On 1 August, government advice changed from ‘work from home if you can’ to ‘work from the office if you can’. It might seem like a return to normal, but there is no doubt that how – and where – we work has changed substantially.

Ciara Keeling

Ciara Keeling

Over the past few months, working from home has changed the way people see the office. It has enabled greater flexibility and work-life balance – something many have championed for a long time – and proved that some people can be just as productive out of the office as in it.

Yet the past few months have also given the office a renewed sense of purpose. It is the home of collaboration – no Zoom or Microsoft Teams call can quite replicate that sense of belonging. For me, the office is certainly not dead.

This sentiment is mirrored by our customers. After speaking to more than 2,000 people working across our sites in Birmingham, Cheshire, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, we know that more than 60% look forward to a return to the office.

It is clear that people want to collaborate and businesses want to bring people together, but they may need more flexibility when it comes to contracts and leases, as well as how an office is designed, in order to do that effectively.

We have been in constant communication with our customers to understand how we can best support their needs, both now and in the future. The intel we have received has been invaluable and has driven innovation across our product stack.

New initiatives do not focus solely on cost reduction. Take our Office Share product , which allows businesses to share workspaces and associated fees as they begin a phased return to work. Or our All Inclusive product, which, because many businesses currently need certainty around forecasts, combines rent, service charge, insurance and electricity into a single rate that remains fixed throughout. We have also partnered with Enterprise Nation on ‘Spark by Bruntwood Works’ to provide management teams with hands-on support and advice.

Generic office space

Source: Shutterstock/ Monkey Business Images

Another key trend is the growing focus on sustainability and wellbeing in building design. Features such as ‘living walls’ and more natural lighting will become commonplace thanks to their wellbeing benefits.

Buildings must be attractive environments where people are happy and want to spend time – forcing workers to be in the office is set to become archaic.

Furthermore, the post-Covid recovery must be a green one. We have an opportunity to make meaningful changes that will contribute to the government’s 2050 carbon-neutral goals.

We are already working on improving sustainability and were the first commercial developers in the UK to sign up to UKGBC’s Net Zero programme, designed to lead the transition to a ‘net-zero-carbon’ built environment.

It may sound a lot for a workspace provider to offer, but the bigger picture is this: towns and cities need workers back in offices; shops, cafés and bars rely on this to stay alive; and the nation’s economy relies on them in order to continue functioning.

Workplaces are at the heart of this and we must adapt what we offer to support this recovery. Innovation is key to drawing people back into offices, and to helping support the economy.

Ciara Keeling is chief executive of Bruntwood Works

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