Editor: The Flexible Space Association has called for the chancellor to support the flexspace industry.
In doing so, it is not simply looking out for the 6,000-plus operators across the UK, it is looking out for the thousands of SMEs that rely on flexspace as the only viable option for a physical office. It is looking out for the backbone of our economy, and our way out of these trying financial times.
The importance of the office cannot be overstated. Leesman’s homeworking survey found that just 40% of respondents have a home office and the activities that suffer the most when working from home are collaborative work and social interaction.
That aside, millions of people working from home do not have an ergonomic chair, or are hostage to a temperamental internet connection. Quite simply, the office is essential.
Prior to the second national lockdown measures brought in for November, demand for flexible space was reflecting the desire to get back into the office. Between June and August, IWG reported a 22% jump in UK sales.
Interestingly, this has been fuelled by demand for space in city suburbs and M25 commuter hotpots. This suggests that businesses are trying to balance the new mix of office and home-based working, for which flexspace is often a perfect solution.
The flexspace industry has sought reductions in overheads to cover reduced occupancy, but there are increased costs of operations, such as enhanced cleaning regimens.
Landlords and operators may be able to navigate the November lockdown, but if the work from home advice stays in place on and off throughout 2021, support will be required. The government has largely ignored the sector and should be extending business rates relief to ensure that space is available to SMEs when the economy rebounds.
It is also vital for landlords, operators and end users to come together in support of each other. That would be instrumental in ensuring that the sector and thousands of SMEs continue to operate and support the economy.
Ben Hutchen, head of property, Clarendon