WFH impact

Offices lie empty as staff work from home

Space to let: Edinburgh Park is short of tenants (pics: Terry Murden)

More than half a million sq ft of offices are lying empty at just one of Scotland’s business parks as a new survey reveals that a quarter of staff at large companies are spending at least part of each week working from home.

Edinburgh Park alongside the city by-pass is festooned with ‘to let’ signs and ghostly car parks, indicating the extent of available space as workers and firms adjust to new work patterns and demand for higher grade offices.

Office take-up in the capital in the second quarter totalled just 87,168 sq ft, down 45% from the same period in 2021 and 65% against the Q2 five-year average of 251,458 sq ft, according to CBRE.

More than 1.8m sq ft of office space is vacant across the city with current demand less than half that total (789,275 sq ft).

The general demand is for Grade A offices which meet requirements such as greater desk space, ventilation and bicycle storage. This coincides with some downsizing as firms respond to the work from home demands.

An ONS Business Insights and Conditions Survey, published today, reveals that 26% of firms with more than 250 workers in Scotland are using a hybrid model of working. This is consistent with 25.3% across the UK.

Empty car park at Edinburgh Park (pic: Terry Murden)

In some sectors, such as information and communication, nearly two-thirds of the workforce are spending only part of the week in the office.

The study analysed the responses of 8,912 businesses across the UK, including 1,140 in Scotland, of which 394 had more than 250 employees.

In addition to the quarter of staff working hybrid, a further 7.1% were working exclusively from home in large firms.

Gavin Brown, a director at Edinburgh-based public speaking firm Speak With Impact, said this latest report proved hybrid working which arrived as a consequence of the pandemic was here to stay.

Mr Brown, a former MSP and shadow finance secretary, said: “It’s been clear for some time that businesses across Scotland and the UK would adopt some degree of hybrid working.

“This report confirms it is now embedded in the workings of big business, and that will present challenges and opportunities.

“Here in Scotland, we need to prepare at all levels for change. That includes improving training when it comes to using virtual applications like Zoom properly, and some serious investment in technology too.

“That will allow Scottish businesses to embrace hybrid on a global scale and start pitching for business from the rest of the world.

“If we get this right, it will boost the economy, increase high-quality employment opportunities and open up to the world to businesses who previously operated mainly within these shores.”

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