Shift to remote working likely to prompt many office moves

A new study finds that many employers are considering office moves in the next three years, with the move to remote or hybrid working a major factor.

Woman works on laptop in cafe


Almost half of mid-to-large size firms in the UK plan office moves within the next three years after the work-from-home “watershed moment,” according to a new survey by law firm Gowling WLG with the British Property Federation.

Of nearly 500 senior executives at firms with at least 20,000 sq ft of leased space, 89% [95% of those with 1000+ employees] said they will be in a position to move out in the next 36 months due to lease expiries or break clauses. In total, 46% are “actively looking” towards office moves, with 48% needing a better location to meet staff needs and 38% indicating that the current facilities need to be upgraded to meet those needs. Big cities such as London and Manchester are still a big draw, with London favoured as a destination by 44% of  IT & Telecoms industry. However, a third said they would be downsizing as staff will more frequently work remotely, although only 3% have decided to move to full-time remote working.

Ion Fletcher, Director of Policy at the British Property Federation, said: “Despite the adoption of increased remote working, it is clear that for most businesses and organisations the office environment, albeit in a more flexible state, is crucial to facilitate new business and employee learning and development.

“But findings also show that office space providers will need to have more nuanced conversations with occupiers about their needs in order to remain competitive and that those conversations could happen sooner than people expect.”

A PwC poll out this week suggests large UK employers are set to reduce their office portfolio by up to 9m square feet as firms make a move toward hybrid working. In a survey of the UK’s 258 largest firms, half said that they were planning to reduce their office space, with a third expecting reductions of more than 30%. Just 10% of those polled said that they expect the number of employees working in the office will return to pre-pandemic levels, with around half of the executives saying employees are likely to work virtually two to three days a week.

Many firms looking at remote or hybrid working are preparing by consulting staff on what might work better. KPMG, for instance, has devised a set of policies on remote working on the basis of staff feedback. Measures include: “heads-down” time on Wednesday afternoons, for staff to focus exclusively on work, with no non-essential meetings; shorter meeting times; and “camera-free Fridays,” with the aim of creating a “more relaxed transition into the weekend” by not requiring staff to appear on camera. KPMG stresses that the policies are not set in stone and may not be appropriate in all circumstances.

Meanwhile, new dads in France will, from next month, be entitled to more than twice as much time off work. The change, which was announced last year, comes into effect on July 1st. Paternity leave is now set at 25 days, up from 11 days  previously, in a move that brings France more into line with other European countries. Statutory paternity leave in the UK is just one to two weeks.

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