prediction that the workforce will return to office working 5 days a week. Regular office working was disrupted worldwide by the pandemic and the order to stay home, stay safe was enacted in the UK on 23rd March 2020. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home. Of those who did some work from home, 86.0% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Of those who did some work from home, around one-third worked fewer hours than usual (34.4%), and around one-third worked more hours than usual (30.3%). Currently, people who can work from home are still advised to do so. However, that is likely to change if the government ends all social distancing restrictions on 21 June. This will be a welcome return for many. For others this will mean another period of readjustment. Households supporting a key worker will have different needs to a lone furloughed worker desperate for confirmation that they will still hold their job after social distancing is expected to be lifted later this month. Other considerations are changes to childcare, with some facilities now closed down and services limited since the difficulties for early years settings remaining viable through the full lockdown and then the ongoing fears of parents and those looking to save money while working from home. New parents who are home working will not even know the combined pleasure and pain of leaving their bundle of joy behind to attend the office. Then there are the 3.2 million new pet owners to consider.
Pet ownership has risen by 3.2 million households since the beginning of COVID-19 according to The Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA). There are roughly 12 million dogs and 12 million cats living in the United Kingdom, which make up a majority of the total 34 million domestic companion animals living in approximately 17 million households throughout the country today. Roughly 3.2 million households acquired a pet since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most (59%) new pet owners representing Gen Z and Millennial cohorts (ages 16-34). Pet owners across the UK are calling upon their employers to change their attitudes towards pets in the workplace, with almost one in ten (8%) owners considering quitting their job if ‘no-dog’ policies are enforced. As a result of some businesses not being ready to accept new fluffy employees, almost half (45%) of Brits will be changing their working hours to spend more time with their dogs. Even one in 10 (10%) say they’ll be working from home full time so they don’t need to leave their pets’ side. However, it seems not all companies are willing to allow this, as a sixth (15%) of dog owners say their employer won’t accommodate working from home. This might be why over a fifth (21%) of dogs will be left alone whilst their pet parents head off to work.Read our blog to learn How to Take Your Dog to Work.
By far the most used communication platform of the moment. Meetings held on zoom have allowed busy managers to hold back-to-back meetings, and in some cases be in more than one at the same time! Zoom allows you to prearrange your meeting and invite others via email with a simple link. There are a few different settings which allow the host chair or co-chair the meeting and either screen share or show a powerpoint presentation. Some interesting features are: the ability to cloak your background with a choice of alternative green screen type backdrops; lecturing from Hogwarts for example. The chat window allows others to comment outside of the dialogue and a number of standard etiquettes have emerged for zoom meetings to keep them productive, engaging and dynamic for participants.
Returning to Office Working
Home workers might be reveling in the daily commute to the dining room table. Or they might be saying, “Get me out of here.” Economist Nicholas Bloom ponders whether working from home is actually working in this Hidden Brain podcast. A blend of home and office work is expected to be popular while the UK recovers from the pandemic. But some analysts then anticipate a shift back to pre-Covid working patterns for many. The workforce has undergone a lot of changes while working from home for an extended period. One of the benefits of returning to office working, is the ‘water cooler moment’, the interactions with other people, coming up with new ideas and sharing information. Creative thinking and incidental problem solving does not occur by scheduling a three o’clock meeting on a Tuesday for example – it had to happen randomly. Colleagues working opposite hours also miss out on each other’s input. Office for National Statistics data published in May revealed most people did not work from home in 2020, however the proportion of workers who did more than doubled during the pandemic.
All of this combined forces to hit the office property market hard, while prompting lots of discussion about the future of the workplace. The BBC reports demand for more city centre office space does now appear to be rising – albeit from a very low point. Although office take-up was “restricted” in the first quarter of 2021, the estate agency said there had been a significant rise since the lowest point of the pandemic. Sectors signing some of the biggest regional office deals were public services, education and health. Office providers have struggled during the pandemic. On Monday, the shared office firm IWG warned of a sharp drop in profits. Nevertheless, the company said it was seeing “unprecedented demand” for its flexible office services as many more businesses adopted hybrid working. ‘Most firms want a five-day office’
says Jessica Bowles, director of strategy at commercial property developer Bruntwood. Her firm has also seen a lot of demand for flexible and serviced office space on short leases. “We’ve had really strong take-up. People want flexible terms.
“What’s interesting is that it’s corporates wanting to do that as well as small businesses and SMEs.” But hybrid working does not mean flexible office space leases are any cheaper as “flexibility is priced in”. Most firms also want to keep a five-day office, she said. “Most businesses that have got space with us now want to maintain having an office, and they don’t see that they could give up the office for a certain number of days a week – they just want to use the space differently.
“That means more collaborative space, fewer banks of desks, places where people can come together and create and innovate.” She added that while hybrid working was growing in popularity before Covid-19 struck, the working pattern could be “challenging” for firms if some staff were at home, while some were in the office.
office. Jessica Bowles said firms wanted more flexible spaces and shorter leases, but most still wanted a five-day office. “I think from a personal, and a business level, we’ll see more people seeing the value in coming together to collaborate. But Fridays are always pretty quiet in the office and I don’t expect that to change.”
Cafe and takeaway food businesses welcome the return of commuters to their city centres. Businesses that rely on commuting consumers have seen their districts lie dormant throughout the government order to work from home wherever possible. City of London districts such as Bank were virtually deserted throughout 2020, even in mid-week, with all the accompanying markets and services shut down in reflection of the lack of customers, despite hospitality officially allowed to open up from 6th July 2020. Many of these businesses, who have weathered the financial hardship of 2020 the year that wasn’t, with the government’s support packages are waiting eagerly for 21st of June and the predicted lifting of social distancing measures.
Flexible office spaces offer trendy, ready-to-go workspaces, networking events and stocked kitchenettes, paving the way for a new world of work; one that celebrates the productivity power of a breakout space – and a weekly calendar of networking events. Flexible offices give you the agility to move straight in, shrink and grow your space depending on your headcount, budget accordingly with an all-inclusive cost and stay flexible with a monthly rolling contract. Flexible working seems to be the prevailing choice from workers and managers alike so far. There are a host of apps and online management tools to help streamline management processes and team working. Some industries have even seen an uptick in productivity from their workforce. Those who are able to continue remote working are trying out other shared workspace solutions such as digital nomad communities like Umaya Village in Belize.
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