While demand for flexible workspace in the UK has dropped to roughly 20% of pre-COVID-19 levels and does not look set to recover soon, many providers of flex space are remaining open, often with skeleton staff, until government policy advises differently.
However, as the commercial property and coworking sector effectively came to a standstill due to organisations switching to remote working, John Williams, Head of Marketing at Global Coworking Specialists Instant Offices discusses what workspace trends have emerged during COVID-19 for businesses.
With most of the workforce having settled into a new kind of normal, CFOs already see the cost benefits of flexibility around remote teams, with 74% planning to move at least 5% into permanent remote positions post-COVID-19.
One recent study estimates that up to 30% of the global workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021, a trend which reinforces how important flexibility is to the future of work.
Instant predicts that an inevitable post-Pandemic strategy will be the move to a more agile solution around office space. Companies will want to use cash more constructively as they rebuild, with a focus on re-establishing supply chains and re-hiring employees rather than large capital expenditure and signing leases on buildings for the long-term with no flexibility.
Flexible offices are already supporting businesses during the pandemic. While some have temporarily closed, many have made a move to remote working and linked members to community platforms to keep in touch and share information.
Other spaces have started providing additional services to help their members navigate uncertain times through financial guidance, HR assistance and private office space. Key trends right now include:
- Virtual office tours: Virtual office space tours have become mainstream with COVID-19 restrictions pausing onsite visits or travel. Whether through Zoom or Skype, businesses are still planning for the future by hunting for office space during lockdown. We have seen a 75% increase in clients doing virtual office tours, providing a 360 view of the space that enables prospective tenants to have a fully immersive experience.
- Virtual office address: Although teams are working from home, businesses are benefitting from the services provided by virtual offices to help with day to day operations, such as reception services, a business mailbox and mail management. As well as being budget-friendly and flexible, there are several benefits to choosing a virtual office space.
- Rent-free periods: Businesses can plan office moves without paying for space that won’t be used during quarantine. Some operators are offering new members up to two months of rent-free occupation and flexible leasing arrangements to support businesses as they return to the office. Other providers are offering discounts, like 15% off for the first three months.
- Office hygiene services: Businesses needing support during the crisis have been using private office space to accommodate team members unable to work from home. Workspaces have responded by implementing stringent cleaning measures, including cleaning services every few hours, hospital-grade disinfectant across all surfaces and social distancing office setups which provide adequate spacing between workstations.
Choosing Office Space Post-COVID
As lockdown measures begin to ease and businesses start returning to work, a focus on financial flexibility will impact how businesses choose office space.
Virtual meeting support
Self-isolation has seen most companies embrace video conferencing tech out of necessity, and the trend is here to stay. Zoom was downloaded 2.13 million times on the 23rd of March, a significant increase from 56,000 on the same day in January 2020. As more companies return to work, many will be looking for office space that can support the latest video-conferencing tech and provide support to teams using virtual meeting rooms.
Office space requirements post-lockdown compared to six months after lockdown will be very different as companies scale and start to grow. Choosing office space that facilitates the flexibility to downsize or upsize at short notice is key, and flexible leases mean you only pay for the space you use.
Business continuity support
More companies will place a greater focus on business continuity going forward. When work starts to return to relative normality, businesses will be looking for ways to implement social distancing without disrupting teams. To do this, flexible schedules and shared office spaces closer to home could be part of the solution. In the long-term, businesses looking for backup office space or satellite offices to use in case of an emergency will turn to flexible workspaces.