Flexible working is here to stay…but office demand is still soaring

There were plenty of voices at the onset of the first lockdown who predicted that remote working would spell the end of the traditional office.

While there were calls from Westminster to ‘return to normal’ and get people back to the office as quickly as possible at the end of the first lockdown, the widespread shift to home-working has made an indelible mark.

Despite the doom-laden predictions from some quarters that the enforced shift to home working in March 2020 would spell the end of the traditional office, bricks-and-mortar isn’t going anywhere.

In Birmingham, landmark developments such as Rockspring’s towering 103 Colmore Row and MPAC’s ongoing Paradise development are continuing to draw occupiers looking for high quality office accommodation.

According to consultant Avison Young, between July and September 2021, office take up in the city centre rose 16% on the previous quarter, totalling over 240,000 sq ft (or roughly the size of 114 tennis courts).

This is 41 per cent higher than the 10-year average and included two of the largest deals to be completed outside of London: the £39.5 million sale of Colmore Gate, and Arup’s letting of 68,000 sq ft at One Centenary Way.

But having a shiny new office isn’t enough to cut the mustard when it comes to recruiting and retaining a workforce. Younger workers in particular place flexibility front-and-centre when it comes to their working patterns.

And why not? The concept of the traditional ‘9-to-5’ originated at the Ford Motor Company in 1920 as a way to prevent the exploitation of factory workers. This was also a time when keyboards came attached to typewriters rather than MacBooks, with files found in physical filing cabinets, rather than being downloadable from the cloud.

We’re living and working in a very different world now, which is faster paced and more dynamic, and one where work/life balance is a crucial factor for workers.

But there is also a correlation between flexibility and profit. A study commissioned by contractor Sir Robert McAlpine has shown that providing staff with the option of flexible working can result in a significant boost to staff morale and productivity.

According to its Flexonomics report, increasing availability of flexible working across all business sectors could result in a massive additional £55bn for the UK economy. This would be a significant boon, considering the economic impact of Covid-19.

At Liquid, we’ve continued to operate flexibly throughout the pandemic, ensuring that our teams are able to stagger their start or finish times, supported by hybrid working.

This has given us the best of both worlds and enabled us to think creatively about how we use our office space, utilising it as a creative hub while enabling our teams the opportunity to work independently and have the space to focus when necessary.