Editor: The argument about getting people back to the office (‘Government campaign to bring workers back to the office’), continues to spark fierce debate.
But the messaging on both sides is too simple and does not reflect the occupier feedback we’ve received or the way many employers have been working for the past six months.
The coming weeks, with schools reopening, will be a litmus test of the success of calls for huge numbers of workers to return to city centres, supporting industries from food and beverage to stationery supplies and fashion.
There are clear signs of a shift in UK bosses’ thinking in respect of low-density office use. To the surprise of many, UK companies whose business models have not been restricted by lockdown have not found remote working a barrier. Thanks to technology, productivity has not been adversely affected. For many, the work-life balance of their staff has improved, too.
Whatever the new way of working may be, it is clear agile working is here to stay. Models will vary, including companies that work entirely remotely, attend HQ two days a week or adopt the hub-and-spoke model.
The obvious consequence of this is that no matter what campaign the government runs, city centres and the offices within them will need to change. Many organisations that depend on the everyday purchasing power of the commuter are going to be adversely affected.
Is this the death of the city centre? Not at all. Cities will adapt, re-invent where necessary and rebound. Suburbia is already rebounding. Real estate’s ability over the long term to adapt and evolve is well-documented and property managers are uniquely and ideally placed to lead that change and we will need to embrace new ways of thinking over the coming months.
Let’s all stop thinking about how we will get back to the old normal and focus instead on how we can do things better in the new.
Carl Whayman, chief executive, Lee Baron