No Going Back!
The full impact of the Pandemic is still taking shape, but one thing is already clear, we’re not going back to the way things used to be!
If this had gone on for a few weeks, or even months, employers would have started to summon people back to the office and we would have gradually reverted back to our old commuting-based lives but, after well over a year, these changes have become ingrained in our lives and part of what is referred to as ‘new normal’.
We Like Remote Working!
Employees who loved being able to work from home on the occasional Friday have found themselves with their families Monday to Friday, with the benefit of more sleep, not having to suffer terrible supermarket sandwiches or packed lunches, and actually being present to see their kids during the day and participate in far more family focused events.
The absence of travelling costs, buying lunch and coffee have saved them a small fortune and, for those fortunate to have kept their jobs, disposable income has soared. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated household savings ratio (household savings as a proportion of household disposable income) increased from 9.6% in Q1 2020 to 29.1% in Q2 of 2020, a record high since the series began in 1987.
Deposits in bank accounts increased by £44.6 billion in Q2 2020. There is also a flip side as by July, 13.3% of people said they have had to borrow money or use credit more than usual since the coronavirus pandemic. The Resolution Foundation found that 54% of adults in families from the lowest income fifth borrowed more in March-June to cover everyday costs like food and housing.
A recent survey by the British Council for Offices (BCO) found that 70% of British workers do not expect or want to return to the traditional five-day, office-based working week. This is projection is matched by a survey from the Institute of Directors (IOD) that found 74% of company directors planning to integrate more remote and blended ways of working in the future.
Employers used to having their teams in an office have discovered it is possible to run a business without having people crammed into a building. Finance Directors have also realised the potential benefit to dramatically reducing their operational costs from travel and expenses, and in the longer term a reduced office footprint.
To the question of when at least 90% of their workforce will return to the office, just over a quarter of Fortune 500 CEOs replied “never.” Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said the bank would need “much less real estate” and Barclays boss Jes Staley said there will be an adjustment in thinking about thousands of workers in a corporate office.
Facebook is looking to build up hubs of work-from-home employees in Atlanta, Dallas and Denver. According to Gartner, there are already a billion knowledge workers, many of whom need little more than a laptop and a decent internet connection.
In a report compiled by Space Three Two, a new office timeshare marketplace born out of lockdown, the total London commercial rental market is worth an approximate £17.9 billion. Prior to coronavirus, office workers spent an average of 4.2 days a week in the office. London office workers now want to spend an average of 2.7 days back in the office once all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted and one in ten workers (11%) said didn’t want to go back to the office at all!
If this does drop to an average of 2.7 days after coronavirus, the utilisation rate per office would drop from 44% pre-COVID to 28% post-COVID and this equates to a 72% rate of wastage. As a result, unused desks could cost businesses £12.84 billion.
The traditional idea of a head office, complete with prominent address and an organisation’s name written in big letters outside, is becoming increasingly outdated and no longer central to the requirements of the post-COVID working world. Even mature organisations are realising the financial and cultural benefits of joining in with a move towards shared workspace which were previously been regarded as only relevant to the start-up sector. A new leaner model is emerging. What we define as a ‘workplace’ is now anywhere we want to work.
As companies shift from crisis management to planning the new normal, it’s clear that the effects of Covid-19 on the way we work will long outlive the virus. ‘This is a massive culture change,” says Tsedal Neeley, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of the upcoming book Remote Work Revolution. “Some people still don’t realize that; they think we might go back to how things were before. But we’re not going back to a ‘before.”
Anthony King, Partner