Given the state of flux caused by Covid-19, many London businesses are looking to the future to determine how best to utilise their office space in 2021 so that it is Covid-19/virus secure. In this article we look at London office fit out trends for 2021 in an effort to address how companies can provide a safe working environment and ensure flexibility in their office moving forward.
Office Space Will Continue To Be Very Important
Although working from home and remote working has played a large role in enabling businesses to continue to be productive throughout the pandemic, the need for safe London office space will continue to be important in 2021 and beyond.
The reaction to Covid-19 in 2020 in predicting the “death of the office” was a major over-reaction to circumstances that no one in our lifetime had come across before. Businesses will need to continue to provide office space for employees for a variety of reasons including the need to collaborate, to mentor and learn from other employees, for mental health and social reasons. It’s interesting to note that employees also want to work in the office.
Data Supporting The Continuing Need For London Office Space
A LinkedIn poll “Five days in the office — Yay or nay” conducted by Knight Frank looked at whether staff wanted to work from home. The poll set the stage by asking: “With Covid-19 dominating news cycles, the speculation of a ‘permanent #WFH’ (work from home) has become a much-discussed by-product. So, we want to hear your take on your preferred post-pandemic working set-up.” The poll gathered 2,134 votes and showed that only 8% of people wanted to work from home all of the time, 12% would like to work from the office all the time but the vast majority were in favour of a “blend of WFH and the office”.
A Yougov poll carried out in September 2020, found that before Covid 13% of workers worked from home all of the time, 19% some of the time and 68% never worked from home. When asked what they wanted to do after Covid 18% of workers said they wanted to be able to work from home the whole time, 39% who want to be able to work from home some of the time and 39% said they don’t want to work from home once coronavirus is done. This clearly shows that many staff, having now worked from home feel they would like to continue to partly work from home (and this number has increased from 19% to 39%) however of those surveyed 78% still want to have a blended working environment of home and work or completely work from their business office.
The survey also found (PDF) that 66% of London workers want to be able to work from home once the coronavirus crisis is over, however only 19% would want to do so full-time.
Bloomberg reported that from a survey of more than 2,000 global office workers carried out by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) “Office Workers Want to Keep Working at Home, Just Not Every Day”. The survey found that the majority of those surveyed want to work at home at least two days a week. Only 26% of workers want to work from home full time after the Covid-19 pandemic passes.
Neil Murray, CEO of corporate solutions for JLL puts the results into context when he says: “Working from home isn’t a panacea, it’s difficult, it brings about a whole different set of stressors. There’s also a desire to get back to this sense of community and creativity of the office.”
The Future Forum
Data from a global survey published on Slack, of more than 9,000 workers found that 72% of staff want a hybrid mix of remote and office work in the future. The report from the survey goes onto say that “Workers’ sense of belonging can suffer while working remotely.”
The experience of remote work varies across job roles, genders, seniority and other factors. Workers were less keen to only work from one environment with only 12% saying they would prefer working from the office all the time, and 13% wanting to work from home full-time.” Furthermore they found “People’s experience of remote work is highly nuanced, with both perks and pitfalls.”
Pew Research Center
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center based on 5,858 adults in October 2020 set out to understand how their work experience had changed during the coronavirus pandemic.
54% of staff surveyed said, given the choice, they would prefer to keep working from home after the pandemic. One third of workers said they’d want to work from home some of the time, while 11% said they didn’t want to work from home. Interestingly they found that men and women were equally likely to say that they’d like to work from home most of the time after the pandemic however 31% women were more likely to want to work from home all of the time in comparison to 23% of men.
Based on the Knight Frank poll and other survey data gathered above it’s clear that the office is here to stay as remote working alone is/will not be sustainable. When it comes to employee working, a combination of a central office hub and home working comes out top and provides the flexibility that businesses will require moving forward.
Permanent Flexible Working
It’s clear from the past year that flexibility within London offices will be a key consideration when it comes to a London office fit out. Current and future workspaces will need to have flexibility built in. How this is achieved will also have to be flexible –one size won’t fit all.
The demand for flexible office space will grow for both large and small businesses across London. If we look to the Deloitte Real Estate’s latest Crane survey (a report that measures the volume of office development taking place across central London and emerging London submarkets) it’s clear that London office fit out work will take priority over the building of new office space, certainly in the short term and potentially for some time to come.
