Does the Traditional 9 to 5 Day in the Office Have a Future?
Published by Knight Frank Newcastle -
As we emerge, tentatively, from the most significant global health pandemic of the past 100 years, one of the most crucial questions being asked within the real estate sector is: Does the traditional 9-5 day in the office have a future? The answer to that, being brutally honest, is no. But that doesn’t mean the office itself should be consigned to the dustbin of history.
It is becoming clear few employees want to go back to the pre-pandemic ways of working, but the future is not just a binary choice between working in the office and working from home. The real opportunity for businesses is far more exciting and interesting than that, with the office playing an even more important role at the heart of a hybrid work model.
So, what is the hybrid model? Well, there is no one size fits all approach, and responding to the question is the answer. Different companies will have their own models, and even departments within the business can have a varied approach. The scope is not just where you work, but how and when you work, and this may change over time or even be dynamic through a monthly or annual cycle.
One of Knight Frank’s fast-growing FinTech clients is now recruiting highly competitive skills such as engineering from around Europe, not just London, enabling staff to work from home but come to London four days a quarter. Their UK staff are also only required to be in the office two days a week, with set regimes around planning and socialisation during those days. The rest of the time, it is their choice: home or office. However, for twelve weeks a year, anybody can work anywhere in the UK or abroad.
So will we see the concept of ‘workcations’ emerge? People could go away for, 12 weeks, working 8-10 of them during the day, then enjoying evenings, weekends and the remaining holiday time somewhere new and interesting, whilst their flat in London is rented out on Airbnb, funding their trip.
Potentially, the ideal hybrid model brings together the best of both worlds – the structure, cohesion and culture of the physical world with the flexibility and diversity of the virtual world. But it’s important to be aware of the drawbacks and potential risks. The starting point must be to listen to your stakeholders, including obviously employees, but also clients. We have been facilitating processes of listening to staff through focus groups and surveys, and the process is critical to really ground your strategy and policy on real insight, rather than what you read in the press, hear by an anecdote or know from personal perception.
The engagement should be two way and balance what is right for the company and staff, but also what’s right for clients. The way clients are working is changing as well, and talking to them about their changing needs can be enlightening. Now is the time to have these discussions with stakeholders. They can be far-ranging and include expectations, support, protocols and work-life balance, processes and wellbeing.
It is in these areas where the office adds more value than a virtual platform, connecting people and ideas that define the organisation and shape its evolution and development. In the hybrid world, the workplace becomes the stage for four key critical success factors of any organisation: Education; innovation; collaboration; and culture. There is no doubt that the office will still remain a place to work for many who will not be able to work from home, but a focus on these four elements will ensure that the workplace is a critical platform for all and is designed to maximise its value to the business.
There are a number of specific developments in Leeds which have been built, and are being built, which fit this hybrid, post-Covid model perfectly. They include CEG’s Globe Point; Kinrise’s 34 Boar Lane; Opus North’s 12 King Street and Boultbee Brooks’ Tailors Corner in Wellington Street. They are all so very different from the large, impersonal and crowded floorplates of the early 21st century, with long, cast-iron leases.
These developments are able to offer a new approach to leasing, not only traditional leases, but also a core and flex approach. Business cycles have become shorter, and often decision making happens quicker than ever before. So it is vital to offer options to lease the optimum level of space from day one, with the chance to expand when the conditions are right for occupiers. This customer-focused approach means the customer can concentrate on their business rather than their space, providing a more productive, frictionless service.
The office will never be the same again – and that is ultimately a positive thing. The seismic changes wrought by the global pandemic have changed the face of the office for good, with the interests of the occupier, and their staff, now first and foremost in every developer’s mind.