Ways of working

How the back‑to‑work challenge affects the long‑term use of office space

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With the number of workers returning to the office lagging on a global scale, many businesses are left with unutilised space – resulting in the need for a better strategy for the future.

For millions of people around the world, ‘going back to work’ will be nothing like a return to normal. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how we work forever, sparking an unprecedented work-from-home experiment which showed how readily businesses can adapt and successfully operate without employees in the office.

And despite calls to get people back into offices in a bid to regenerate city centres and boost the economy, there is still a lag. According to a survey published by Morgan Stanley in September, 68% of office workers were back at their desks across Europe’s five biggest economies. In Britain, the figure was 34%.

A new normal

Should we even be expecting a 100% return rate? Perhaps not. Many global businesses have already begun to implement solutions that don’t insist on office attendance.

Linklaters, one of the world’s biggest law firms, has announced plans for a permanent “agile” working policy, while Royal Bank of Scotland told 50,000 staff in July to keep working from home until 2021.

In the US, Pinterest is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to home-working and has terminated plans for a major new office space in San Francisco, paying US$90 million to break the lease.

The pros and cons

Employees of these companies are likely to be pleased. Many workers who have had a taste of remote working are not keen to return to a five-day office job. According to a recent report, Homeworking in the UK, nine out of 10 people in the UK who have worked from home during lockdown want to continue doing so.

Yet experts have started to sound warnings about a long-term shift to working-from-home, encouraging workers to return to their workplaces to improve their mental health, boost their careers and even save the economy.

In the UK, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, recently warned of the costs of office closures. “Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade,” she says. “This comes at a high price for local businesses, jobs and communities.”

However, despite her strong words, Fairbairn acknowledged in her interview with Times Radio that a “hybrid” approach to work (mixing time in the office with time at home) may be the most appropriate as a way to balance personal preference and productivity.

The hybrid model is an appealing one. According to interviews conducted by the BBC, for many employees, having in-office and remote work options would be the best way forward, even in a post-pandemic world.

Introducing the short-stay office

Opting for a hybrid model does present a logistical puzzle for business leaders: how many desks will you need to provide for your workers this week? How about next month? How about in six months from now?

The solution could be a ‘short-stay office’. An evolution of the hot-desking concept, it allows for businesses to book office space by-the-hour and at short notice – in order to retain ultimate flexibility.

With workplaces no longer just about centralised company hubs, and the age of the distributed workforce upon us, the benefits of short-stay workspace products enable businesses to be driven and shaped by their workers’ needs and circumstances.

For employees, short-stay offices allow them to stay closer to home, minimise risk and – as an additional bonus for the environment – reduce their commuting. With thousands of locations across most major towns and cities worldwide, employees can drop-in to a serviced office around the corner from where they live.

Convenience is key when it comes to these types of short-stay products. There’s no need to set anything up, since everything from the coffee to the superfast Wi-Fi, is already taken care of. Simply turn up, plug in and work away in a clean and safe environment.

Looking to head back into the office? Regus can support you with both short- and long-term solutions, click here to learn more.