Data Suggests Influx Of Workers, But Employers Look To 2021 To Re-Open Offices

United Kingdom – A sizeable gain in commuter numbers suggest that swarms of employees are returning to their offices in the UK. However, another study indicates that many companies are waiting until January 2021 before signing new lease agreements, reported Workplace Insight on Tuesday (22 September).

Based on the latest data published by the Office for National Statistics, the authorities’ initiative to encourage workers to come back to the office has led to a significant rise in the number of commuters to over 60 percent.

But research by FreeOfficeFinder indicates that office occupancy rates are unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2021. The company, which manages over 2,300 office sites, revealed that it has seen an increase in enquiries for office space prior to the pandemic until now. And based on these enquiries, many companies have set their sight to January 2021 before considering to ink new office agreements.

Its analysis of the enquiries also suggests that a hefty number of companies are looking to relocate from more expensive leases to more versatile serviced offices, so that these firms can survive the negative effects of the virus outbreak, as well as enable them to comply with new safety and health requirements for employees to return to their workplace.

According to statistics collected by FreeOfficeFinder from April to August 2020, 89 percent of businesses are searching for serviced offices. In particular, bigger firms are making plans for their office space by next January. This translates to an eight-percentage-point gain prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning businesses are now preparing to alter work practices and the structure of their workforce.

In addition, many companies want to reduce their office footprint as some staff want to keep the option of working at the office and working from home as well.

Data also indicates that companies are searching for office locations away from the CBD and town centres due to the threat posed by the coronavirus. For example, between May and July, there was a 45 percent rise in enquiries for smaller offices situated outside of the M25 circular road surrounding the capital, while enquiries for central London offices only rose by 23 percent.

“The likelihood of Britain’s offices returning to thriving and bustling workplaces in the immediate future looks very unlikely,” said FreeOfficeFinder’s Chief Executive Nick Riesel.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to the sector with the rise of Work From Home employees, as well as many businesses being affected financially. This explains why office-based businesses are looking for more workable, cost-effective and flexible solutions,” he added.

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