Preparing for the new normal - Property


Property

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The Times recently reported that half of all big businesses plan to keep office workers at home for the next few months.

London may see the biggest changes to firm location. The Square Mile, with its concentration of talent and financial services, has long been a high risk target for terrorists and, now, viruses. There is a huge opportunity for firms to consider relocating to less expensive locations resulting in a better quality of life, lower house prices, reduced commuting and improved schools for staff and their families. Staff with lower outgoings will not command the London weighting which, combined with lower commercial rents, will result in increased profitability for firms.

For many professional firms, the changes required by Covid have shown that you can work remotely, at least part of the time. You could substantially reduce your property overheads with a little planning. Many of your staff are now set up to work from home and will be keen to continue for at least a few days per week. You’re unlikely to need one desk per member of staff. Whilst on lockdown, many firms moved to paperless systems. Karen Eckstein, risk management specialist, suggests that you may find that you only need about 50% of your current office.

Can you sell or move location? Can you sublet part of the building? Is there a break clause in your lease? You’ll need legal advice and, if appropriate, to check with your landlord before making any changes. It’s important to decide who is responsible for shared areas and keeping up with current guidelines. You’ll need to consider their safety, lift/stair access, toilets (using paper towels instead of hand dryers), with just one entry and exit point to each shared area to create flow, where possible.

If your office is accessible by public transport, will staff be happy to use it? Or will you need to increase car parking facilities? If you are thinking about moving, would an out of town office with parking be more suitable than a city centre office? It will certainly be cheaper!

You’ll need specialist advice on office layout. Hot-desking, where several people may work at a desk over the course of a day, is not recommended but provided that desks and chairs are cleaned daily, desks can be shared. You’ll need fewer desks but they will be more widely spaced, perhaps with a storage cabinets for staff, that double as barriers between desks. Cleaning costs will rise.

Meeting rooms will need to be larger and, if possible, naturally ventilated. Breakout pods, sofas and huddle areas will not be suitable.

You probably have a number of historical paper files which can be scanned and destroyed. Under GDPR, you shouldn’t be keeping files longer than needed, so this is good excuse to properly clear out archives, paper storage and to scan the documents you still need to keep, so that everyone can access them online.

Photocopiers need to be spread throughout the office rather than in a print room to minimise staff congregating in one area.

There is a lot to think about and, potentially, cost savings to be made.

To read about the planning considerations for your people click Preparing for the new normal - People.

To read how you might need to adapt your processes and to identify which prospects to target, click The new normal? - Processes and Prospects.

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