Following lockdown everyone will want to work from home and businesses are going to need less office space, right? Maybe not.
How do businesses get rid of unwanted office space? Unless a break or lease expiry is conveniently just around the corner, it only leaves a surrender or underlease as the options available to an occupier. These are unlikely to be viable solutions if capacity is being offloaded onto the market, as predicted. This means that most tenants will have to hold onto their current space. Will businesses want to leave these expensive assets empty or, with the shine starting to come off working from home, will they want their staff back in the office?
With hot desking and punchy 70-80 square foot ratios incompatible the 6 foot office, it will leave businesses asking if they actually have enough space to re-occupy. Could we see a short term increase in demand for office space to accommodate social distancing? Bisnow has already started to report some evidence of this in the US and Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, is of the opinion that demand of office space is about to go up.
Even before Covid-19, studies were showing that hyper dense desk space ratios, on open plan floor plates, led to increased numbers of sick days. So there is something in it for the CFO too.
Will employees want to go back to the old ways or will they get used to the more generous layouts, which social distancing requires? The rise of the wellness agenda demands offices with more air, light and movement, which only come with sufficient space. The prevalence of video conferencing raises further questions about open plan's suitability for confidentiality reasons. Could we even see a move back to the old cellular office layout?
Perhaps the big office is not dead after all.
My guess is we'll have more demand for office space, not less, because people will want social distancing Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google