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At DeVono, we have never believed the office was in decline, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the emerging transition towards enhanced flexible working. Now that we are seeing millions heading back to the office across the UK, albeit following a different work pattern and frequency than before the pandemic, we believe occupiers should be reviewing and implementing a flexible work plan. Flexible working is not new but will be more commonplace in the future. The most profound future of work change will undoubtedly involve the role of the office. In this blog, we look at some of the factors that may change the nature and role of the office in the years ahead.

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Location, location, location

With increased levels of home working likely to remain after we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the location of your office space will be more critical than ever. Before COVID-19, companies typically had head offices in a city centre or business park location.

However, many organisations are now starting to look once again at the ‘Hub and Spoke’ office strategy, whereby a ‘Hub’ office is in a city centre location and a ‘Spoke,’ or series of ‘Spoke’ offices are located on the outskirts of a central metropolitan area. This is a trend we are seeing more from clients based in regional UK locations than we are those based in London, where a focus on attracting staff back in to the office, as opposed to merely instructing them back in is evident.

As a result, we could be on the cusp of a migration of workers from central business district locations to working more frequently in offices on the outskirts of cities, or in currently less established office submarkets within major metropolitan areas.

With more and more employees moving out of major cities and into the suburbs, a ‘Hub and Spoke’ real estate strategy caters to employees by allowing those living outside of the city centre swift access to several office spaces. The team at DeVono have recently assisted a number of organisations in successfully implementing such a strategy and can help your organisation adopt a ‘Hub and Spoke’ office model if so required.

To find out more about a ‘Hub & Spoke’ real estate strategy, you can read our blog on this topic here.

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The importance of office design

Office design significantly impacts employee wellbeing, with obvious knock-on effects on engagement, collaboration, and an individual’s ability to productively carry out their working duties. With the work from home guidance now rescinded, employers must decide if they wish for their office space to function primarily as a place that facilitates focused 'deep work,' or if they would rather the office act more as a location to collaborate with colleagues and prospective clients.

The design of your office can have a profound impact on your working environment. An open-plan office with more breakout spaces can help to foster increased collaboration and interaction with colleagues. On the other hand, an office with cubicle-style desks or less open planning can at times allow colleagues to conduct work with fewer distractions. Our design and build team, Dthree Studio, can assist you as you seek to find the right office design for your business.

Our design and build business, Dthree Studio, are experts in office fit-out and design. You can find out more about Dthree Studio here.

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Technology and employee wellbeing

Technology has allowed companies to work effectively throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Web-based solutions such as Zoom, Teams, and Skype have allowed businesses to function despite teams being far apart geographically. To ensure your office is fit for purpose and will best serve your overall business and employee needs, it is essential your organisation keeps up to date and invests in the latest technologies.

With a new emphasis on social distancing and maintaining clean surfaces over the last 18 months, employers may wish to consider investing in measures such as facial recognition and hands-free technology instead of key cards as a means to enhancing workplace safety and security. As reported by The Times, companies such as Google are testing innovations such as a hot desk that can adjust to your personal preference of desk height and angle your computer monitor accordingly. Additional innovations Google are working on include a chair that can blast white noise into speakers in the headrest to allow you to focus on your task at hand while in the office.

Although some of these ideas by Google may appear to be peculiar or unlikely to gain widespread adoption, the need for continued innovation and investment in both technology and employee wellbeing remains paramount. With increased levels of flexible working, companies are already investing in benefits such as Yoga classes for workers, with some companies even allowing employees to bring their dogs into the office. Post-COVID, it will be essential for employers to keep up to speed with technology that can enhance workplace productivity, increase the appeal of their office space, and draw current and prospective employees into the office frequently.

The future of the office

Despite increased levels of flexible working, the importance of offices  is back in vogue, simply because they are recognised once again as being critical to the development of relationships, of careers and of culture. The frequency of office visits, the ideal location for an office, and the purpose of an office may change. However, at DeVono, we know the office remains a 'must-have' item for the vast majority of businesses. Without the office as an anchor, company culture, collaboration, and productivity very often suffer. To ensure your business can make the most of its office space though, we advise all employers to consider location, the importance of office design, and the need to keep up to date with the latest technologies to ensure they can maximise the potential of their office space, boost productivity, and achieve their key business objectives.

For assistance with your commercial real estate strategy, please do get in touch with us on +44 (0)20 7096 9911 or contact us via info@devono.com

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