‘Five-day Office Week will Become the Norm Again’.
The five-day office week could become the norm again within two years, the Centre for Cities think tank has told the BBC. A blend of home and office work is expected to be popular while the UK recovers from the pandemic.
But some analysts then anticipate a shift back to pre-Covid working patterns for many.
Currently, people who can work from home are still advised to do so.
However, that is likely to change if the government ends all social distancing restrictions on 21 June.
“I expect we will see three or four days a week in the office as the UK recovers,” Paul Swinney, director of policy and research at Centre for Cities, told Radio 5 Live’s Wake Up to Money programme. Over the longer term, I’m quite hopeful that we will see people return five days a week. The reason for that is, one of the benefits of being in the office is having interactions with other people, coming up with new ideas and sharing information.”
He said people could not do this by scheduling a three o’clock meeting on a Tuesday – it had to happen randomly.
“If you’re in the office on a Monday but someone else is in the office on a Wednesday, then you’re starting to miss out. Or, if your colleague is in the office and having a meeting with your boss and you’re not there, all of a sudden that changes the dynamic again.”
Office for National Statistics data published in May revealed most people did not work from home in 2020, however the proportion of workers who did more than doubled during the pandemic. That hit the office property market while prompting lots of discussion about the future of the workplace.
Demand for more city centre office space does now appear to be rising – albeit from a very low point.
Figures from Savills estate agency show office take-up by square footage in the UK’s six biggest regional cities has gone up significantly since the second quarter of 2020, the start of the pandemic.
The estate agency said it was also seeing “record rents” for some top tier office space in Greater London and regional city areas.
Jessica Bowles, director of strategy at commercial property developer Bruntwood, which operates in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool, told the BBC her firm has also seen a lot of demand for flexible and serviced office space on short leases.
“We’ve had really strong take-up. People want flexible terms. What’s interesting is that it’s corporates wanting to do that as well as small businesses and SMEs.”
But hybrid working does not mean flexible office space leases are any cheaper as “flexibility is priced in”. Most firms also want to keep a five-day office, she said.
“Most businesses that have got space with us now want to maintain having an office, and they don’t see that they could give up the office for a certain number of days a week – they just want to use the space differently.
“That means more collaborative space, fewer banks of desks, places where people can come together and create and innovate.”
She added that while hybrid working was growing in popularity before Covid-19 struck, the working pattern could be “challenging” for firms if some staff were at home, while some were in the office.