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BCO briefing note: The future of the office

17/05/2021

At a glance

A year on from the start of the pandemic the purpose of the office seems to be changing and its culture evolving. The consensus of organisations appears to be that a combination of working at home, in the office and in a half-way house offers flexibility and agility sufficient to turn the office into a tool for successful change for its occupants.

Within this context, corporates (and indeed all organisations) will need to re-evaluate their operating strategy to satisfy the requirements of the company as well as those of their employees. We are delighted to have contributed to and supported the latest British Council of Offices (BCO) briefing note that examines the characteristics of the “new normal” and reflects the range of thinking in the market about the new office of the future. The challenges and opportunities that are presented are covered as are subjects such as recruitment, contracts of employment, working conditions, GDPR, financial aspects of home working and the impact on real estate.

You can read the BCO briefing note, also featuring space planning experts Chadwick International, here.

Modern Office

In 1982, it was predicted that the office of 2000 would be different, operating from a multiplicity of places. Much of what was predicted 40 years ago has come to pass. The internet has been the most important catalyst for this change.

Looking ahead, we anticipate the office of the future to be very different, with the COVID-19 pandemic the main catalyst accelerating many of the trends seen in the past few years. 23 March 2020 changed everything in the world of work. Many governments around the planet ordered their citizens to work from home if they could – and it worked!

Government intervention on an unprecedented scale meant that, although economies around the world shrank, they did not collapse – commerce continued and innovation grew. So a year on where are we now? The purpose of the office is changing and its culture evolving. In fact many are questioning the need for a specific office at all, and the consensus of organisations who up until now have occupied office space appears to be that a combination of working at home, in the office and in a half-way house offers flexibility and agility sufficient to turn the office into a tool for successful change for its occupants.

Within this context, corporates (and indeed all organisations) may need to re‑evaluate their operating strategy to satisfy the requirements of the company as well as those of their employees. The office in all its characteristics, from location through design, technical infrastructure and social ethos, will and must satisfy the changes sought by managers and staff alike in their constant pursuit of excellence. In addition, much of the current stock, both commercial and residential, needs to be upgraded in terms of its ESG (environmental, social and governance) aims.

This briefing note examines the characteristics of the ‘new normal’. Rather than giving an absolute answer, the aim is to reflect the range of thinking in the market that represents the new office for the future. It touches on subjects such as recruitment, contracts of employment, working conditions, GDPR, financial aspects of home working, and real estate.

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Alastair Moss
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    Stephen Ravenscroft
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