Big property changes
Quarter of firms expect to cut office needs
Some offices will be surplus to requirements
One in four firms expects to slash their office needs and almost a third of executives will travel overseas less often as the pandemic impacts on working patterns.
The findings emerged in a survey of more than 200 executives in Scotland and could have significant implications for the commercial property and travel sectors.
Almost half (46%) of respondents to the poll by law firm CMS said they are planning to work from home more often and 29% say they will do less international travel. Only 24% expect no change to how they will work post-Covid.
However, in spite of the shift away from office-based work, only 21% of respondents believed homeworking was better for employee productivity.
The survey is published just days after Mike Irvine, director in Savills office agency team in Edinburgh, questioned what he called the ‘knee jerk’ reaction of some companies to reduce their office space in the wake of the pandemic.
He said home working will remain a feature of working life for some time but claimed firms are “ill-advised” to make short term decisions.
The CMS survey found that firms are planning big changes when they welcome staff back to the office.
When non-essential work premises are given the green light to reopen, 56% of respondents are planning to put more office cleaning in place; 53% plan to introduce temperature checks for employees and implement more social distancing.
Among those surveyed, 31% are planning reducing density within offices; 23% say they’ll be focusing on more having social connections with 20% planning more on-site mental health facilities.
Chris Rae, a Glasgow-based partner and real estate specialist at CMS, said: “There’s little doubt that Covid-19 is proving to be a game-changer for commercial property but there are also encouraging post-pandemic signs for the sector.
“While nearly a quarter of Scottish occupiers expect to downsize, a small majority is anticipating no change to office requirements once when we are able to return to work.
“The survey also highlights concerns about the productivity of remote working.
“While many employees will be seeking to work from home more frequently, the office has a key role to play across most industries where the need to interact and collaborate with colleagues, clients and customers remains essential.
“The office will also continue to be fundamental in establishing the right culture, camaraderie and energy to motivate people within many companies and organisations.
“Many managers say they are expecting to implement new health, safety and well-being measures in advance of employees returning to the office.
“While we can expect significant changes to how offices are used, our report suggests this will impact floor plans much more than floor plates in many commercial property premises in Scotland.”