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What's the plan for the office?

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In July the work from home directive by the Government was dropped, just as the school holiday season started.


As expected the office was not very busy during August as people took an opportunity for a staycation, or for the few lucky ones a trip abroad with family or friends. As we’ve already seen for the first full week of the new school term, more people are returning to their workplaces this month. But what does the office look like? 

Following the launch of our London office fit out report earlier this year we heard from clients that their staff have felt empowered by working from home and that the stigma that had previously been attributed to those working part-time or with caring responsibilities had been lost. There was more of a positive outlook towards the continuation of flexible working in the future, however there was also a desire to ensure that opportunities to improve and innovate were not lost, and for there to be opportunities for teams to meet together. 

Minimal design changes

While many people have for the last 18 months been enhancing and improving their home office fitouts, and their homes as well, the same cannot be said for the London office occupier market. Many clients we’ve spoken to have so far made minimal changes to their office layouts in preparation for staff returning from home. Instead they’re waiting and seeing what will be the actual future of the office, once the dust from COVID-19 finally has a chance to settle before embarking on any wholescale redesign and fitouts. 

While strategies and enticements to come into the office differed, such as free breakfast being provided on the quieter days of Mondays and Fridays, there was a commonality that any fitout that was being undertaken was minimal in size. Most occupiers were looking to move a no-fixed desk policy, and were looking to create more spaces for innovation and collaboration to take place. While spaces are still needed for individual focused work, increasingly these spaces were being reduced in favour of room for people to get together, brainstorm, discuss or present on their work. 

Future office refurbishments

While the domestic building market has been booming, our own research found that earlier this year there was a mixed bag response from contractors about the level of work on the horizon. While there’s expectation that there will be a pent-up demand, especially as the leasing market is showing signs of improvement, there are various challenges that we are foreseeing for the short to medium term future of the London fitout market. 

Labour availability has been reduced partially as an impact of COVID as well as Brexit, but in general the market has been shrinking over the last 50 years anyway. In addition, supply shortages are pushing up the costs of fitout jobs and contractors over the last 12 months have been having to recalculate ongoing jobs, and speculate heavily on work that they’re bidding on in order to ensure that the work is a viable option. 

What is clear from office occupation levels already is that employees and managers are excited about the prospects of getting together and meeting in person, to cement connections old and new that have been made over the last 18 months. 

We’re now in the process of taking a litmus test of the London fit out market for the latter end of this year, and in to 2022 and will shortly be reporting back on what are the expected opportunities and challenges for the next six months.

 

About the author

Konstantina Karacosta is a senior quantity surveyor in the Project & Building Consultancy team who has worked on a number of high profile projects across the UK and EMEA for occupiers and investors.

To contact Konstantina, please email Konstantina.Karacosta@colliers.com

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Konstantina Karacosta

Associate Quantity Surveyor

Cost Management

London - West End

Konstantina is a highly experienced Associate Director who is leading and overseeing projects in the UK, Cyprus, and EMEA. Created internal cost database system for global clients such as Apple, WPP,  Roche, and BUPA. 

Konstantina is heavily involved in the Occupiers Insight London Fit-out Market. She is responsible for the collection and analysis of data that is included in this Colliers’ bi-annual publication. The report provides essential information and increases commercial awareness to our clients, suppliers, and the industry generally.

MRICS Chartered Quantity Surveyor and APC Mentor with experience in office, retail, private residential, and public sector. 

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