The Emergence of the Hybrid Office and What That Means for Commercial Property

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way that the world of business works drastically. From the boom in online shopping to many of us working from home, the nature of business and the way that it functions is very different from a couple of years ago. But we cannot say that there weren’t signs that these changes were going to happen. Working from home, for example, has been gaining in popularity slowly since the 1980s following the improvement in technology.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has accelerated these changes.

In the world of business, one important concept is that it is important to change with trends. It is almost impossible to push back against a trend, regardless of your business. The fall of some retail giants recently is a testament to this. Having been unable to embrace changes and insisting on continuing with the same models and structure, many businesses are finding themselves in hot water.

And this doesn’t just apply to retail, it also applies to office structure. Changes in demand are something that we are beginning to notice here at Boxpod, so, what does this mean?

The Emergence of the Hybrid Office

With the government’s instruction for people to work from home where possible, we have seen swathes of people setting up an office in their houses – in sheds, spare bedrooms, and on kitchen tables, for example. But whilst many people have been looking forward to getting back into the office, there are many more that are embracing the idea of continuing to work from home – to a certain degree.

According to research carried out by Slack, only 11.6% of the workforce want to return to full-time office working.

There are many pros and cons to working from home. Working from home can aid in productivity as there are often fewer distractions, it can help with mental health, reduce commuting time, lower travel costs, reduce the risk of entire workforces going down with COVID (or other contagious illnesses) at the same time, help to fit work in around childcare, and reduce the need for some businesses to fork out on big city centre premises.

However, for some people in some industries, working from home all of the time has some negative outcomes. For example, it can change the dynamic in the home, can be full of distractions, can inhibit creativity and bouncing ideas off each other, affect employee’s sense of belonging, team dynamics, and the benefits of socialising in the workplace, for example.

In fact, the same Slack survey reveals that 72.2% of those asked would prefer a hybrid office model, whereby employees can spend some of their time in the office, and some of it working remotely. It appears that the ratio would be somewhere in the region of 2 days remote working per week and 3 in the office. This hybrid model offers employers and employees the best of both worlds, enabling them to incorporate the benefits of working from home whilst being able to embrace collaboration and the social aspects of working in an office.

This means that more and more businesses are beginning to adopt this model of office work.

Hybrid Office Space Structure

Whilst every business is different, with different necessities and different culture and processes, there are two main models for hybrid office structure:

  • Head office in a central location where people can travel to, and a remote location – home, on the beach, in a café, etc.
  • Hub and spoke model – central head office with smaller satellite offices close to people’s homes.

In the first option, the head office would need to include areas of bookable hot-desking or have rotating schedules and alternating hours. This takes a little planning but would mean that there is still a central office that people can go to if they need to work with teams, as well as have a central location to store paper documents and other paperwork and equipment.

The ‘hub and spoke’ model allows employees to go to a smaller office that is more local to them, cutting down on commuting cost and time, maintaining good teamwork and collaboration. Employees potentially could still have the option to work from home if possible, whilst also helping to re-balance local economies.

Hybrid Offices and their Impact on Commercial Property

One thing that we are noticing here is Boxpod, is the shift towards businesses looking to embrace the ‘hub and spoke’ model. It allows for the best of both worlds for businesses, enabling them to be agile and fluid, using technology where possible, but maintaining the human contact that is important for the success of many businesses – and their cultures.

Jes Stanley, Chief Executive of Barclays Bank backs up this idea – “I think people will rethink their real estate footprint…We are going to think about our real estate mix given the lessons that we’ve learned,” he stated. He also explained that “The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”

This means that in the future, we are likely to see a reduction in large, city centre offices, with thousands of employees working for the same business. These massive office spaces are likely to be split between several businesses that have a mixture of full-time office employees as workspace and hot-desk areas where employees can come to work on a part-time basis.

Along with this, we are looking at more, smaller office premises in local areas, that are accessed by smaller numbers of employees and helping to support local commerce.

Final Thoughts

Combinations of the hybrid office models and technology available mean that businesses are able to continue to work safely and effectively regardless of the situation with the pandemic. This allows businesses to both look after their staff well-being whilst enabling them to be productive and effective in terms of the business.

With these new hybrid office models, we will also be seeing changes in the town and city centre dynamics as well as a reduction in the carbon footprint of many people.

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