Throughout the years, the business world has seen more than a few ups and downs, but no one envisaged that a virus would pretty much bring the world to a complete halt.
Although the development of the flexible office market has been propelled by economic instability in recent years, the implications of a global pandemic have provided a new way of thinking around office rentals. As well as thinking about finances and how much flexibility is offered, businesses now also need to think about aspects such as hygiene and what would happen in the event of a disaster.
Here, we look at nine changes that we believe will change the ways businesses choose office space.
1. Virtual Office Tours
Very few businesses want to lease space without seeing it, but with a virus about, it is not the wisest of ideas. Many office space providers have overcome this challenge by offering virtual tours around the office to potential tenants. The technology gives people the chance to 'walk through' the offices without going anywhere. From now on, businesses may decide to rent office space by having some people physically viewing it, and others taking part in a virtual tour.
Example: Virtual Office Tour, Great Chapel Street, Soho
2. Fixed Desk Coworking
Although the majority of coworking offices have an effective and regular cleaning procedure, it may not be sufficient given current circumstances, and even when the pandemic has passed, it may still be too much for some people to sit at desks that had other people at them previously. We believe that in life after Coronavirus, whenever that may be, more coworking spaces will offer fixed desk space rather than hot desks. We also think that larger desks, both in private and coworking areas will be introduced to help with social distancing measures.
3. Rent Reductions Agreed in Advance For Periods of Lockdown
The current advice from the UK Government is to work from home if possible. This means that many offices are left completely empty. Because of this, we believe that in the future, a 'pandemic clause' may be added to rental contracts to enable companies to pay reduced rent or even a no-payment period throughout a lockdown or if advised to stay at home. This could go from head landlords and filter down to the firms who occupy the space.
4. Rise in Virtual Phones
With more people than ever before working remotely, many businesses have ditched the phone handsets and have turned to virtual telephone systems. These usually work through 'the cloud’ and allow employees to make and take telephone calls through their mobile phone or computer. In most cases, there is the same - or more - functionality with virtual phone systems. It can do call forwarding, call recording, group calls, and voicemails. The pandemic showed us how important it is to switch from traditional office setups to remote working almost immediately, and a virtual telephone system allows this to happen without hassle.
We believe that firms will look for office spaces that offer flexibility and the opportunity to downsize, or even upsize, depending on the circumstances. During the period following pandemics and lockdowns, businesses may need to change the size of their office to accommodate the likely change in staff numbers. Many office spaces provide internet and utilities as part of the package fees, so it also prevents businesses from having to go through the motions with multiple organizations if there are any changes to circumstances.
6. Regular Cleaning of Communal Areas
If there is one thing the Coronavirus outbreak has taught us, it is the need for strict hygiene measures. Many managed services already offer the cleaning of communal spots such as kitchens and bathrooms, but now, we believe we will see this stepped up a notch or two to ensure the safety of everyone who works there.
7. More Remote Workers
There could be a rise in people working remotely, either part or all the time if remote work proves to be effective, resulting in the need for less office space needed by companies. With fewer staff members working in the office, a company might decide to lease less space than they initially required to save money.
Something to remember is that office work is much more than simply the cost of the desk. It gives employees a chance to interact with their colleagues socially, which can help to boost endorphins and help with productivity levels.
8. More Virtual Meetings
Businesses are being compelled to conduct online meetings using software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. During the coronavirus crisis, with online meetings being a new reality, workers and businesses will be much more confident with video technology and we may see a much greater proportion of online meetings in the future. Not only that, but virtual meetings will also save businesses time and cash on travel and hiring conference rooms.
9. Increased Space For Storage
The production of many electrical products slowed right down when China locked down at the beginning of the crisis, raising prices and rendering certain electrical components for computers very difficult to get hold of. Likewise, when the pandemic hit our shores and people began to stockpile, everyday items such as toilet rolls and cleaning products were almost impossible to obtain. Of course, no one expects huge storage units to be incorporated into offices, but we believe that firms will want more space than before for storing essentials in case of shortages again.