Commercial Blogs
September 15, 2021

Can we ease the return to work?

There's a shake up in the way we use office space, the like of which has never been seen before. To use the word of the pandemic, the change to the way that the nation works and the speed of that change is 'unprecedented' (sorry - unprecedented overuse of the word unprecedented).

According to a recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey, 51% of the workforce are working remotely instead of at their normal place of work. It differs by industry so for example, in professional services a huge 79% of staff are working remotely but far fewer in manufacturing as you would expect.  

Bloomberg reported back in June that in Hong Kong, a skyline dominated by high-rise office blocks, numbers returning to work were almost back at pre-pandemic levels. However they are unusual and in London workplace activity remains at significantly below the norm. The situation for office managers is complex when deciding their policy for the big return to work, affected by new variants, vaccine rollout, enabling safe solutions for those who still wish to be extra careful for health reasons, the risks of using public transport, childcare issues and school re-opening. The summer Covid 'ping' crisis hasn't helped either with some nursery schools closed almost as soon as they re-open for example.

Businesses also face growing pressure from employees who have enjoyed the improvement in their life-work balance and surely that must have been experienced by employees from the bottom to the very top of the hierarchy. No wasted time on commuting, more time to spend with family and on leisure pursuits, higher disposable income from not travelling and buying a lunch-time sandwich etc. It would be short-sighted to take that away from employees entirely for all that it means in terms of our their wellbeing. However, there is a social aspect to being in an office that cannot be ignored in terms of wellbeing too, particularly for people who live alone. It seems likely that a hybrid model will emerge for many businesses with employees being able to work at home for some of the time and in the office for the remainder.

The CBI report that, in an obvious link to property use, 37% of companies are reviewing their office space requirements going forward and conducting or planning to conduct conversations with landlords/managing agents. In banking that rises to almost 90% of firms reviewing their current office space contracts. Considering both social distancing and remote working, 47% of companies believe that they needed no more than 70% of their current office space. This is significant news for a company such as Diamond Interiors who specialise in commercial refurbishment and refit solutions. Fortunately we are versatile and can both partition a large office into safe, smaller internal spaces or break up office spaces entirely so landlords can rent their premises as separate, smaller offices. If required we could turn a commercial space into a private, residential space and we have read with interest the online discussion about whether shopping centres will be turned into homes. See the link to an excellent article by @PropertyFundsWorld below.

Once staff do return to the office keeping them safe in a close proximity working environment is a key issue. How can we keep them safe in an open plan office? Amongst other bigger solutions, we may have the answer - the humble partition! We, Diamond Interior Contracts have installed full height glass partitions to maintain the light airy open plan feel while offering individual work spaces for the staff to work in and not feel they are crammed in a cupboard. Floor to ceiling glass dividing walls with no doors means that air can still flow around the office, the light will pass through the glazing so no need to move the lights, install more lighting, the existing air conditioning can normally remain unaltered again saving on costs while still functioning correctly. We can also introduce other simple measures to help reduce the anxiety about being back in the office e.g. hands free taps and flush systems in the wash rooms and breakout areas, bespoke desk dividers, office fittings that make for more of a one-way flow of people. Diamond Interior Contracts can also re-decorate and re-floor an office making it visually more appealing to return to.

Diamond Interior Contracts have been in the construction industry for over 40 years and have recognised in that time that the key to remaining successful in business is to be flexible and willing to change. While these have been worrying times in all sectors of industry, there are good things to come out of every challenge. By keeping abreast of change and adapting our business to suit, we continue to work with our clients to help them meet their challenges. Please contact Diamond Interior Contracts for all your workplace interior refurbishment needs and let's see how we can help you to adapt to the post-pandemic way of working:

Useful source information:

This blog and other interesting property articles can also be found on the Diamond Interior Contracts Linked In page:

The CBI have produced this video on 'Navigating the return to work' in which industry experts talk about best practice:

Article by @RichieClapson Director of @PropertyCEO in Property Funds World.

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