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Coronavirus News: Is your Commercial Office now a waste of space?

Coronavirus News:  Is your Commercial Office now a waste of space?

Whether we like it or not, the time has come for us to rethink, or at least assess, our reliance upon the traditional view of ‘The Office’ being the hub of business activity.

The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic has been significant and affected us globally in a vast amount of ways – socially, financially, mentally and politically.

“Nowhere has the Coronavirus effect been greater
than its effect on the workplace.”

The impact on retail has been monumental but that shouldn’t underplay the significant shift Covid-19 has had on our working patterns.


A New, Dual-Approach Is Emerging

Within professional services, it seems that views are divided on whether a complete return to the office is necessary, or if remote working (often working from home) can be exclusively managed.

What does appear to be emerging is a view that a combination of both is a distinct possibility to embrace the benefit of each option.

Ashley Hunt
Director at Lawson-West Solicitors, Ashley Hunt, comments:

I have taken the view, having experienced the ‘honeymoon’ period of working from home, that there are a number of fundamental issues affecting the need for commercial premises.

Reasons TO keep commercial premises:

  • Not all working relationships can be maintained due to the distance of home working:

Even with top rate IT and good structure, it is difficult to maximise team building opportunities and collaboration at a detailed level.

  • Nothing can replace a ‘good old fashioned’ face-to-face meeting to cement a relationship:

I’m sure there must be ways round this, such as Facebook’s attempts to create augmented virtual reality facilities and virtual meeting rooms but I remain to be convinced. Most people need other people to feel understood, motivated, nurtured and to create a sense of common purpose. A virtual meeting cannot extend the emotional connection that physical contact does. That is why so many people working from home have experienced depression and isolation.

Reasons NOT to keep commercial premises:

  • Many will see the sizes and locations of their offices as an opportune way to remove cost and overhead from their business:

With serviced offices seeing a boom in recent years, with their own cost efficiencies, one may question how these will adapt to a changing environment where users may be more reluctant to share office space and particularly desks and common facilities.

  • Many will consider commercial property a waste of space

Empty chairs

Whilst a traditional rent review or renewal of a lease might have been a normal process, consideration must now be given to the actual ‘new world’ requirements necessary for both surviving these challenging times and making the most out of opportunities for growth and profitability.

One might question how this will affect commercial property landlords given the logical expectation of a reduction in demand for office space. It is not unsurprising therefore that these will be changing times for business, with the clamber to stay ahead of the pack and remain agile, to the changing needs of operating a successful, modern business.

My view of this emerging dual-approach is that business owners will now want smaller premises, but they will continue to want business premises.

My view is that property landlords may need to rethink their charges and the flexibility of their leases to embrace the demands of new and more agile business customers. Short-term leases and flexible terms will become the norm.

My view is that due to a new climate of employees working from home, commercial property is no longer the bastion of property investment that it once was. I can see a future with a smaller requirement for retail property, fewer large-scale business office premises and commercial developments, more distribution and warehousing opportunities, and definitely less people needing to work from a dedicated office building.

“We’re now in a brave new commercial property world.”

 

Director, Ashley Hunt, is available for comment: ahunt@lawson-west.co.uk

If you would like to discuss your commercial property leases with an experienced commercial property solicitor, please contact Rebecca Beswick, Head of Commercial Property, rbeswick@lawson-west.co.uk

 

 

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Coronavirus:  We are pleased to announce we are Open for Business

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