The Crane survey explains that it’s anticipated that there will be an oversupply of poorer quality office workspace. This oversupply isn’t expected to be taken up even when the market recovers because businesses looking for office space will have their pick of better quality offices. Therefore landlords will need to look at fitting out their buildings and workspaces with a view to improving their existing office stock. Deloitte talks about “sustainable, ‘healthy’ and ‘WELL’ buildings” but with the information gathered from the surveys above it’s clear that “flexibility” will also be a major factor.
So what will the London office fit out look like moving forward towards a home/work hybrid model? We already covered some of these ideas in a previous article “Kent and London Office Interior Design Ideas For 2021”. Below we look at what other factors will be important and how businesses can make the office a safe place for workers.
Given that many businesses will find themselves needing less space taking into account less people working from the office but factoring in the need for additional space to allow distancing the fact remains that downsizing may play a role in office space in 2021. Downsizing to a smaller office space can be taken as an opportunity to plan your new office space in a way that allows you to become a more agile business.
Covid Secure Workplaces Will Be Important
First and foremost office spaces will need to be Covid secure. Many businesses that required staff to work in the office during the pandemic mitigated the risk of Covid-19 infection within the workplace. Guidance was issued by a number of groups including ACAS, the UK government and multiple other organisations on “how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic”.
Some of these changes included carrying out risk assessments, enabling social distancing to take place, one-way systems and signage, as well as implementing cleaning, hygiene and hand sanitising and washing protocols and in some cases the use of facemasks. These measures provided ways in which to address the immediate need to put things in place to help get staff back to working safely in the office. However more permanent steps will need to be taken when looking to provide a flexible office workspace in the future. So what other areas should a London office fit out address?
Adapting The Office To Enable Socially Distanced Working Practices As Standard
In order to ensure staff safety, social distancing has been a key message throughout the pandemic and maybe required for a long time into the future given that we are being told Covid maybe something we have to learn to live with. Covid may not be the only pandemic we have to deal with in the future so it’s prudent to shape your London office fit out in a way that allows maximum flexibility.
Office layouts should enable staff to “social distance” easily and simply. To do this any partitioning or dividers used to break up or proportion space should ideally be easy to break down or move so that they provide immediate flexibility when the need arises e.g. through the use of flexible partitioning, living walls and plant wall dividers, storage walls and “write on” walls. Fixed partitioning should be minimised as much as possible. A return to something similar to office cubicles or pods may also be worth considering.
Office furniture should be light and easily movable. There’s no point setting up a flexible layout when you’re planning your London office fit out only to put in heavy difficult to move furniture. Where possible the use of modular, multifunctional furniture can provide much needed flexibility.
Closely aligned workstations and desks will be a thing of the past. It’ll be important that you incorporate more desk space when planning your London office fit out/layout than before to help you maintain social distancing. Larger desks or bench desks as well as dividers and screens can also help to ensure staff can work safely (and at a distance).
Clear floor signage and one way systems may also prove helpful in keeping people distanced and should form part of your London office fit out deliberations.
The Right Ventilation
The UK government website explains the importance in reducing the airborne transmission of viruses. The site says “Good ventilation reduces the concentration of the virus in the air and therefore reduces the risks from airborne transmission. This happens when people breathe in small particles (aerosols) in the air after someone with the virus has occupied an enclosed area.”
Heating, ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) systems should be set to “maximise fresh air and minimise or eliminate recirculation.” It’s vital to also ensure that any HVAC systems are properly maintained and cleaned regularly. Commercial Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) and Electrostatic Precipitators (ESP) air purifiers are also worthy of consideration.
Given that some staff will be working from home it’ll be important to ensure that the appropriate technology is available to allow the continuation of good communication and collaboration between staff both inside and at home. Video conferencing technology should therefore be at the forefront of any London office fit out. Your office design should look to accommodate this technology in an unobtrusive way but still allows it to be easy to use.
To enable office layouts to be more flexible we also need to make sure that the facilities and resources will be available to staff to work no matter what part of the office space they are in e.g. having portable power and power integrated furniture means staff can “plug in” wherever they need to. Good Wi-Fi coverage will also be important.
Health and Wellbeing A Central Focus
Ensuring your London office fit out makes health and wellbeing a focus of your office layout will continue to be is essential. Wellbeing needs to take centre stage, especially given where we find ourselves today. You can read some of our ideas for a “healthy” workspace in our article “Office Refurbishment with a Focus on Health and Wellbeing”.
How Can We Help?
JBH Refurbishments have over 30 years experience in Kent and London office fit out and refurbishments. To find out how we can help you fit out your London office space to the highest standards contact us via our contact form or by calling us on 0333 207 0339.