During the first lockdown in 2020, the media was rife with predictions that the COVID-19 pandemic might remove the need for office space. At this point, it did seem like traditional commercial space was under threat – as businesses around the country were functioning well with all employees working from home.
However, by the third lockdown, popular opinion had changed. Here’s an examination of what happened during the pandemic, and why office space will remain in high demand.
Initially, workers across the UK settled into homeworking, leaving industry experts wondering if this marked a long-term sea-change. Having staff working from home appeared to offer numerous benefits for the employee and employer alike.
By the start of 2021, the cracks were beginning to show. Poor internet connection, lack of workspace in the average home, and feelings of isolation meant that many were ready to return to the office. It was also noticeably harder to work collaboratively on projects, and ‘Zoom fatigue’ had undeniably set in.
Office development continues
With staff keen to get back to working in the office, and most companies ready to resume ‘business as usual’, it’s unsurprising that demand for premises is high.
For example, in London’s Square Mile alone, over a million square feet of office space has been approved for construction in 2021. This suggests that developers are anticipating major demand once the third lockdown is over.
Alastair Moss (chair of planning / transportation committee for City of London Corporation) commented: “Developers remain very eager to invest in the Square Mile, so much so that we recently employed additional planners to meet demand.”
Will things be different?
Although demand for office space shows no signs of diminishing, it’s likely we’ll see a shift in priorities among business-owners. They’re likely to be searching for premises that offer:
- A more spacious, open-plan layout. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the problematic nature of working in close proximity to several other people. Also, bright and airy spaces are likely to have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.
- A more flexible working arrangement. Experts predict that more employees will work flexibly in the future; for example, only coming into the office two or three times a week, rather than full-time. As such, hot-desking could become more popular, or alternatively, serviced offices that enable businesses to rent out meeting rooms and breakout areas when needed.
- A more modern space. The demand for more sustainable, eco-friendly workspace was already increasing prior to the lockdowns, and is likely to be an even bigger priority now.
Will there be availability?
It’s anticipated that supply may not be able to keep up with demand. One report recently stated that, of the 12 million sq. ft of offices in London currently being constructed, 60% had already been taken. This highlights just how sought-after office space is likely to be in 2021.
If you’re considering investing in new premises, take some time to identify exactly what you need – given what you’ve learnt about your working practices during the pandemic. Then, start searching proactively, with the awareness that competition may be fierce.
At RIB, we have a wide range of office spaces across London available to buy or rent including serviced offices and co-working spaces. Get in touch with a member commercial property team today who will be happy to help you find your ideal premises. Alternatively, you can browse our available commercial properties online.