Alastair Moss, chair of the City of London Corporation’s planning and transportation committee, has had his work cut out preparing for the return to the office. In the Square Mile, workers are finally starting to come back in their droves, bolstering hopes of a swift recovery for the London office market.
But will it bounce back as quickly as people think? Moss, who is due to speak at Property Week’s WorkSpace Conference + Showcase on 1 October, shares his thoughts on how the return to the office is likely to play out and what impact it will have on the market.
How has the return to the office gone in the Square Mile since the start of September?
The buzz of the City has returned. It has been great to see the number of people on City streets grow with offices back to life and shops, bars and restaurants open for business again.
What levels of occupation are you seeing and do you expect them to increase?
Occupation levels have been on the rise, both in terms of workers in the offices and visitors enjoying the world-leading cultural and hospitality offerings across the Square Mile. It was reported in the first week of September that London Underground had its busiest day since the start of the pandemic.
We know that employers have dedicated a lot of resources to deliver Covid-secure workplaces and to restore confidence among staff. The new flexible ways of working are here to stay – and the City will adapt as it has done many times over the centuries.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be in the months ahead for the City?
The virus has not gone away and we are all still learning how to live with it.
The City Corporation is encouraging everyone to continue to act responsibly – including by getting the vaccine as soon as possible and continuing to practise safe social distancing.
The new flexible ways of working are here to stay and the City will adapt
Our focus is to enable a sustainable and successful recovery for the Square Mile to turbocharge London and the UK. We want to build back better.
To do that, we supported our small to medium-sized businesses that were directly impacted by the reduced footfall throughout the lockdowns so that they are now able to play their part in ensuring that the Square Mile returns to the pre-pandemic vibrant and thriving hub.
Where is investment demand coming from and is it changing in any way?
The strong and continued investment and developer confidence in the City has been striking.
Throughout the pandemic, planning colleagues have been kept busy with dozens of plans for office redevelopments and renovations, so much so that the team has been reinforced with additional recruits to help manage demand.
These high volumes of applications have reflected the embedding of pre-pandemic trends. High-quality office developments now routinely include flexible space, fresh-air ventilation, a focus on public realm enhancements and a dedication to promoting sustainable travel options.
Where is occupier demand coming from and is it changing in any way?
Different businesses are adopting different approaches, but we are expecting most office workers to return to the Square Mile for at least part of the working week. As a result, City office space continues to be in demand.
These new ways of working have been the catalyst for a real flight to quality. Workers want flexible space in which to collaborate and socialise, and employers want the ability to upskill and train colleagues.
Access to fresh air and open spaces such as terraces is increasingly popular. And, importantly, people want to be back in the thick of a world-leading and buzzing city.
WorkSpace, featuring AV Works, takes place 1 October 2021 in London. Property Week and AV Magazine will once again be partnering to bring you game-changing content that will open your eyes to the shifts happening across workspaces.