Office space – what do I do with all this empty space?

Hillier Hopkins LLP

Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisers

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With the pandemic coming up to one year and likely to go on well into 2021, offices are already starting to change and the change is likely to become more radical. With home working becoming ever more prevalent and as a result, the demand for office space reducing, businesses will be looking to reduce their property portfolios and optimise space to suit new working style when the pandemic passes.

It’s become generally accepted that whilst home working in some form is here to stay, teams and clients will still need to meet face to face. So rather than the “death of the office” which had been touted, we’re more likely to see a reduction in office space as we see a shift in how people spend time in the office. We’re unlikely to see teams spend all their time in the office (although consideration needs to be given to those who are unable to work from home).

The visit to the office will be planned, perhaps reduced down to a limited number of times a week or month and focused on face to face meetings that would otherwise not be as effective over the usual conference software we’ve all been used to using over the past year.

Office layouts will need to adapt to these changes. Permanent desks, areas dedicated to specific departments point to the old ways of working. With teams focused more on collaboration when they are in the office, more areas will be dedicated to meet this requirement. Less dedicated employee desks, booking of hot desks in advance and larger meeting rooms retained only for meetings or collaboration spaces. Client meetings taking place in open spaces in the office may become more of the norm and a way to potentially share the business’s corporate culture and behaviour.

With some businesses hit hard during the pandemic, savings will need to be made somewhere and reducing office space will be seen as a way to reduce cost whilst adapting to these new ways of working. Businesses will need to plan early – taking into consideration when break clauses are coming up, or potentially subletting space if this isn’t some way away (although it’s likely that lots of space will come on to the market with limited up take in the short term).

Reducing space is therefore likely to be a medium term goal. Especially considering the need to agree a strategy at senior levels of the business, identifying which spaces to reduce/ close, designing the new spaces accordingly and importantly, bringing staff on board with potential changes.

Businesses have shown remarkable agility over the past year to adapt to the pandemic and the businesses that continue to recover and thrive will be businesses that have planned this step early.

We can help with forward planning, costs reduction and budgeting – for a free no obligation consultation, please get in contact with Gary Wong on gary.wong@hhllp.co.uk or 03300243200 and he’ll be happy to help.

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Gary Wong

Gary has 15 years of audit experience and brings a wealth of experience from his time at Grant Thornton, Deloitte and RSM, working with various industry sectors from owner managed businesses through to large international groups and AIM listed businesses.

Contact Gary at gary.wong@hhllp.co.uk or on 01923 634453